World sailing

Open letter to World Sailing AGM delegates

Open letter to World Sailing AGM delegates – a plea from the Finn class

by Robert Deaves November 3, 2018 14:44 UTC
November 3, 2018

Finnish fleet at the Rio 2016 Olympic sailing competition © Robert Deaves / Finn Class

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The Finn class have been part of the Olympics since 1952. They are undeniably an integral part of the history and culture of the Games and have created more stars in the sailing world than any other class.

It is not only the last bastion of the “big” Olympic classes, but also one of the most popular, refined and challenging classes of dinghies in the world. It is immediately appealing as it reminds all of the heroes of the Countess who have come through class and won medals at the Olympics.

Following Friday’s board meeting, the Finnish class are very disappointed with the choices made and the way submission 37 was introduced and seemingly steamed through. The class not only feels very dismayed by the whole process last year, but also that the decisions of the Olympic classes are going in a counter-productive direction.

That reaction has been shared by thousands of shocked Finnish sailors and sailing supporters around the world since Friday’s decision. In decisions of this nature, it will never please everyone, but it has caused enormous concern in the sailing world.

Dinghy sailing has been the mainstay of Olympic regatta since the 1980s, after most keelboats were phased out due to the huge expense involved. In 2012 and 2016, there were seven dinghy classes. At Paris 2024, according to the current list proposed, there will only be five classes of dinghies, or half of the total list. Aside from the massive change and expense for sailors and MPs to invest in new equipment, the slate is moving away from the heart of the sport. At the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, there were no dinghy classes. The path for a developing beginner dinghy sailor is getting narrower and narrower.

The peak that so many great small-boat sailors have aspired to for generations, the Finn, may no longer be an option, so sailors over 85kg have no path to the Olympics and this would be a huge loss for the sport.

To say that a Finnish sailor should sail on a keelboat, or even change the sport to kite surfing is, at best, a mistake. Only a few will be selected or supported for the hugely expensive keelboat program. Most will be ignored, as nations choose their offshore heroes by preference.

Whichever way you look at it, the keelboat will be extremely expensive; potentially as expensive to an MNA as all other classes combined and will limit participation to a very select few sailors and nations. The dreams and hopes of hundreds of young Finnish sailors around the world will be dashed.

So this is an impassioned plea from Finnish sailors to save the Finn, and probably the 470 as well, as the only remaining controlled-measure classes in the Olympic program.

At Sunday’s AGM, MNA delegates will have the choice of signing off on the Council’s recommended list of events and changing the face of Olympic sailing forever, or they can consider whether it’s actually the best decision for the sport.

While the Finn class recognizes that the Mixed One-Person was a step into the unknown, so is the Mixed Kite, and even more so the Mixed Keelboat.

With the Mixed Keelboat, the costs are unknown, the logistical, media production and security issues are unknown, and the overall viability is unknown. The sheer cost of mounting a campaign is so overwhelming to most small nations that it immediately limits participation and becomes a rich man’s game – the same reason many keelboats have been jettisoned in the past. Don’t we learn from the past?

Moreover, alongside the sea trials of the Lasers, the equipment of seven classes will not be decided until November 2019, only two and a half years before the first Olympic trials in Paris 2024. MEPs are expected to postpone the decision until 2028 and use the little time available to them to test all the new equipment chosen.

Furthermore, at a time when World Sailing has not completed its own antitrust review program and is under investigation by the European Commission for possible antitrust infringements, would it not be prudent to delay further decisions until this review is complete?

There is another choice open to delegates at the AGM – a vote for no change at this time to maintain the 2020 Olympic sailing events for 2024. We urge all delegates to seriously consider whether the loss of the Finn is in the best interest of the sport. .

Thank you for thinking of sailors.

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