RS:X Class: End of an era

Published on May 20th, 2021

There are some realities regarding Olympic equipment. One is the overall level of class competition will heighten, and this can lead casual class members to seek lower ground. Another is for equipment created specifically for the Olympics, the class will likely fade out if the equipment is not renewed.

That is now the situation for the RS:X windsurfer, introduced at the 2008 Olympics for the Men’s and Women’s Windsurfing event, and now to be replaced by the iQFoil for Paris 2024. With the focus solely on elite competition, Olympic classes don’t establish the grass roots level needed to live on.

Farrah Hall, who will represent the USA in the Women’s Windsurfing event at Tokyo 2020, shares her view of the RS:X last hurrah:

It’s been a long, slow good-bye to the RS:X class, dragged out over an extra year of COVID complications. For 2021, after a corona-political cancellation in Hyères, the last RS:X World Championships was saved by the Federacion Andaluza de Vela in El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Spain.

At the tail end of the life cycle of this Olympic class, it’s bittersweet to witness the decline of the longest-lived Olympic class windsurfer.

The RS:X fleet has been steadily diminishing in size, and most big teams have created local training opportunities for their Olympic athletes, either with selected, already-Olympic qualified international partners, or retaining some of their national team on RS:X, rather than moving them to the new iQFoil class.

For sailors without a team structure, last year meant creating individual training opportunities on either RS:X or iQFoil and balancing those with more limited budgets and travel restrictions. Most remaining RS:X sailors have been training on both Olympic platforms and are foiling at a strong level.

Coaches are actually training with each other and sharing information on windfoil equipment, and wingfoiling around the harbor after running an RS:X session! RS:X sailors and coaches are in excellent spirits and the atmosphere is close, familiar, friendly, and appreciative. On the water, it’s super competitive as always!

For those of us who have been sailing RS:X since its birth and even longer, it’s been a pleasure and a constant battle observing and participating in the growth and maturation of this Olympic class. Teams have become more and more professional, sailors have struggled to push their limits physically, mentally, and financially, and the level has risen ever higher and higher.

Although it’s time to move on to a modern class, the Olympic-level friendships and shared experiences within the RS:X fleet will always remain.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021


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