May 4, 2011, 12:14 PM
Post #1 of 2
With the selection of 2016 Olympic events to be decided at the 2011 ISAF Mid-Year Meeting in St Petersburg, Russia on May 4-8, the multihullers look set to get back in for 2016, with every submission put forward having either one or two multihulls on the slate. With momentum to make it a mixed event (one man and one woman), the main topic of discussion in St Petersburg is what to do between now and November 2012 when the decision on the boat to be sailed and which class should be chosen for 2016.
Multihull for the 2016 Olympics
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Given that there is only one multihull, it is extremely difficult to cover the whole spectrum of multihull sailing, so ISAF needs to decide if they want a simple "Laser equivalent" boat, or a high tech "49er equivalent". Going the simple route would guarantee a large number of new nations would have a shot at Olympic selection, while the high tech route could catapult sailing into the 21st century.
After each Olympics, the IOC presents their Gold Rings Award to the sport that provided the best TV coverage of the Games, and in 2008, in a huge surprise to everyone, this went to sailing. Given all the negative comments about suitability of sailing for TV, this was a great achievement and a huge coup for ISAF. The way the award is decided is that the IOC Broadcast division put together a highlights package for each sport and these are then judged by an independant panel. The highlights package for sailing was put together exclusively on the Tornado medal race, with a mix of onboard, helicopter, boat level and tracking graphics.
So the class that provided ISAF with it's greatest media coup was immediately dumped from the 2012 event lineup. However this then provides the opportunity to upgrade the boat, much the same as the Flying Dutchman being dropped for 1996, and replaced by the much more modern 49er in 2000.
As for classes, the following are the likely candidates and a few fors and againsts for each one. With the multihull likely to be a mixed disciplines, one of the key aspects of choosing the boat will be whether the design dictates that the skipper could be either the male or the female member of the crew.
Everyone in the multihull fraternity agrees the Olympic Mulithull should be a twin trapeze boat, true one design (so no development costs) with spinnaker. The only real discussions have been about whether it should be a 16, 18 or 20 foot boat. The choices are most likely boats being an F16 such as the Viper, an F18 one design such as the Hobie Tiger, or the 20 foot Tornado or Nacra.
However, a very recent addition into the mix is a proposal from the design team behind the America's Cup multihulls to design an AC18 with either a soft sail, or preferably a wing mast. So as of today, the most likely candidates for selection in November 2012 are:
* An F16 design - such as the Viper. Most inexpensive, loads would allow a female to be either skipper or crew. Other manufacturers such as Nacra likely to have an F16 soon.
* An F18 design - such as Hobie Tiger. Well established class and dealer networks for all major F18s, heavy boat, would probably mean skipper has to be female. Would mean instant Olympic fleet by many countries and probably the largest number of boats attempting to qualify.
* Tornado - Well established Olympic boat. Needs to work on one design issues. Longevity of platform keeps costs down, but development costs of rigs made it unpopular with not enough countries willing to campaign. Skipper would almost certainly have to be female.
* Nacra 20 - New kid on the block. Manufacturer class, so race it straight out of the box. Skipper almost certainly female.
* AC18 - New design, with a wing mast. One of the advantages of a wing mast are that the loads are significantly less, so skipper could be male or female. Photos attached.
There will no doubt be more information about the AC18 in the forthcoming months, but this look a very exciting project - on that will provide a very clear career path for sailors from the Olympic Games to America's Cup and bring the sports two premier events closer together. What does remain to be seen is how many countries are prepared to take the step on campaigning such a high-tech boat.