Off­shore Olympics

Sailing World - - Starting Line Olympics -

What was once a far-fetched idea for Olympic sail­ing is one step closer to re­al­ity. In Fe­bru­ary, World Sail­ing voted to pro­pose an off­shore sail­ing show­case event to the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee for con­sid­er­a­tion in 2020.

“We wanted an event that re­flected what most sailors out there do,” says Stan Honey, chair­man of the Oceanic and Off­shore Com­mit­tee at World Sail­ing. “They’re sail­ing boats with bunks. They’re fol­low­ing races like the Vendée Globe and the Volvo Ocean Race. The num­ber of fol­low­ers [of these events] is stag­ger­ing.”

The vi­sion was to pro­pose an off­shore event as an 11th sail­ing medal for Tokyo, says Honey. Sailors from the dinghy dis­ci­plines could play dou­ble-duty for the off­shore team, solv­ing IOC’S con­cern re­gard­ing space in the ath­letes’ vil­lage. “Like many other sports, we want to give sailors the op­por­tu­nity for two gold medals at one Olympics,” says Honey.

But the coun­cil voted against adding an ad­di­tional medal, in­stead putting the off­shore pro­posal for­ward as a show­case event, which does not award medals. “The great thing about a show­case event is we’re not re­quired to use the sailors al­ready at the Olympics; we can bring in new sailors for this round,” says Honey.

The pro­posed event brings in de­sir­able traits of Olympic classes: mixed-gen­der crews sail­ing man­u­fac­turer-sup­plied boats be­tween 9 and 12 me­ters in length. Pre­scribed is a four­day race, with course-mark changes dur­ing the race as nec­es­sary “to guar­an­tee the first finisher ar­rives the af­ter­noon of the fi­nal day, for me­dia and pre­dictable lo­gis­tics.”

The event would uti­lize elec­tronic um­pir­ing to en­sure the first to fin­ish is the win­ner, and while the de­sign would be iden­ti­fied af­ter the IOC approves the show­case event, Honey says it would be a pro­duc­tion boat.

The show­case would em­u­late the Volvo Ocean Race in that it “tran­scends time zones,” says Honey, al­low­ing view­ers to en­gage at any time of day via video feed. Small domes would pro­vide the needed tech­nol­ogy to bring live sail­ing ac­tion off­shore. “KVH is the largest provider of VSAT domes for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and they’ve of­fered to pro­vide those domes for all the boats, and the band­width,” says Honey, who is a KVH board mem­ber. “There would be real-time video off the boats any­where the boats went.”

The off­shore dis­ci­pline does have its skep­tics. “I think it could be an in­ter­est­ing com­pe­ti­tion and show­case the sport of sail­ing well, but it will be a huge chal­lenge to make hap­pen at a rea­son­able cost,” says World Sail­ing coun­cil mem­ber Torben Grael.

Coun­cil mem­ber Gary Bodie voted against the sub­mis­sion in fa­vor of both a kite­board­ing and team rac­ing show­case event, but he says he’s not en­tirely against the off­shore idea, espe­cially if it in­cludes al­ready in­volved Olympians vy­ing for a sec­ond medal. “We had re­ally good choices for the events,” says Bodie. “The off­shore event’s best ar­gu­ment is that it’d go on 24/7 for four days, so we’d be the only Olympic event that was live for prob­a­bly 12 hours a day. That’ll be prime time some­where.”

Pro­pos­als will go be­fore the IOC in May. The kite­board­ing show­case event is also on the ta­ble (team rac­ing was re­jected). “I would be very sur­prised if sail­ing got two show­case events,” says Bodie. “But, you never know.” Q

World Sail­ing sup­ports a pro­posal for an Olympic show­case event that looks noth­ing like the Games we know.

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