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14 March 2002, 11:25 am
On the Sailing Equipment at the Olympics
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Paul Henderson Speaks

After a very easy, no snow, winter in Toronto and attending the Winter Games in Salt Lake, it is time to look ahead to 2004 when my tenure at ISAF will come to an end.
Reflecting on this happening I have made the decision that I must continue to challenge MNA's, Classes and Council to address the major issues facing Sailing, so as to properly provide the services and leadership required. I do expect the suggestions to cause controversy, but hopefully after constructive debate the proper decisions will be made which moves Sailing forward.

Over the next two years I will put forth several concepts which I feel are important, the first of which is the Olympic Games which should be initially addressed by the Events Committee at their Mid-Year Meeting in Vienna, Austria, 2-3 May 2002.

Overview: The Olympic Games are the most important International Regatta in the Sailing World. ISAF is charged by the IOC to be totally responsible for all technical aspects of the Olympic Regatta. It is a responsibility which requires the utmost focus, dedication and foresight.

Over the years it has been obvious that more and more the Events Committee and Council come to the meeting table with a fixed position based on what is best for their respective Member National Authorities (MNA's) to win medals and which may or may not be in the best interest of Global participation.

The Olympics should be for "Talent not Technology". The wealthy nations will always lobby for more complicated equipment, use of space-age communications systems, expensive weather tracking equipment and an army of coaches and support staff, which they perceive will give their sailors an advantage.

I am committed to levelling the playing field so as the developing nations are not disadvantaged which means, as much as ISAF can, "Talent" will prevail.

Observations: The only class that has met this criteria is the Laser. The Laser sailors use supplied equipment all out of equal boxes. The most telling result is that no matter whether they brought their own boats or sailed in supplied equipment, Robert Scheidt and Ben Ainslie won almost every Laser Regatta for two Olympiads. Their medals, in my opinion, are the most valid with regard to the Olympic ideals. Sailing has 11 Events and I propose that of these 11 we endeavour to have 6 events where the boats are truly one-design and that the equipmpent be supplied at the Olympic Regatta, and 5 Events where technology does influence the outcome..

This ensures that the smaller MNA's have an equal chance against the more wealthy nations to compete for medals. The Olympic organizers are contracted to supply two classes, and if we pick popular classes then the manufacturers will supply them at minimal cost. ISAF should be prepared to subsidize a portion of the costs out of their Olympic TV revenue.

For the 6 one-design events I would propose the following supplied Classes:

1) Men's "Box" Single: Laser meets this need
2) Women's "Box" Single: This is a priority and ISAF has several classes: Laser Radial, Byte, Zoom.
3) Men's Board: Formula. I would have anyone build this class even sailors in their garage thus ensuring a monopoly does not dominate. For the Olympics ISAF would choose a manufacturer who would supply the One-Design Olympic Board out of a "Box".
4) Women's Board: Same as the men.
5) Heavy Men's Single: I would again supply the Finn Hulls and let them bring their own rigs.
6) Off-the-Beach "Cat": I would make this mixed-doubles and if that is too forward thinking then Open.

Off-the-Beach "Cat": Cats are, in my opinion, true sailing boats as Kinetics do not work and you must sail them around the course. There are several modern one-design Cats available. They also can be supplied "Box" Cats. Cats are sailed very extensively especially in the smaller countries thanks to the Hobie 16 but ISAF needs a more modern boat.

That leaves 5 classes which are to be development and technology equipment brought by the sailors, and I would suggest the following:
Catamaran: Open (Tornado)
Keelboat: Men
Keelboat: Women
Double Dinghy: Men
Double Dinghy: Women or Mixed

Accreditation: The IOC has introduced an accreditation in Sydney, called OS, which allows the wealthy nations to augment their coaches and support staff by using extra passes from sports which have already concluded their events earlier in the Olympic Games. IOC will be asked not to allow a switch of OS accreditation from other sports to Sailing.

Coach Boats on the Water: I was pleased by Torben Grael's concern over the weather technology now available at the America's Cup which must be banned at the Olympics. ISAF should not allow any communication technology on the race course either by the sailors or their coaches. Forbidding coaches on the water solves one problem, but escalates the cost for the organizers as they must provide boats and drivers. The solution is to ban any communication equipment from the water and make all coaches go through a security check before being allowed to tow their teams out to the race course. Coach boats at 15 minutes before the start must be corralled well behind the starting line and remain in the designated area until all boats have finished. No boats should be allowed within 5 km of the race course for any reason except as specified by ISAF. This stops wealthy nations having team boats, which have left from remote marinas, on the water early in the morning checking currents and wind patterns before racing. The penalty for cheating in these ways must be very severe including that the entire national team is disqualified from the Olympic Regatta.

Conclusion: Several International Federations have asked ISAF how we deal with supplied equipment as their sports are also being impacted by the cost escalation of equipment and support teams. It is time to act and leave our own MNA's self-interest behind and positively act ensuring that Olympic Sailing rewards "Talent" not "Technology".

I trust over the next two years that the recommendations I put forward are taken as constructive, even if they are not accepted, and express the concerns facing ISAF to ensure that the next generation can govern providing positive services in the best interest of sailors.

Regards, Paul Henderson President ISAF

ISAF welcome feedback on Paul Henderson's suggestions and concepts please email:, with Henderson as the subject line.
Paul Henderson/News Editor
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