Re-considering cats

The RYA is to review their decision regarding multihull sailing at a meeting in October

Friday September 28th 2007, Author: Lindsey Bell, Location: United Kingdom
The RYA is aware of the strength of feeling from UK-based multihull sailors, surrounding submissions from the RYA to the 2007 ISAF Conference, due to take place in early November, which relate to the future status of multihull events in both Youth and Olympic Classes programmes.

First and foremost, RYA firmly believes that catamaran racing is a vital and vibrant part of the sport of sailing in the UK and recognises the work carried out by the Catamaran Class Associations in generating and supporting activity.

Decisions on the future direction of the global sport of sailing remain the responsibility of the International Sailing Federation. However, difficult decisions have to be taken from time to time because of the expense of running competitions in a multitude of classes and restrictions placed on the sport by the IOC.

It’s regrettable that certain parties feel the consultation process on this issue was lacking.  Within the RYA the decision making process was consistent with our normal practice; there was no attempt to hide the policies. These issues were discussed by specialist [non-executive] groups, who then had their views commented on by the RYA Racing Committee.   After this the ISAF proposals were then submitted to the RYA Council who are the final arbiters in the UK.

As a consequence of the attention that these two proposals have received from the Cat community in the UK and overseas, the RYA Council will debate the issues and review its decision at their next meeting which is scheduled for Wednesday 3 October. Council members will be provided with a selection of representative emails, letters and web forum addresses as well as this paper.

Representatives of the RYA are planning to meet Rob White and Brian Phipps on Monday 8 October in the late afternoon/early evening, venue TBC but probably London. Should representatives of the UK umbrella catamaran organisations and the Hobie and SL16 classes wish to attend could they email   so that we can let interested parties know the exact time and venue.

On selection of events for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition:

It is a fact that, at the 2012 Olympic Games, the number of events will decrease from 11 to 10 – therefore (at least) one existing Olympic event will need to be dropped, with the number of participating sailors also decreasing from 400 to 388.

There are over 40 submissions to ISAF on the subject of Olympic Events for 2012, with ISAF Council being the body to determine which of these Events are ultimately selected.

The RYA has expressed a view, based on its Olympic Steering Group (of which three of the six members are former Tornado sailors) to support eight clear options for 2012 sailing events, namely:

One person dinghy – Men
One person dinghy – Women
Two person dinghy – Men
Two person dinghy – Women
Two person, high performance dinghy – Men
Two person, high performance dinghy – Women
Windsurfing – Men
Windsurfing – Women

It remains neutral on the issue of events for multihulls, keelboats and heavyweight dinghies – in spite of considerable medal success in some of these events at recent Olympic Games – and believes ISAF Council should determine the remaining two events in line with its global objectives.  RYA believes that ISAF would benefit from firstly determining the Olympic Events and then look to develop a realistic pathway from Youth classes into specific disciplines. 

On selection of events for the ISAF Youth World Championships:

The RYA believes that the pathway from Youth Cat to Olympic Tornado does not exist in a continuous manner as with the other dinghy and windsurfing classes and it is misleading to parents to suggest that this is so.  The sailors who win medals on the world Tornado stage are in their 30s. Sailors leave the youth programme at 19.

ISAF needs to address this urgently and to decide if catamaran sailing should continue as a viable and strategic part of the Olympic and ISAF Events programme.

With few exceptions, the Youth and Junior catamaran racing competitions are not well supported in the UK . In this country parents ultimately vote with their wallets and whereas we see rapid growth in the 29er, Laser 4.7 and Feva classes, often without RYA support, very few parents and clubs have taken the option of buying into the RYA catamaran programme.

The RYA programmes are an important part of RYA activity, with medals not being the only measure of success.  Encouraging youngsters into the sport in whatever class ultimately benefits every aspect of the sport.  In reality, the rich vein of talented young catamaran sailors has been down to a few individuals who have been outstandingly coached.  The current Olympic Development Squad has four boats (eight sailors) with only one coming from an RYA youth catamaran background, one from the wider Cat classes and the other five coming through the RYA’s Youth and Olympic monohull classes.

The figures below indicate the size of the challenge at Youth and Junior level:

RYA Junior Catamaran Programme (Hobie Dragoon)

Volvo RYA Champion Club (VCC) Programme:
Total Clubs – 127+
No of Clubs following the RYA Cat Pathway – 0

Zone and Home Counties Champs:
2005 (Zone & Wales only) 747 boats total  (6 dinghy and W/s classes inc 5 Dragoons)
2006 (Zone & all HC’s) 1023 boats total  (6 dinghy and W/s classes inc 4 Dragoons)
2007 (England only) c 770  boats  (7 dinghy and W/s classes inc 5 Dragoons)

RYA Youth Catamaran Programme
1)  Nation Entries at ISAF Youth Worlds
2007   - 15 x H16,                23 x Boys 29er*,                  18 x Girls 29er – Canada*
2006   - 13 x H16,                35 x Boys 420,                    24 x Girls 420 - UK
2005    - 11 x H16,                32 x Boys 420,                    21 x Girls 420 - Korea
2004    - 11 x H16,               32 x Boys 420,                    28 x Girls 420 – Poland
*Switch from 420 to 29er appears to impact on numbers of participating nations.

2) Cats at RYA Youth Champs
2007   - 6 x (U19) H16,        49 x 29er,                             29 x 420
2006   - 8 x H16,                  33 x 29er,                               41 x 420
2005   - 11 x H16,                 16 x 29er,                              48 x 420
2004   - 10 x H16,                17 x 29er,                              56 x 420
2003   - 12 x H16,                29 x 29er,                              46 x 42
2003 – 2006 includes under 21 sailors. Insufficient data to calculate over 19’s but estimate of 2 boats/year
Numbers are boats.

The RYA believes it is unreasonable to ask parents and Member National Authorities to purchase a different class of catamaran every time ISAF selects a different boat for the Youth World Championships.  This policy in not conducive to developing cat sailing long-term and will limit the already small number of countries who send sailors to the ISAF Youth World Championships.

It is true that the same issue applies to the double-handed classes and as shown (in table 1), the numbers are significantly affected. However, they appear to have reached a critical mass within the UK and still retain credibility internationally.

For this reason, the RYA believes it must support the sailing fraternity in these classes for these events. The number of sailors participating in the 29er and 420 Classes compared to the Hobie 16 means the RYA would be doing a disservice to them if it did not at least raise the discussion with ISAF.

Some discussion has revolved around the cost of catamaran funding from the RYA against its programmes. Due to the low numbers, cat sailing is proportionally significantly more expensive (see table 3) but this is not the issue – the RYA is looking to increase overall numbers, to be realistic to parents about their chances of Olympic success and ensure that there is a constant stream of talented sailors moving from our Youth Programme into all aspects of adult racing.

3) Annual funding per National Youth Squad (NYS) boat
Numbers based on budgets agreed for the start of the fiscal year, in £'000s, divided by numbers of boats selected as at April each year. (ie budget per NYS boat)

07/08 - H16 - 9,               29er - 5.8,             420 - 8.6
06/07 - H16 - 9,               29er - 6.8,             420 - 6.4
05/06 - H16 - 13.5,             29er - 7,               420 - 4
04/05 - H16 - 12.3,             29er - 3.8,               420 - 4.7
03/04 - H16 - 5.7,             29er - 5.5,             420 - 3.9

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