Precisamos de tantas mudanças na vela? Texto de Ricardo Lobato

A Federação Internacional de Vela está reunida para definir o futuro da vela olímpica mundial e algumas mudanças estão sendo propostas. A pergunta é: será que precisamos de tantas mudanças? O velejador e juiz de regatas Ricardo Lobato fez uma análise muito boa (em inglês. Matéria original aqui).

By Ricardo Lobato: Former Brazilian Sailing MNA Executive Secretary and former Snipe Class Commodore.

Many years have passed since I learned how to sail. But, I still remember two sailing lessons. Our first class was at the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro swimming pool. We learned how to right the boat and how to bail water out. In fact, Bibi Juetz, our instructor, wanted to make sure we were able to swim with our sailing gear on, before sending us to the Guanabara Bay. I also remember the last sailing class of this year. It was about racing. We learned that a regatta had seven races and one discard. The course was known as “Olympic Course” and we sailed all wind angles (three up wind legs, two reaches and one downwind). We also had a sticker showing all flags we needed to know. That was all the information I needed for the next 20 years and we had great races.

Then, the winds started shifting… Someone said that we needed short races in order to appear on the TV. Shorter races were implemented and everybody arrived together at the top mark. The racing rules were changed to make the port tack approach harder. In addition, one short race was not much for a day, so we started to race multiple races in the same day. Support boats became a huge advantage and the costs increased. With more races, the best sailors started to win regattas before the last day. Therefore, the medal race with double points was created.

Myth: Short races are more likely to appear on TV.

Truth: Sailing will never beat soccer, volleyball or other popular sports. In fact, Cycling, marathon, golf, tennis stay many hours on air transmitting their events and with a good audience.

Another threat appeared. Sailing would be kicked out of the Olympic program! An “Olympic Commission” concluded that we need faster boats, more crashes and emotion. Then we included the skiffs, foils and now kiteboards jumping obstacles in a race course are being considered. We have also released the Star class from the Olympic program. With this move, we lost the presence of the biggest names in our sport. Sailing is one of the few sports where an athlete can compete for many years and now we are losing this competitive advantage.

Myth: Sailing is at risk of being removed from the Olympic Program.

Truth: Sailing is one of the core Olympic event according to IOC.

More recently, there was the 20+20 agenda from IOC. The paper has 40 recommendations. However, the World Sailing picked only one, gender equity and mixed events. Including more mixed events was the solution found to include the kite without removing other classes or awarding another medal. In fact, I am a big support of men and women sailing together. The Snipe class is a good example of how we can sail together. At the last Occidental Hemisphere and Orient championships, all the top six crew were mixed teams and the second place skipper was a young woman. However, World Sailing is proposing completely new events as single person mixed relay or mixed offshore. We also have a mixed kiteboard and another double handed mixed dingy.

Myth: Sailing needs to include more mixed events to achieve gender equality.

Truth: Sailing has a great balance between women and men at the Games. In fact, IOC recognized that gender balance needs to be reviewed, as it is natural that there are more men athletes in boxing and more women athletes in gymnastics.

Changes are good and I believe there is room for a development boat inside the 10 Olympic events. The foiling windsurf looks like a good solution for stopping the air rowing in windsurfing with light winds. However, the Olympic Events should also reflect that the sport is currently been practiced around the world. As Bibi Juetz did with her kids, we need to test and make sure it is safe before launching a new event in the games.

In conclusion, changing five events at once without a proper test and discussion will hurt our sport. There are also serious allegations about commercial interest in this decision and all governance and the decision making process should be revised. I am sure the sailing nations, represent by the General Assembly, have the same view and they will postpone any changes until 2028.

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