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Can Irish Mixed Offshore Trial Cancellation Lead to New Plan for Paris 2024 Olympics?

26th March 2020
The Irish Mixed Offshore Trial was to run as part of the now cancelled Solo Guy Cotton Concarneau regatta in France this week The Irish Mixed Offshore Trial was to run as part of the now cancelled Solo Guy Cotton Concarneau regatta in France this week Photo: Guillaume Grange

Every cloud has a silver lining and perhaps for Irish Sailing, it has come with the cancellation of the trials series scheduled in Concarneau for the World Offshore Sailing Championships this week.

Its cancellation notice, however, was notably the first Irish Sailing update on these trials. The three trialists have yet to be published. In fact, every aspect of the trials has been conducted privately between a small number of sailors and the Irish Sailing office.

Back in December, as news of the 2024 Olympic class was announced, Irish Sailing said 'while it will facilitate the process for the selection of a team, it should be noted from the outset, that Irish Sailing has no budget for this event and all costs will be borne directly by the teams competing'.

Irish Sailing has done well to maximise the investment in its High-Performance programme to date. Accounts show a total of over €3m on funding between 2017 and 2020.  Now that Offshore sailing has a place in the Olympics, it must be included in the planned investment for the next cycle. Offshore is a discipline with which we are familiar and unlike most of the Olympic classes, forms a significant part of our national sailing scene. We are not without talent, and the opportunity, especially in a one boat per nation event, must be matched with the available resources to develop a strong development programme with Paris 2024 in mind.  

Hopefully, March's cancellation will encourage Irish Sailing to review the way in which this opportunity has been handled, perhaps learning from the open and transparent way, for example, the RYA has conducted its offshore trial.

When World Sailing decided to include Offshore Sailing in the Olympic Games, Irish sailors were delighted to see an opportunity for easier access to the pinnacle sports event in an area where Ireland has displayed some strength.

At that time, imaginations overflowed about how this could impact positively on the development of sailing, with a particular shift towards female participation.

In the Sport Ireland commissioned Rio 2016 review, it was recommended the sport could benefit from 'more class competition within Ireland'. Other than the Laser dinghy, there is no domestic competition in Olympic classes here. This new keelboat is an opportunity to make Olympic sailing more visible and part of the national sailing scene where more than 70% of all racing is now in keelboat classes. What's more, it's a chance for Irish Sailing to deliver on the 2016 recommendation. 

Qualification for the Worlds, a precursor to any Olympic campaign, could be in boats that already exist, at events that already exist, using a rating system, without the huge costs associated with Olympic campaigning. Double-handed male/female elements could be added to ISORA, Round Ireland, Dun Laoghaire-Dingle and similar events, enhancing those, encouraging participation and providing ready-made training opportunities.

The hopes for this were dashed when Irish Sailing, in a private communication to a few who had declared interest, decided the trials for the Offshore Worlds were to be run in Figaro style boats which effectively had to be chartered at a cost of €5,000.

Furthermore, the trials were to take place in France in late March/early April.

Rearrangements for these trials currently underway brings with it the chance for Irish Sailing to be encouraged to establish appropriate, transparent and public procedures for future selection events.

Ultimately, this will mean the winner gets the honour of representing Ireland on the world stage in the knowledge that they have been the best of the Irish in an offshore trial that followed best practice and as a result Irish Olympic sailing moves centre stage on home waters.

Afloat.ie Team

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Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat

For the first time in sailing's Olympic history, a Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat event will be on the slate at the Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Competition.

The Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat will join kiteboarding, windsurfing, multihulls, singlehanded and doublehanded dinghies and skiffs, promoting the diversity of the sport. This, in turn, will support World Sailing's desire to promote and grow universality in all disciplines and increase female participation with gender-equal medals and athletes.

Offshore sailing is the ultimate test of endurance, skill, discipline, navigation and critical decision making.

Embracing a major part of sailing in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will enable new stars of the sport to come to the forefront.

Qualification

Offshore sailing is a universal discipline that every World Sailing Member National Authority (MNA) can participate in.

Up to 20 nations will be on the start line at Paris 2024 and sailors from every continent will be represented. To qualify for the Olympic Games, continental qualification events will be held and competition for a spot will be hotly contested.

Equipment

For qualification events, World Sailing will approve a list of one-design boats that are already regionally available and can be accessed as a charter boat. Boats will be equalised to ensure fair competition.

For Paris 2024, World Sailing's Council will select a list of different Equipment it considers to meet the key criteria by 31 December 2020 and then make a decision on the Equipment, selecting from the list, no later than 31 December 2023.

MNAs, Class Associations and Manufacturers have all been invited to propose Equipment for the list and a World Sailing Working Party will evaluate each proposal. A recommended list will be presented to Council for approval in November 2020.

This recommended Equipment list will ensure that event organisers, MNAs and the sailors have opportunities to train and compete in Equipment that is readily available and affordable within their continent and country. It will also ensure each MNA has a fair opportunity to prepare for qualification events and eventually, Paris 2024.

Format

Starting and finishing in Marseille, the Mixed Offshore event is expected to last for either three days and two nights or four days and three nights off the French coastline and whoever crosses the finish line first will be declared Olympic champion.

The race course and length will be announced in the lead up to the start so the competition can take advantage of the latest weather forecast. Current options proposed include long and short courses heading towards the West and East of France.

Safety and Security

The French Navy and Mediterranean forces have extensive experience of supporting major oceanic sailing races. They will provide safety and security at Paris 2024.

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