The point of view from Toplevel Sailing
This blog is for the big people. The big people bring super athleticism to sailing – they bring strength, style, and often grace and athleticism. They bring a lot of charisma and friendship too. The dinghy sailing world will be incomplete without them, and the Olympic circuit a lot less friendlier place without the big guys. Some of us may even need cranes to load the car on pack up day without the help of these athletes!
Having had the recent trauma of the Finn class being summarily disposed of by WS for the Olympic slate 2024, we consider this vital challenge to the sailing world in this blog. Certainly the thought of dinghies being limited to people under 85kg is not one that we would welcome, and we are certain that most sailors share our views. The very idea of exclusion based on physical size when our sport can be so inclusive fills us with dread as to the direction that sailing may go in. Yes, we like athletes and the image they convey for our sport. We also like the style that has been developed exclusively for Finns. It would be fair to say that we think these guys deserve a more modern boat, admittedly, but the entire package has been proven to work – a fact that we cannot argue with. The Finn class is also one of the most forward thinking (and inclusive) class organisations in sailing. Should the final slate still exclude the Finn, we are sure they will keep campaigning to get back in.
In the meantime, what do the big guys do?
The thought of going keelboat racing is not too great for a lot of sailors. Whilst many skills are shared between dinghies and keelboats, the somewhat more sedentary big boats can lack appeal for the athlete who thrives on close competition over short, intense races. Format counts, as does the agility required in dinghy sailing for the out and out large athlete. Additional to this to be pitched in to competition with expert offshore sailors from outside the Olympic circuit is both off-putting and unfair when there is an apparent lack of intent to embrace the usual preparation cycle and not have exclusive World Cup regattas. How does a newbie prepare when you can’t race the likely opposition? Will it be something of a lottery – indeed should it be a lottery when part of the charm of Olympic sailing is the familiarity of performance differences and knowing completely the strengths and weaknesses of your opposition going into the Olympic regatta. As we stated last week, what makes Olympic regattas so good is the preparedness and performance of the athletes, not the class of boat.
So for the next four years it would seem that the 95kg guys are frozen out of Olympic sailing, unless they want to blow their wallets on a new and as yet unknown format class of sailing. That is unless they go down the route of skiffs.
The skiff has many attractions and advantages. For a start the ideal crew weight is wide – somewhere between 135 and 160 kg. The extreme ends of these weight ranges will admittedly lead to potential vulnerability at either end of the wind scale, but by and large you can compete at these limits, and be successful. The thought of a good 470 helm (usual weight range being 60-70 max kg) in an alliance with a 90-95kg ex Finn sailor is simply awesome. The thought of the big guys ripping the kite out of the sock at double the speed of the existing skiff crews is wonderful – the leverage a 195-200 cm sailor can put on the wire is going to lead to new power concepts in rigging. The rig of the 49er is so fully adjustable that we are certain new setups will be found to capitalise on the new concept crews, and the thought of new techniques both upwind and down may lead to further evolutions in a fantastic class.
The Toplevel message to all Finn sailors is this: First, keep on realising there will probably be a space for a heavyweight class, probably the evolved Finn, in 2028. Secondly, in the meantime, try a 49er with a smaller helm. It could be great for you, great for preparation for 2028, and offer opportunities for breakthroughs and different styles of sailing in what is widely regarded as the most skill dependent boat on the slate. We’re certainly keen to be involved with skiff campaigns of this nature, and can claim the abilities to tune skiff rigs which are not widely available. Lets go for it!