Last weekend I listened to the World Sailing meetings deciding on the One Person Dinghy for the 2024 Olympics. Didn’t someone say that sailing is “hours and hours of boredom punctuated with moments of sheer terror?” The meetings were a bit like that… if you substitute a word such as “drama” for “terror.”
The debate in the Council on Sunday was certainly boring. It mainly consisted of delegate after delegate explaining that in their small country the kids only sail Lasers and that’s how they develop their Olympic sailors and that it would be either exceedingly expensive, or logistically impossible, or both, to switch over to having a program that prepared some of their young people to be world class sailors in the RS Aero.
I don’t dispute that a transition from Lasers to RS Aeros in the Olympics will have its challenges. But I do believe that reasonably smooth, affordable transitions to the RS Aero can be figured out for small and large nations (with the help of RS Sailing and the RS Aero Class)… but only if the local sailing authorities have open minds and really want to find ways to move sailing in their countries into the 21st century.
It was obvious after hearing all the speeches that the Council was going to vote against the opportunity to have the RS Aero in the Olympics. After the debate was over, while the votes were being counted, someone (an observer, not a member of the Council, I think) took over the microphone and said this…
I am a delegate of MNA of Croatia.
We are a successful country now by Olympic medals, but all our system of sailing exists on Lasers.
After Optimist everybody goes to Lasers – Laser 4.7, Laser Radial, Laser Standard (just top guys.)
Some project, somebody goes to Aero 6, some 49ers top guys, and also Aero 6 top girls but it is project, we have no base. Our only base of sailing is Laser.
That’s why we really understand our position. We are ready. If you decide to change Laser we are ready for RS Aero, especially for girls… Try to find a way that we give somebody 100 Lasers and take 100 RS Aeros. And then we will have no problem. By credit or by changing like old car for new car, Audi in Germany, old diesel with new diesel.
Sailing in Croatia go down, in Slovenia go down, in Greece go down, in Montenegro it will be dead when few lasers guys grow out, in Macedonia not exist, in Serbia also go down…
Be careful about decision. We are really for changing. We know it. We need to change. But try to find models that help countries where sailing in the basement is that Laser.
I don’t like Laser, but it’s really in basement.
What a refreshing point of view! This is what I had been waiting to hear. Here is a representative from a relatively small nation (Croatia’s population is just over 4 million) which has youth and Olympic feeder programs based entirely on Lasers, but he recognizes the need for change and is open to working constructively on some financial arrangements to get the country’s sailing programs updated so that their sailors can race modern, exciting boats and are in a position to challenge for a spot in an RS Aero event at the Olympics.
Let’s face it, convincing delegates from small nations to World Sailing to support the choice of the RS Aero as an Olympic class is vital if RS Aero is ever going to achieve Olympic status. And that will only happen when many more of such delegates start thinking like the man from Croatia.
I have transcribed the speech as best I could. I have edited it slightly to omit the odd phrase that didn’t really contribute to the flow of the argument, or that I couldn’t hear clearly. I am not sure about his reference to some sailors in Croatia being already in Aero 6’s. I doubt that it is true given that the 6 rig is not officially launched yet. Maybe I misheard what he said or he really just meant they have a few RS Aeros in Croatia already.
For more background see How the RS Aero (almost) got selected for the Olympics.
It’s good to see that, before the meeting, the folk at RS Sailing had already given some thought on planning for the switch from Laser to RS Aero, and in particular how to support smaller nations in this transition. More details at these links…
The speech from the Croatian delegate is in this video, starting at about 7:03:25
Title photo credit: Hrvoje Dumančić / regate.com.hr