Don’t make keelboats obsolet?
Don’t miss keelboats (in the) Olympics…?
Don’t miss keelboats‘ opportunity?
Well, it means Doublehanded Mixed Keelboat Offshore – short: Mixed Offshore!
For those who haven’t heard of it yet (skip the first paragraph if you are already informed) – the discipline in which Max and I want to compete in in the 2024 Paris Olympics is still not confirmed and in fact, is very much at stake. The IOC, who will have the final word on the confirmation of the discipline, is still questioning the discipline in three regards: security, media coverage costs and complexity, and the fact that it has not been tested in an official World Sailing world championship yet. On 16th April the IOC told World Sailing to nominate three alternatives that would fit their criteria and could possibly replace DKMO in case the sailing world would not be able to clear up the doubts about the new discipline. World Sailing and its MNAs quickly came up with lots of different suggestions, of which three were selected: 1) split the current mixed kite foiling event into a men’s and women’s event, 2) do the same with the mixed 470s or 3) a mixed teams racing Laser radial (now ILCA6) event.
Then sailing responded with a clarification of the discipline’s details. Previously, the courses for the Olympic race were going to be at least 250nm long and within an area of 24.000 square miles. Now the Oceanic Offshore Committee recommends to let the event take place in a 20 by 20 nautical mile square. This would keep the teams closer to the shore and within coverage by the French cellular data network. Therefore, media coverage will be much easier than presumed and security will not be any more of an issue than in other Olympic sports. At first I thought “What a silly idea. Will that even still be real offshore sailing?” I have now put the area in a relation to courses in the western Baltic Sea and I must say, it is not that bad. These 20nm boundaries make for courses with the length of about 50nm; even more if you do some zigzagging.
Three days and two nights at sea which was the originally (and I think still proposed) length of the event makes for 60 hours. Assuming a standard 30ft yacht is doing 6kts on average that will make for roughly 7 rounds around that course. Like this you can even compare lap times of the different teams in the media coverage, just like in Formula 1!
Having practiced on only 7-40nm long courses so far this year I can say “short course racing” on an offshore level is hugely demanding. With the maximum length of a leg being 28nm (if you cross the square diagonally) there will not be much time between manoeuvres and sail changes for sleeping, food preparation/eating and navigation. And there will be many more manoeuvres than in a classic offshore race. That means that the competing teams will have to be super organized, they will have to perfect their timing and their abilities to sleep on demand in a hectic environment. What will also be crucial is being able to execute manoeuvres and sail changes singlehanded on a high level to give their teammates that tiny bit of extra sleep. Sounds really exciting to me as a sailor, and surely exciting to watch with onboard camera catching all of the action.
A comparable example that shows that this format is attractive, is the Silverrudder Challenge of the Sea, the world’s largest singlehanded regatta that takes their 450 competitors around the Danish island of Fyn. The 450 entries are usually booked out within a couple of hours after registration starts. The course is very much inshore/along the shores of Fyn, requires huge attention on local weather effects (and sandbanks!) and does not allow for much rest even when there is only little wind which will be very likely in a Mediterranean summer Olympics like Paris/Marseille 2024.
Some more reasons why DKMO should be in the Olympics: I can only speak for myself, but here in Germany, just the idea of offshore sailing in the Olympics has sparked huge enthusiasm. For example, the Dehler 30 OD class will now run a special programme to attract more young sailors and women into the class. And it is working. I am only 21 and I heard about lots of my friends getting interested in offshore sailing only once DKMO was announced. I therefore do not really understand why DKMO supposedly is not for the youth. Already the possibility that it might be in the Olympics really attracts the youth and makes them a relevant target group for these classes.
I’m not going to claim that only DKMO deserves to be that 10th Olympic sailing event but I am sure we are missing a great opportunity here to make Offshore sailing and its teachings relevant to all age groups (also because the Olympics in France will deliver the crowd that will fall for this discipline). I also believe it does not look good if the sailing world splits up once again and eats itself up over one single discipline in the Olympics. After all, the most professional way to deal with this situation would be to stick with what we, as the sport of sailing have decided over a year ago, let the alternatives be alternatives, and move forward united and with combined efforts.
More reasons from other sailors and my source for this article: