ISAF Mid Year Meetings
ISAF Eligibility Code
Following howls of protest from a small but vocal minority, the ISAF eligibility code has undergone a major overhaul. No longer will every sailor in every race have to be a member of their National Authority. This requirement remains only for major events such as a World or Continental Championship, and those events at which ISAF Race Officials officiate. Additionally National Authorities may require such membership for events within its jurisdiction (and you can bet the Latin countries will).
This is not so much a case of closing the stable door after the horse had bolted, but more of picking up the stable and taking it to where the horse now is. The rules as now written simply reflect reality.
Overall Strategy of Events
The Events Committee presented their recommendations on the future structure of ISAF Events, highlighting that the number of 'World Championships' events should be streamlined to better promote the sport. The current situation where over 200 World Championship titles are awarded each year dilutes their worth and is confusing. The final proposal will be put forward for November 2001.
Rather like the proposal to nominate the Olympic classes early, this looks like an idea that is too good to be true. There is no doubt that there are far too many World Championships in sailing but which ones should go? Well not 'ours' for sure... Stand by for a bloody fight on this one.
At long last someone within ISAF has realised that some form of structured continuity for the Olympic classes would be no bad thing. ISAF President, Paul Henderson, closed the meeting by challenging the Events Committee to consider identifying as soon as possible the events and therefore equipment (classes) which will be in the 2008 Olympic Regatta, and therefore not be in contention for selection in November 2004. This would in effect give six or seven years of continuity rather than the 'everything is up for grabs' routine seen every November after each Olympics. If this sounds like an idea that is too good to be true, it probably is. Will those who are rejected at an early stage really take things lying down? Expect the usual vicious rearguard action from those who are passed over early.
In what was only a lightly covered threat to remove the Europe Class (which some consider to be too expensive and too complex) Henderson also put forward a request to consider providing the women with a one-design boat, following the concept of the equipment used for the Dinghy Open event - better known as the Laser. How about an Olympic regatta in the Byte or Laser Radial, ladies?
2004 Qualification System
This will be very similar to the system used for Sydney. The total number of athletes will remain the same, but there will be a slight change to the total number of entries per event. The system will continue to allow entries not taken, to be transferred to other events, with the first priority being given to those events in which the smaller nations are more likely to participate, ie the Laser and Mistral.
Approximately 30% of each event's entry quote shall be qualified from that event's 2002 World Championship, 40% from each event's entry quota from that event's 2003 ISAF World Championship (scheduled in Cadiz), 20% from each event's entry quota from that event's 2004 World or Continental Championship scheduled to finish by 31 May 2004 at the latest. The remaining 10%, plus any unclaimed qualification from the previous years, will form a pool of available entry positions, which will be filled taking various considerations into account.
All in all a fabulous example of if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
2004 Event Format
The biggest change for 2004 is that each class will be allocated a specific race area. This was not possible in Sydney where classes sailed on different courses each day. Though this simplifies things in theory the provision that postponed races may be sailed on any available course tends to open it all up again. The number of discards has been reduced to one for everyone but the 49ers. There will now be no discards after 1-4 races have been completed, 1 discard after 5-11 races have been completed, and 2 discards after 12 races for the 49ers. The 49er are scheduled to sail 16 races, with all other classes sailing 11.
The pairing of classes on each course was confirmed: Mistral Men and Women Laser and Europe 470 Men and Women 49er. In respect of the Finn, Yngling, Tornado and Star no decision was made, as it was agreed to invite Organising Committees to test various pairings over the coming months, with a final proposal to be made in November 2001. It was agreed that the only equipment to be supplied will be the Laser.
All sensible and inevitable.
Sailors' and National Identification
It will be required that wherever possible crew names be on the bottom of mainsails, and national flags be on mainsails and spinnakers for the Olympic Regatta and ISAF Events as appropriate.
Let's just hope we see some action from classes and regatta organisers to enforce this. Remember the Star and Laser still find it difficult enough to put national letters on their sails.
Following the controversy at the Games in Sydney when some teams were alleged to be using wind spotters around the harbour, the rules preventing this will be tightened up. No outside assistance, including any forms of electronic equipment may be used either by the competitor or their support staff from the time of leaving the venue until after racing is completed and the athletes have returned to the venue.
Though it seems like a big change, this will have little real effect. Do you really think Ben Ainslie was incapable of making up his own mind which way to go up the first beat?
The subject of a weight limit for the Ynging class was raised, but it was decided that there is no intention to introduce a weight limit at this stage. The matter will continue to be considered by the International Class and further analysis undertaken at the forthcoming Yngling World Championships in June 2001.
How any of the potential female crews for the 2004 Games are supposed to decide on the make-up of their team with this continuing uncertainty hanging over them is more unclear than ever.