Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Windsurfing Roars Back · Bringdal & Albeau Break 50 Knots

Windsurfing returns to the Olympics for the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil. If you followed the reports from the ISAF Annual meeting on Friday, November 9, it seemed it was all over for windsurfing as an Olympic sport. KBR (kite board racing) had weathered a challenge to reopen the debate which could have given windsurfing the chance of being reinstated as the Olympic Board Event. "The move to re-open failed by just two votes to reach the required threshold, but got support from 26 of the 38 voting delegates, at the Council Meeting..."reported Sail-World.  Kiting was safe for the day, but on Saturday everything changed...

Scuttlebutt explained: "Dun Laoghaire, Ireland (November 10, 2012) - The ISAF Annual Conference drew to a close today as the final decisions affecting the sport moving forward were made.

A significant focus of the Annual Conference was on the 2016 Olympic Events and Equipment, specifically the Equipment used for the Board Event. At the ISAF Mid Year meeting in May, the ISAF Council chose kiteboarding for the Event. This decision caught both the windsurfing and kiteboarding communities by surprise, with the former leading a concerted effort to have the Council re-open the discussion.

For the decision of the Council to be re-opened, three-fourths of the Council must agree to do so. When the Council failed to reach that percentage, it was assumed that kiteboarding would be the Equipment used for the Board Event at the Games in Rio de Janeiro. However, following the Council meeting, there was a procedural move by the ISAF General Assembly that upset the apple cart.

Part of the ISAF General Assembly's business for the 106 Member National Authorities (MNAs) who were present was to review any ISAF Regulations made or amended in any substantive way by Council since the last Ordinary Meeting which was in November 2011.

In November 2011, the Regulations specified RS:X Equipment as the Board Event. But the ISAF Mid Year meeting in May changed the Equipment for the Board Event to Kiteboarding, and that apparently qualified as a "substantive" change.

All the General Assembly needed was a simple majority of votes, and after a lengthy debate the MNAs approved the first proposal which reinstated Men's and Women's Boards - RS:X."

The New Zealand news website, Stuff.co.nz shared this behind the scenes look: "Unlike the council, where members represented areas or confederations and some, like Oceania's New Zealand delegate Ralph Roberts, were instructed to vote in line with their area's wishes (the majority of Oceania nations preferred kiteboarding), the vote at general assembly level was made by representatives of the individual national authorities.

Yachting New Zealand has consistently made no secret of its preference for windsurfing to remain at the Rio Olympics in 2016, with kiteboarding to be given more time to develop and possibly looked at for 2020. It made a formal submission along those lines in July and publicly reaffirmed its view last week. It has got its wish, with the national authority members voting against the council members.

New Zealand has a rich history in windsurfing; seven of the nation's 18 Olympic sailing medals have come in that class, and there has been vociferous support for its reinstatement around the world. Some national bodies apologised for voting for kitesurfing in the first place and others, like Spain, claimed they had been confused by the process.

Before the AGM, both YNZ chief executive David Abercrombie and windsurfing great Barbara Kendall said they believed windsurfing would fall short of the 75 per cent required at council level but the decision had a great chance of being overturned at the general assembly."

Rory Ramsden, RS:X Class Secretary, summarized the upwelling of protest over the last 6 months: "This battle was fought using all the levers available. 31,254 people signed the online petition. 17,960 joined the Appeal page on Facebook (Thanks Adam). 14,342 followed the Vote Windsurfing Facebook page. And countless others worked tirelessly in the background to lobby MNAs and turn the groundswell of opinion into a tsunami of voters at the General Assembly."

The Atheletes Commission - The Sailors Voice, a FB Group, offered an arena for the robust and sometimes combative dialogue between the 2 sports. Ben Barger shared a conciliatory sentiment: "With new strong leadership (at ISAF) I hope we will ensure that all athletes have a stable platform to invest their dreams. The Windsurfing and Kiting decision was one of high difficulty. I hated being here everyday this week (at the annual meeting), but I had to fight for what I believe was best for the sport. We should not celebrate, we have been placed against an outstanding sport of Kiting and their loss is no ones gain."

Ben Proffitt put it bluntly, "Well i think that worked out pretty well really... As it Gave Windsurfing a big kick up the ass!! We needed it.. also it will work out good for kite racing as they get time to sort their sh%t out.. which i think they have a fair bit of work to do!" Billionaire, Richard Branson offered this: "It is a huge disappointment for all the kitesurfers worldwide who have been training hard since it was announced in May that kitesurfing was going to be in the Rio Olympics. What a shame too for all the windsurfers who spent the last year training to become kitesurfers.."

Two of the most popular forms of sailing today are windsurfing and kitesurfing. An unfortunate limitation on the number of Olympic athletes and medals created this unnecessary drama and competition between the 2 sports for their rightful and logical place in the Olympics. While both sides now know what the emotional roller coaster feels like, the RS:X Class can celebrate while KBR hopes for a early December reversal at the IOC Meeting. On their new page, Get Kiteboarding Into The Olympics: "Well a little bit of light after all perhaps as it seems the Olympic Committee has to approve the changes ISAF have just made again to the 2016 Olympic Sailing slate and they might not as the IOC was in favor of having kiteboarding included. An opportunity for ISAF to make a strong case for an extra medal for kiteboarding after all, it would be an impressive start for the new ISAF Council if they could achieved this. This is a long shot but if it could be achieved..."

Antoine Albeau broke his own Windsurfing World Speed Record with a 500 meter course run of 50.59 knots in Luderitz, Namibia on November 13, 2012. Anders Bringdal was the first that day to break the 50 knot barrier with runs of 50.41 and 50.46. Then Albeau tied and set the new world record with runs of 50.46 and 50.59. Many new world records were set on the event's 4th day including the new 38.12 knots Tandem World Record (1 board - 2 sails - 2 riders). Luderitz Speed Challenge