Fuente info The Telegraph
Iain Percy hits out at ISF's plan to drop Star keelboat after London 2012 Games
Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy has described the International Sailing Federation's plan to scrap the Star keelboat from Olympic sailing after 2012 as 'misjudged' and 'misguided'.
By Kate Laven 11:08AM GMT 19 Nov 2010
Percy, who won gold medal in the two handed Star class at Beijing in 2008 on top of his gold in the Finn class at Sydney in 2000, concedes that the Star, the oldest of all the Olympic classes with an 80th anniversary in 2012, is the most technical and therefore the most expensive boat to campaign but claims Olympic competition should be as big a test of a sailor's technical skills as it is of tactical and physical ability.
"I totally disagree that there shouldn't be a technical element to the Olympics which seems to be ISAF’s philosophy and I think it will harm the sport long term if they don't have it," said Percy, the former tactician on Team Origin who will be able to spend more time training and qualifying for the 2012 Olympics following the decision by Sir Keith Mills to withdraw Team Origin's campaign for the next America's Cup.
"Already there aren't enough trimmers in the America's Cup and if the Olympics do not test technical abilities, that skills shortage will worsen."
ISAF have recommended the removal of the Star as one of several proposed changes to Olympic classes for the games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. They include a rethink of the men’s and women’s windsurfing classes in favour of kite surfing and the reintroduction of a multihull class just three years after they decided controversially to abandon the Tornado catamaran.
The 470 men’s and women’s classes will be merged to created a mixed 470 class and the multihull could also be mixed which means women could make up the majority of a national sailing team which is represented in every Olympic class. At London 2012, Great Britain is set to field seven women and nine men but beyond that, the team could be nine women and seven men, if the proposals are voted through at ISAF’s mid year meeting in May next year.
There are other ramifications to the replacement of the Star class, the only keelboat remaining in Olympic sailing.
"It will leave a difficult transition from Olympic sailing to big boat sailing so is bound to harm professional sailing careers," warned Percy who is currently racing with the Swedish team Artemis in the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Dubai.
It costs around £100,000 a year to campaign a Star compared to £30,000 for a Laser which means Star competitors tend to be high profile sailors able to attract sponsorship funds to meet the much higher equipment and shipping costs. Scrapping the Star could mean staging an Olympic contest without some of the best known champions in the sport including Brazilian Torben Grael, who commands as much attention in Rio as his footballing counterparts.
"You can only campaign a Star is you have already had success in another class but it makes no difference whether you represent an established or an emerging nation and ISAF don't seem to understand that.
"Their remit is to make sailing more appealing and understandable to the media but their argument that the Star poses a barrier to new countries is misguided. It can be a barrier if you are not already a proven winner but it makes no difference where you come from."
Jerome Pels, secretary general of the Southampton-based ISAF which aims to strengthen the position of sailing in the Olympic Games, said the vote to drop the Star had come as a 'bit of a surprise' but the decision conformed to ISAF's mission to provide career pathways for younger sailors and widen opportunities for new sailors.
"Our philosophy is that the equipment should reflect the sport, especially the younger end of the sport and these proposals fulfil the strategy that the Olympic Commission recommends," said Pels.