What sailing needs to do to become more attractive? The Olympic format, as it is, will help the sport to keep its olympic status on? An interesting point of view has been offered by gold medal winner Santi Lange to the international sailing media during the post Medal Race press conference held in Marina da Gloria last August 16th.
Santiago is the hero of the Games, the story of the Olympics in sailing. Everyone in Flamengo beach and Marina da Gloria falled in love with him and Cecilia, with their coming from behind Gold. A well deserved one for a 54 years man with a recent cancer surgery. His experience (two bronze medals in 2004 and 2008, three Snipe Worlds, America’s Cup experience and much more…) and his charisma made the answers a worth listening during the conference: “The sport is going in that direction, and we have got to learn to sail in those conditions. As long as there are many races I am fine with it,” Lange said talking about the Medal Race.
“I wouldn’t like a couple of long races followed by a Medal Race. The only thing I would change is the Medal Race because I think it is unfair to have a small race with double the points. I like the idea of having the ten best sailors to race against each other, but I would rather do it over two days over four or six races. I don’t like the double points. I think there is the time in the schedule to have two medal races. Then we decide the medal on the last day. Double points for the last race is a system I don’t like.”
And what about 2020 and 2024 agenda, something that looks a nightmare for World Sailing top managers? Lange said it clearly: “I campaigned the Tornado for 2000 and had to change the whole boat with a spinnaker/gennaker and other reconfigurations. That was expensive. Then for the Olympics in Athens they changed to a carbon mast – that was expensive again. Then I heard that World Sailing was going to keep the core classes the same for 2020 – I thought this was the best statement from World Sailing, as we need a steady sport. Now that too, has changed. World Sailing has a responsibility to have a good vision for the future, whether they consult with designers or athletes or whoever, they have to be able to see 20 or 30 years out.
Now we invest a lot of money in these Nacra 17’s. We have for boats. We have 15 mainsails, some mainsails we only use for one hour, we have four spinnakers with the flag, a couple of them we only use for a couple of hours. All the equipment we have got, we have something very cheap for the young people and that is the future of the sport.
We need young people. To change the class, that is fine – if we are to go flying. I love going faster through the water. But if I take back my old Nacra, and they give me a brand new foiling one for the same price, I am happy.
In 2020 when we are in Tokyo, and there is an America’s Cup boat going at 30kts upwind, they turn around and say ‘Oh, we forgot, we want the Nacra to fly upwind as well’, so we go and change the boat again. C’mon!
They have to have some long vision – keep some classic boats so that we can have a big number of nations. Have the development classes. But if there was a mistake made in the past it should not be the sailors that have to pay for it. The Nacra is what it is. The maximum we can do is add winglets.
If they want a hydrofoiling class, you have to pick the best boat – like say the Waszp or the foiling Moth. Or, pick another foiling catamaran. World Sailing should have done their thinking before-hand. We have to respect the young people coming into the sport.
If the young people do not know which classes they will sail tomorrow, then no-one will bother. We are giving them a hard time. We need to support the young people. If it is really true that the IOC says we need a flying boat, then at least pick one that will last more than one or two Olympic cycles.”
This is the Lange’s vision, but what olympic sailing really needs and what World Sailing is trying to do? We will return on the topic shortly.