Can match racing save tenth medal for Paris 2024?

Published on April 20th, 2021

With the possibility of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not approving the new Mixed Offshore Keelboat event for the Paris 2024 Olympics, World Sailing is opening the door for alternative event proposals from April 17 to 23 for the sailing program.

With nine events already approved, the possibility for sailing to lose this 10th medal does exist, as there has been a trend by the IOC to slim down its quadrennial competition, so the focus for World Sailing now is to have in hand the best option to unquestionably meet IOC requirements.

As suspected, the line is forming to join the Olympic party.

Submissions are expected from a new combined event with the Finn and Europe, with talk also of splitting the new Mixed Kiteboard event into a men’s and women’s format, along with returning the Mixed Two Person Dinghy (470) event to a gender-based program it’s had since the 1988 Olympics.

However, the match racing community is joining the party too. Bill Canfield, a longtime advocate for the genre, with a lengthy history of contribution to World Sailing and the sport, offers why match racing is the best choice:

When considering some of the recent options to solve the Olympic puzzle, I find splitting the 470 boat into men’s and female’s classes is a grave mistake. It would also be wrong to split kites and steal a second medal from sailing for a sport that should have its own federation.

My issues with the 470 are: 1. Too old fashioned and has had its day; 2. The class rules have made competition more about pumping than sailing; and 3. The health issues revealed by past medalists regarding harmful dieting for weight loss to stay competitive.

The idea of splitting kiting has a downside for the women’s medal, as on the surface it is a growing sport, but currently only 17 women around the world compete enough to gain a ranking. It is far too early for this genre to compete for Olympic gold.

The best choice for an alternative event is Doublehanded Mixed Match Racing.

It’s proven successful in past Olympics (1992, 1996, 2000, 2012), different than all other fleet racing events, great for broadcast and live spectating, easily understood with winner of last race getting the gold, easily covered by a drone, great for all ages, inexpensive to campaign… the positives go on and on.

Any type of keelboat of 6 to 8 meters would suffice, as it does not have to be high performance, with fleets already in existence which could be chartered to competitors and subsidized with sponsors. This proposal would save the 10th medal and put sailing in a stronger position as an Olympic sport.

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