With the focus on anti-doping in sports so prominent, it's easy to forgot that in an equipment sport there's a entire other area where controls have to be put in place to ensure that competition is fair. It is here that the Measurement Team come in; whether it be checking sail serial numbers, crew weights or buoyancy aids, they're a crucial part of the race officials team in Qingdao.
It's a process that, whilst it might not make too many headlines, BATT says is well appreciated by the sailors, 'Talking to them they're very happy. They like to think there's a level playing field and we're seen to be maintaining that for them.'
BATT, one of Great Britain's foremost sail designers and the Chairman of the ISAF Equipment Committee, is the chairman of the Measurement Team at this year's test event. He also was in Qingdao last year as chair of a much smaller Equipment Control team.
This year the Measurement Team is much larger, with BATT and assistant chairman Simon FORBES (GBR), a veteran of five previous Olympic Games, accompanied by ten IMs (including Jean-Pierre MARMIER (SUI), Chief Measurer at the Athens Olympic Games), each of whom specialize in one or more of the Olympic Classes. In 2007 the period of pre-event measurement has been much longer as well, up from three days to five. BATT explained that the entire process this year is much closer to what the athletes can expect at the Olympic Sailing Competition.
The Full Menu
'This year we've done pretty much the full menu - there are still one or two additional things, for example the Finns next year will be Lamboley tested[a swing test, which, amongst other things, measures the position of the centre of gravity of the hull,]. We're probably 80-85% of the way [to the 2008 level] with the checks that we did this year.'
One of the new developments of the venue this year is the Administration Centre, which houses all the Technical Officials. Whilst the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre received near-universal praise last year, BATT is delighted with the additional improvements that have been made,
'We made a number of recommendations and they've been taken onboard,'he said. 'The facilities we were provided with in the measurement tent were very much to scratch. We could have easily measured for the Olympics with the facilities we've got here now.'
BATT explains the measurement process as being 'almost exactly two phases'. The first phase is the pre-event measurement. This BATT describes as, 'Putting all the boats through quite a rigorous measurement. Obviously that changes class by class, although it always involves the weight. Different classes have got different speed-critical, or different sensitive areas so obviously they're monitored.' Each piece of measured-in equipment is event marked.
Once racing actually starts, the second phase of the measurement process is more regulatory. Spot checks on the water are carried out to ensure sailors are complying with basic safety requirements and using event-marked equipment (ie equipment that has been measured in). Then a random selection of boats, up to a maximum of three, are brought back by the measurers and checked more thoroughly. Around 40 volunteers worked with the Measurement Team during the pre-event measurement, with approximately ten of these (mostly National Technical Officers or NTOs) continuing their assistance during the rest of the regatta.
The new Medal Race format for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition presents a new challenge to the measurers. BATT revealed that they are currently in the process of devising a parc fermé-style rule, to quarantine the ten boats between the last race of the opening series and the Medal Race.
'We want to do everything we can to minimize the risk of an equipment protest,'
From (pre) start to finish, the Measurement Team continue to work away behind the scenes in Qingdao. They might not make the headlines, but they're an integral part of this test event and the very best in their field. When the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition begins, they will be there as a crucial part of the race officials team to ensure fair play on the water.
Measurement Team for the 2007 Olympic Test Event
Dick BATT (GBR), Chairman
Simon FORBES (GBR), Deputy Chairman
John GOLDSMITH (AUS)
Barry JOHNSON (AUS)
Pablo HALCÓN (ESP)
Jean-Pierre MARMIER (SUI)
Francisco Javier ROMERO JIMENO (ESP)
Juri SARASKIN (EST)
Jean-Luc MICHON (FRA)
Dimitris DIMOU (GRE)
Roel SCHELLAARS (NED)
John KOOPMAN (USA)