Jan 29, 2012, 3:17 PM
Post #1 of 7
By Rodney Pattisson, MBE - Three-time Olympic medallist for GBR
Rodney Pattisson - February 2012 issue of Seahorse Magazine
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'Actions by official boats or helicopters shall not be grounds for requesting redress by a boat.
This changes RRS 62' ­ SI 15.2 ISAF Sailing World Championship, Perth
My sympathy lies entirely with Ben Ainslie, robbed by the action of others from winning his 10th sailing world championship. It was just a mild case of 'championship rage'. To my mind, understandable, but then blown out of all proportion, but caused primarily by the clearly poorly policed world championships run by ISAF.
I am sure that Ainslie's accusation was well founded, that his ability to surf the waves fully had been impeded by the wash of a TV boat, steered by an over-eager driver, no doubt egged on by a cameraman wanting to get even closer to the action. Who better then, to admonish the culprit, than the victim himself ­ after all, nobody else would have done!
As for the punishment meted out by the International Jury, you can be sure they were only too keen to kowtow to the demands of ISAF, happy to please and to ensure their next trip abroad. ISAF were the true culprits, but they were anxious, as ever, to cast the blame onto someone else, and in this case the unfortunate Ainslie.
For years now ISAF have submitted to the continuing demands of the IOC, that all Olympic sports must change to become a true TV spectacle. The fact is Olympic sailing is on the whole boring and uninteresting to watch, even to the initiated, and so never will be a spectacle; participation, of course, is a very different matter.
Firstly, ISAF agreed to more races with shorter courses. This immediately put more emphasis on the need for a good start and the chance of being black-flagged (as in Ainslie's case in the next race), however careful, increasingly likely.
In my day, a 12-mile course meant a windward leg of some two miles, making it often impossible to see the weather mark at the start, but at least one could make a safe start with time to clear your air, use the shifts, generate boat speed, and then the fastest sailor invariably won the race. This is not the case today.
To add further to the wound ISAF's previous president came up with the micky-mouse 'Medal Race'. Why should one race, run in an unsuitable area chosen primarily for the press and shore spectators, count for double points on the last day ­ and so be non-discardable? The reason, apparently, is to prevent the very best sailor amassing sufficient points that they do not need to sail on the final day. Frankly, any sailor that good deserves this privilege and shouldn't be obliged to sail in what can only be described as no better than a sailing lottery. In reality this final race often involves the leading points scorer simply sitting on his nearest rival and pushing him back ­ nothing very spectacular to watch there.
God help Olympic sailing. It is unforgivable that such an uncaring sporting authority has allowed Olympic sailing to develop in this way. We need to turn the clock back, to say NO to some of the demands of the IOC and to tailor the sport to the sailors, to revert to decent courses and most definitely to say NO to the Medal Race. Sadly it is already probably too late.
This column came from the February 2012 issue of Seahorse Magazine. Here is a dedicated link which offers a discounted subscription rate to the Scuttlebutt family: http://tinyurl.com/6s2ehwh