Sailing's Olympic future under scrutiny

Click to follow

The shape of what could be the future of sailing at the Olympic Games – though not 2012 in Weymouth – is starting its fourth season of being on public display in the Mediterranean fishing port and tourist resort of Sete.

The world governing body of the sport, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), has just spent much time, money, and the effort of many wise heads, looking at how it can meet the criteria of the International Olympic Committee, and, more importantly, its television-obsessed commercial sponsors.

Its report will be presented to the full annual general meeting in November. Its conclusions have already largely been met by the Extreme Sailing Series. The organiser of that series, Cowes-based Offshore Challenges, now OC Group, a company set up by Mark Turner and Ellen MacArthur, has yet to hear from ISAF, though the race village at the Club America flies a flag saying “ISAF Special Event”.

Doubtless the coffers of the Southampton-based sports body benefit from that, but whether the benefit is a two-way street is less certain.

The Extreme Sailing Series, then the Extreme 40s, was spawned by the Volvo Ocean Race, which backed the class of 40-foot catamarans as an in-port enhancement of its round the world race for a class of 70-foot racing machines.

They were taken over when Volvo concentrated on inshore races for the 70s and have become the refuge, if that is the correct term for a fast and sometimes unpredictable beast, of the Tornado catamaran sailors, cast adrift by ISAF as an Olympic class.

So, double gold medallist Roman Hagara of Austria has brought the Red Bull colours to the event, Mark Bulkeley, along with 49er medallist Simon Hiscocks, sails for Loick Peyron, and Leigh McMillan and Will Howden bring specialist muscle to Mike Golding's Ecover; Jonathan 'Boycey' Taylor provides the conventional grunt.

Loick Peyron considers the Olympic blueprint with Stuart Alexander:





With Franck Cammas finding time to run a 40 campaign while he trains for and builds a new boat for the Groupama team in next year's Volvo, and double Olympic medallist Mitch Booth finding the money to run his own campaign in the boat he helped to design, there will be no gimmes at any of the five summer regattas this year. The second is during Cowes Week at the beginning of August.

Middle East interest is also prominent. Both Peyron's and former youth world match racing champion Paul Campbell-James's boats are backed by Oman and the Team Pindar boat, skippered by Nick Moloney, is backed by the Bahrain-based GAC group. So, there lies the basis of a European winter series in the sort of Middle and Far East sunshine that is bathing the French Riviera.

By just six seconds, Ben Ainslie and his Team Origin notched up another valuable win in the Louis Vuitton Trophy series off La Maddalena, Sardinia. Once again, his hard-earned lead over the Russian team, Synergy, was threatened by poor sail handling which led to a ripped spinnaker. But the Brits had wide enough elbows to stop the Russians from overtaking.

In the other races of the day, ETNZ gained two more race wins - first up victory against Azzurra, where they managed to overtake the Italians and come from behind to take the win by 13 seconds. They then took on Aleph and beat the French team by 26 seconds. Sweden's Artemis, skippered by paul Cayard with Terry Hutchinson on the helm, suffered its first in five starts defeat against Italy's Gavin Brady-led Mascalzone Latino, as the Swedes suffered from a blown spinnaker. Synergy then beat Aleph.

Comments