Kitesurfing looks to blow windsurfing out of the Olympic water


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The Independent Online

The future of the ubiquitous windsurfer in the Olympic games sailing competitions will be decided at a vote in Italy on Saturday.

The bizarre threat to its Olympic existence comes from an even stranger consideration that it should be replaced by kitesurfing.

The sport’s world governing body, the International Sailing Federation, is holding a mid-term meeting at Strena, Lake Maggiore one of whose main purposes is to select the boats which will be used at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Among other things it will restore a multihull class, which was voted out for 2012 in Weymouth when a lot of international sailing focus was turning to multihulls.

Earlier this year it held trials for the multihull to be used – the British-designed Tornado is likely to be replaced by a 17-footer – and observation trials were also held for kitesurfing.

This involves a sailor on a small board using a large kite high in the air to scud across the water, often a great speed. Most kitesurfers take up the game for a recreational thrill. There is only a small, fully developed, worldwide racing programme.

Consideration was also given to trying to run both disciplines, but sailing is allowed only 10 medal events. That would mean aggregating the results of both the men’s and women’s divisions in both events and declaring a first second and third national team in both. That approach had little traction going into discussion on Thursday and Friday and then a vote by the ISAF council on Saturday.

More likely is that kitesurfing is assimilated into Olympic classes regattas over the next four years and considered again in 2016 for the 2020 games, assuming sailing is still included in the 2020 games.

The equipment used in windsurfing, which has been an Olympic discipline since 1984, is the RSX board and its international class secretary, Rory Ramsden, said: “This is beyond belief. I’m amazed they are even talking about it.”

At the front of the sixth leg of the Volvo round the world race there is a battle royal as Kenny Read hangs on to a slender lead from one Spanish rival, the Team New Zealand-managed Camper, and sees another, Telefonica, in hot pursuit.

Behind them, the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi and France’s Groupama are in close combat for fourth and fifth.