Everybody gets a ribbon, right?

Published on December 13th, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I am a fan of achievements having meaning. If you are honored as the best of the best, your accomplishment better have standards to protect its legitimacy. In Sailing, the World title is that achievement, and there are protections to maintain its worth.

The World Sailing Regulations define what is required for any event to be described as a World Championship or to use the word “World” in the title of the event. While I consider their standard to be too low, at least there is one. The problem is in the enforcement.

I have come to witness how World Sailing is more bark than bite, and that their authority to prevent improper usage as insufficient. It’s nearly an honor system. I have written how Melges Performance Sailboats disregard the rules, and despite World Sailing acknowledging it, there’s been no change in five years.

Another facet of a Class Organization earning the right to hold a World Championship is how many titles they can award. I was curious why the Sunfish Class did not have Women’s World title, as the boat is so popular with both genders, and only provide titles for Open, Youth, and Masters.

Sail GP

The Class awards these three titles from the same event, and based on the regulations, a women’s title could not be added unless approved by World Sailing. It is notable that for each title, because all participants are sailing together, each segment must meet the requirements to have a World Championship.

For World titles, requirements include the number of continents and nations participating, and the participants. When you win a World title, these standards insure that it is worldly.

When the 2022 Moth World Championship awarded four World titles – Open, Master, Junior, and Female – I got curious as there were only 38 competitors from nine countries. The Master division had six people from five nations, the Junior division had eight people from three nations, and the Female division had three people from three nations.

Aside from the participation meeting necessary standards, I questioned whether the Female World title was permissible under the regulations which states how a Class may award “one World Championship title open to any gender, or one male World Championship title and one female World Championship title.”

Clearly this didn’t happen, but the caveat is how “World Sailing may approve other events as World Championships upon written application.” When I asked World Sailing about this documentation, the response I got was how “we think they are entitled.”

Given how long it took to get that response, and only after repeated inquiries, I suspect that World Sailing has no idea, has no record of approval, and the Moth Class is doing what they want to encourage participation. Everybody gets a ribbon, right?

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