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Sport succeeds through rule adherence

Published on May 23rd, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The Finn Class calls their World Championship the Gold Cup. The JJ Giltinan Championship is the highest honor for the 18-foot skiff class because they’re not permitted to call it the World Championship. The Fish Class, notable in the Gulf Yachting Association, hosts a World Championship despite not having authorization.

Any wonder why our sport is confusing?

Knowing where to aim the spotlight is a challenge. The America’s Cup, The Ocean Race, Vendee Globe, and Olympics deserve the bright lights, but those aren’t annual events. It is the World Championships that fill the void.

To protect that brand, and ensure World Championships are worldly and relevant, the sport’s international authority, World Sailing, has regulations that permit its usage:

World Sailing approval is required for any event that is described as a World Championship, uses the word “World” in the title of the event, or any of the promoters, organizers or any other organization officially connected with the event, represents or holds out in any way that the event is a World Championship or does the foregoing in such a way that the event is reasonably perceived to be a World Championship.

There’s a list of requirements to permit a World Championship, and like most rules in the sport, they require self-governance. When I pointed this out to the Fish Class, they feigned ignorance but promised to do better.

When push comes to shove, World Sailing steps in to assert their authority, but aside from diplomacy, there’s not a lot of bite in that dog. They can exert some sanctions, but it is not life altering stuff. By and large, the sport succeeds when everyone respects the rules.

This is why I have always been confused about how some of the Melges classes have ignored this regulation. As a company, Melges Performance Sailboats is as good as it gets, yet since 2017, the Melges World League has been promoted as a global racing platform and ranking system for Melges owners around the world.

In 2022, the Melges 14, 20, and 32 classes are in violation of Regulation 25, which is confirmed by World Sailing. The federation plans to address this with Melges, as in the absence of rule adherence, we have chaos and confusion. When is that good?

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