Shame of Olympic sailing height: 1996 competitor from Savannah comments


By David Pendered

As the Tokyo Olympics mark the end of the last class of tall men sailing boats, a Savannah man who almost sailed the boat for the United States in the 1996 games describes the move as silly.

Eric Oetgen, still of Savannah, weighed 210 pounds when he campaigned in Miami for Finn’s place on the 1996 US Olympic sailing team. Photo courtesy of Eric Oetgen

“What’s wrong with the Finn?” Nothing, ”Eric Oetgen said in a phone call on August 6. Oetgen was on the US Olympic sailing team for three years in Finland, but had a bad regatta and lost his place on the weekend the team of 96 was chosen.

The size shame has nothing to do with the end of the Finn class which made its debut at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, according to the sport’s governing body.

It’s just part of the evolution of Olympic sailing, according to World Sailing. In announce a mixed doubles class that had effectively put the Finn out of his last chance to remain an Olympic class, observed World Sailing:

  • “The events and facilities of Paris 2024 will increase universality and increase the participation of women in sailing. “

To achieve these goals, three of the 10 classes in Paris 2024 are not real boats – windsurfers and kitesurfers use boats that look like surfboards. This change continues an effort to make Olympic sport more accessible, including a name change from yachting to sailing for the 2000 Games.

American Finnish Olympic sailor Luke Muller competed in the last Olympic regatta which included the Finn class. Muller finished 13th overall at the Tokyo Summer Games. Credit:

Enormous physical strength and stamina are needed to win for the Finn. Oetgen said he weighed 210 pounds when he campaigned against the Finn. That’s 25 pounds heavier than the average weight of Sailors at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the last The data available. Take the Finnish sailors out of this group and the average weight looks likely to drop.

Men don’t own the force franchise, and the Finn class Free to rig the boat for women of about 155 pounds, hoping to stay in the games. World Sailing rejected the offer.

Argentine Finnish sailor Facundo Olezza (who shows the strength of Finnish sailors in videos posted on his Facebook page) asked the president of the International Olympic Committee in May why big men are being taken off the sailing list, according to one report on

Finnish Argentinian sailor Facundo Olezza asked the IOC chief why men of his size were, for the most part, declared too fat to compete in future Olympic sailing events. Credit: via

  • Olezza: “I am a 100 kg sailor [220 pounds]. Without your help, I will be excluded and discriminated against from the Olympic family after Tokyo. I am not speaking just for myself, but for hundreds of sailors around the world who will not have the chance to be part of the Olympic family.
  • IOC President Thomas Bach: “Let’s see what will happen…. Sorry, I can’t promise you more than that, at the moment.

Strength and weight are peculiar to the Finn as the sailor has to pump the boat when the wind is behind, rocking the boat vigorously from side to side to force it to go faster. The weight is so important that some sailors wear jackets filled with weight, which means they have to be strong enough to handle the extra pounds. As five-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie of Great Britain said in a video showing the pumping technique:

  • “Obviously you have to be really fit to be at the top of the game. The fittest guys come out on top and that’s part of the Olympic idea, to be higher, faster, stronger.

Giovanni Galeotti has none of these. In a commentary on World Sailing’s discussion of Olympic boats and equipment, Galeotti – no information other than his name has been released – intervened:

Only sumo wrestlers (left) and Star Sailors, a group that includes Paul Cayard, executive director of US Sailing, will oppose the move to lighter sailors, a blogger wrote on the page of the governing body for sport. Credit: wrestler, RF Vila, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Cayard,

  • “Having to eat like a pig to be competitive is particularly unhealthy. Therefore, the lighter the better (sumo wrestlers and star crews will oppose this). The Star Class is moving in the right direction, but why not reduce the weight even further. Very few humans need to weigh more than 90 kg to be in great shape.

Oetgen noted that the Finn is a launching pad for other major sailing platforms, a point confirmed by Ainslie’s record in the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest still active international competition.

“What the Finn class offers is a boat for the big men of our world, men weighing 200 to 250 pounds,” said Oetgen. “The Finn class has been the dominant lone sailor in the country, and if you get off the Finn you advance to the Star or America’s Cup or become a professional sailor and become one of the best sailors in the world.”

Finnish sailors are drawn to the Star because their weight prevents the large sail plan from capsizing the ship. Incidentally, the star was eliminated from the Olympic class after the 2012 games. The stars bid being chosen for the new class of mixed keelboats for Paris 2024 is not on the World Sailing short list.

The ideal weight for a kiteboarder and male windsurfer is 140 to 160 pounds, according to comments from a few blogs. Here, the kite pulling the sailor is out of sight, and a windsurfer is in the background. Credit: Zach Dischner via wikimedia

Ainslie retired from Olympic competition after London 2012, and went on to dominate the America’s Cup in a 2013 victory declared by “The Wall Street Journal” as “the greatest comeback in history. sport “. Ainslie served as a tactician on the team funded by Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison. By this time, Ainslie had been knighted in recognition of the honor his medals had brought to Britain – four gold and one silver.

Oetgen said his piloting career was largely behind him, although in 2018 he beat a fleet of 34 Sunfish at to win the masters world championship. For now, he spends time with his work and his family and teaches his daughter one of the things he does very well: to make a sailboat go fast, especially downwind, in which he is good at.

“I asked him, ‘Can you feel how the boat is moving faster when you shift your weight forward?’ “Oetgen said.

Note to readers: David Pendered covered Olympic yachting from 1994 to the 1996 Summer Olympics, at venues in Miami and Savannah. He covered sailing at the X Paralympic Games on Lake Lanier when sailing was a demonstration sport and medals were awarded to the top three – Great Britain, Canada and the United States.

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