Representation and aspiration

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Representation and aspiration

by Mark Jardine Jun 14 1:30 PM PDT

Julia Damasiewicz (POL), second female rider, shows how epic it was to race here in Gran Canaria – European KiteFoil Championships Gran Canaria 2020 © IKA Media / Alex Schwarz

Much has been said about the decisions of the International Olympic Committee and World Sailing for the tenth sailing medal at the Paris 2024 Games.

The general feeling is that the list of Olympic sailing events is now not very representative of sailing and sailors, especially if you weigh more than 82 kg or sail a keelboat.

To recap a bit, the IOC had concerns about the Mixed Offshore Keelboat event, playground safety and broadcast coverage, so asked World Sailing to come up with alternatives quickly – which to their credit, was done in an open and transparent way – and the proposal to have separate men’s and women’s kitesurfing events was accepted.

The Olympics are a spectacle, and in the modern age, they are totally dependent on broadcast agreements. It is the networks that buy the rights to cover the Olympic Games that decide and tell the IOC, rightly or wrongly, what they want to see on their screens. The IOC then worries about the engagement of Gen X, Y and Z, the appeal of extreme sports, the denial of the rights of established viewers and the satisfaction of sponsors.

Then there are the goals of reducing costs and enabling low cost entry points for competitors. Once an athlete begins to achieve the incredible levels required to be an Olympian, the costs are now inevitably high.

Combining this is of course an impossible balancing act, but one that they try to achieve through negotiation and compromise. In sailing, this resulted in the release of the keelboat proposal and the arrival of the additional kitesurfing event for Paris.

There are many examples of other sports where the events themselves are not exactly representative of how they are played outside of the Olympics. Take for example the Keirin in track cycling, where a group of riders on fixed-gear bikes without brakes jostle each other behind a motorcycle, known as the Derny, which gradually increases speed up to 50 km / min over three laps, then exits the circuit as the cyclists sprint on a single lap to determine the winner. Yeah, that’s exactly what I do on my bike to the sailing club with the family … The weirdness doesn’t end there either; the sport was developed in Japan around 1948 for gaming purposes!

When it comes to the Olympics, what’s important for sailing is attractiveness. This is one of the few events where the eyes of the world can see the sail, so we have to make sure it’s attractive. Imagery, athleticism, and speed are all important in reaching a potential young sailor who thinks, “I could do it” and goes to their local watersports club or center to give it a try. They can of course end up in keelboats, or weigh over 82kg, but if the Olympics are what attracts them to sailing, then we have to celebrate them.

I won’t go into finances, or how World Sailing (among other sport governing bodies) is totally dependent on the Olympics to stay solvent – it’s for another time.

America’s Cup defenders turmoil

The America’s Cup is another event that puts the sail in front of the world. What is considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of the sport is an expensive game, and current “The Auld Mug” holders need the funding to ensure their team mount a credible defense.

The New Zealand team have just been great in the last two cycles of the America’s Cup. At the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda, they outscored their opponents, surprising all with their ‘cyclists’ and implementing an incredible control system for the complex ride height of the sail and foil on the catamarans of 50 feet. Their performance, with the exception of a dramatic pitch-pole against the British team in the Challenger series, was compelling. In the America’s Cup match, they beat Oracle Team USA 7-1.

The 2021 defense was closer against fiery Italian Challenger Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, but once again they won by a comfortable 7-3 margin. The AC75 rule was already wacky, but the Kiwi boat was on a different level of radical. The team is known to think outside the box and then implement that direction with determination and determination. They are simply exceptional.

What the New Zealand team need now is money, and a lot of money. Their superstar sailors and design team are hot goods around the world with those who would like to bring the America’s Cup to their shores, and right now the feeling is that the New Zealand government and the team’s sponsors will not be brave enough to keep America’s Cup Organization in Auckland.

In the America’s Cup, each team represents a yacht club, and many members of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron would naturally prefer the 37th America’s Cup to be hosted on their shores, by their club. A meeting at the club on Tuesday is expected to shed light on the progress of negotiations, but in the meantime some club members are trying to call a special meeting to discuss the perceived direction of Team New Zealand.

Much has been written on this topic lately, but Sail-World.com New Zealand editor-in-chief Richard Gladwell is keeping a cool head, reporting the facts as they stand on the subject and avoiding a much of the speculation that abounds: most recently his article dealing with innuendo about Sir Stephen Tindall’s retirement as chairman of the board of Emirates Team New Zealand.

In Sir Stephen’s statement he said: “I can categorically confirm that my retirement as manager of Emirates Team New Zealand has absolutely nothing to do with the location of the 37th America’s Cup venue. offended that [person’s name redacted], without speaking to me would represent my retirement in such a misinformed way to suit his own agenda and it would appear that of the [entity’s name redacted].

“As the long-term director of the team, I fully understand the business realities of keeping the team operational and funded to be able to defend the America’s Cup and this is the number one priority for the team. team funding are even greater in a world ravaged by Covid. ”

“The venue decision is directly related to the need to keep the team financially viable, but of course it is my preference and that of everyone else at ETNZ to host the 37th America’s Cup in New Zealand. . ”

“But if the team is unable to defend the Cup due to lack of funding, then the organization of the event becomes somewhat questionable.”

As with the Olympics, a delicate balance is needed for those in positions of power. Grant Dalton is the man from Emirates Team New Zealand who must have firm hands and nerves of steel when negotiating with the various parties involved.

So why am I talking about the Olympics and the America’s Cup when I so often focus on the basis of sport? Aspiration is the key. As in all sports, young sailors admire our Olympic heroes, America’s Cup teams and rising personalities.

Ultimately, the equipment used in sailing is the window dressing. It has to be eye-catching, it has to be spectacular and it has to make young sailors believe they can do it. But this is only a facade for the sailors themselves and the developing rivalries.

The Olympic and America’s Cup teams must therefore remember to allow their sailors the freedom to express themselves openly on television. A highlight of the last America’s Cup was listening to Francesco ‘Checco’ Bruni and Jimmy Spithill aboard Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. They spoke with passion and were really engaging – that’s what will attract new sailors to the sport.

So my message to the next stars of Olympic sailing and the America’s Cup, no matter what boat or board they are on, is “be like Checco”.

Marc Jardine
Editor-in-chief of Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com

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