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Offshore Chief Expresses Disappointment Over World Sailing's 'Possible Loss' of Keelboat for Paris Olympics

10th December 2020
Offshore pairing - Ireland's Kenny Rumball and Pam Lee are sticking with their mixed offshore keelboat campaign plans for Paris 2024 even though a decision on the new class will not now be made by the IOC until the end of May 2021 Offshore pairing - Ireland's Kenny Rumball and Pam Lee are sticking with their mixed offshore keelboat campaign plans for Paris 2024 even though a decision on the new class will not now be made by the IOC until the end of May 2021

A leading offshore sailor and former Admiral of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in London says because of the 'possible loss' of the new offshore keelboat at the Olympics he questions whether it is worth sustaining the connection of the offshore world with the World Sailing body.

There were shockwaves sent through fledgeling Mixed Offshore Keelboat campaigns working up to the Paris 2024 Olympic regatta this week with the news that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has deferred the decision on the new class until next May, giving a tight window of opportunity. 

Campaigns (including three Irish parings) planning for 2024 are coming to terms with the fact Paris may not now be '50/50' chance.

Andrew McIrvineOffshore sailor Andrew McIrvine

World Sailing has played down its own disappointment with the news handed to it from the IOC but a World Sailing insider told Afloat: "There are some old school WS dudes who are change-averse who may have put some influence in IOC but French enthusiasm will win the day".

Reaction from offshore quarters to the decision has been swift. Former RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine, a respected international offshore figure, took to social media to say World Sailing is "a whole distance from the sailors it should be supporting".

Andrew McIrvine Facebook commentAndrew McIrvine's Facebook comment on world Sailing

McIrvine appears to suggest that the IOC is being influenced by some people within World Sailing who are not pro keelboat. These parties, he says, were never keen on the inclusion of the mixed double-handed offshore and lost the day previously.

Now they appear to be pushing the issue through the IOC, who already have reduced the number of sailing participants recently from 350 to 330 for 2024.

In this scenario, what events will be reduced in numbers to facilitate this? Pro-dinghy people in World Sailing don’t want dinghy numbers reduced. Scrapping the offshore event allows the dinghy classes to retain their numbers with others such as McIrvine suggesting offshore sailing as a sport is not being well represented by WS.

The World Sailing Press statement on the matter this week said the IOC wanted to review 'safety and security' considerations of the new class for Paris 2024 but an IOC statement also issued this week says it wants to assess key considerations around cost, safety and security. Make of it what you will if there is any significance to the omission of the single word 'cost' by World Sailing.

"World Sailing Needs Doublehanded Sailing More than Double-Handed Sailing Needs World Sailing"

Meanwhile, former Olympic and VOR sailor Knut Frostad says World Sailing needs doublehanded sailing more than double-handed sailing needs World Sailing. Frostad tells SEILmagasinet's Mikkel Thommessen in the video below: 

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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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