Proposals for mixed gender Olympic offshore class falter
Proposals for a new double-handed mixed gender offshore class for the Paris Olympics have been thrown into doubt with less than three years until the 2024 Games. In April the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave World Sailing, the sport’s governing body, six weeks to come up with a new plan for the Paris Games in 2024.
The current programme is for 10 Olympic sailing medals. They will be raced in three male and three female classes (the Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49er FX, and men’s and women’s foiling windsurfing) and four mixed, including Nacra 17, 470 and kiteboarding. A proposal was made in 2018 that the 10th medal should be sailed in a mixed double-handed offshore class.
Double Olympic gold medallist sailor
Shirley Robertson, also a highly experienced broadcaster, is among the sailors who have been drawn to the double-handed fleet since the Olympic proposal. Robertson has been racing a Sunfast 3300 with offshore racer Henry Bomby.
She believes that the class’s inclusion in the Olympics could bring wide-ranging benefits to the sport of sailing. “The Vendée Globe, the Route du Rhum – I’ve been to many French offshore race starts, and they are without a doubt the most supported sports events I have ever been to,” Robertson explains. “The sport is massive in France, and the interest it would create within the public and the media would be huge.”
“[But] most importantly, to me, it would create a different pathway into long-term inclusion and commitment in the sport.”
For Robertson, one advantage of the mixed double-handed offshore medal is that it creates a career pathway for experienced women sailors.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that there is currently no realistic, achievable pathway into any kind of decision making role in sailing for female athletes after an Olympic campaign, and this option would help change that.
“Creating a mixed double-handed pathway,
would, following a Games cycle, produce a pool of really talented women decision makers with an irrefutable set of assets [who are] as valuable on board as their male counterparts. This would be an unprecedented step forward.”
Opponents of the proposal point to the expense of developing a yacht class, while the IOC has also questioned the feasibility of broadcasting the racing, of securing the racecourse, and the lack of a double-handed mixed offshore world championship.
For more updates on the class selection, and Shirley Robertson’s full case for the offshore double-handed medal, see yachtingworld.com