Sailing: Olympics set to lose Hobie and Star

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The Independent Online
After three shows of hands and four secret ballots, the choice of boats for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney - and those classes to be excluded - was drafted in Brighton yesterday.

The venerable Star class, in which Britain won gold in 1988, was eclipsed after appearing in 14 Olympics since 1932 and the lobbyists for the Hobie 16 catamaran were reeling from being excluded even from the voting.

Through went the new 49er, Mistral board and 470 dinghies for both men and women, the Tornado cat, the Laser, the Finn, the Europe and the Soling, which will also be the match-racer.

The events committee of the International Sailing Federation had kept a packed room waiting for over an hour and a half before it tackled the most exciting subject of the week.

Everyone knew that something had to go to make way for the 49er, as the only additional medal in 2000 will be for women's match-racing. In stepped America's Tom Ehman. First he persuaded everyone only to vote for yachts sailed in Savannah in July: collapse of the Hobie party.

Then he secured the boards, the Europe single-hander for women, the Tornado and the exclusion of the Soling from the balloon debate. At which point, a weird and wonderful voting system was proposed by which each of the 18 committee members would write down the yacht they would choose to drop and three slips later it was down to the Star and the 470 for men.

This was more fun than sailboat racing, twice as tense and also prone to be inconclusive. Strategy and structure were hardly mentioned and choosing on the basis of a programme of events was dismissed. Today, the council meets to ratify, or not, the committee's decision.

n Isabelle Autissier and Herve Laurent were within a mile of each other after four days of the Vendee Globe single-handed round the world race with Britain's Pete Goss eighth. Tony Bullimore, who returned to Les Sables d'Olonne for steering gear repairs, was due to restart last night.