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Olympic Sailing - Marathon Provides Perfect Solution
By Bruno Troublé, 2-time Olympian, America’s Cup skipper & organizer
Bruno Troublé

I am just back from the World Yacht Racing Forum in Estoril, Portugal. We talked about the Olympics and the need to bring variety to the sailing events so as to prevent the possible exclusion of our sport from the Games. ISAF Secretary General Jerome Pels rightly explained the need for change regarding the classes chosen for the Olympics.

I too have been concerned about this, and have given much thought as to how our sport can best proceed with its Olympic vision. At the Forum I presented my conclusion, which I share here in Scuttlebutt:

  • The Olympic classes do not reflect the real world of sailing. They are all dinghies or boards (except for the Elliot!).
  • A huge chunk of our sport is about offshore racing such as IRC (over 8,000 certificates I heard!), ORC, IMOCA, Figaro, Farr 40s, and offshore classics (Sydney-Hobart, Bermuda, Transpac, Hong Kong to Philipines, Fastnet, etc. There are hundreds of them!
  • Even small countries have a lot of offshore sailors (Hong Kong, Monaco, Dubai, Oman, Caribbean....many!).
  • A century ago (not that far back!) the only way to transport a love letter or a Declaration of War from a continent was to put it on a sailboat! Sailing offshore is part of our souls as humans!
  • The Olympics are looking for diversity. Including an offshore events a great way to attract a new audience.
  • It can be a singlehanded, doublehanded, or mixed crew.
  • The race would start the day of the opening ceremony - or the next day and will go for 5 or 6 days.
  • It would be the ONLY Olympic event you could watch 24 hours a day wherever you are in the world!
  • It would be a great TV/Internet product that would generate a huge media attention worldwide. It would be very easy to understand for the general public.
We want to create sailing heroes; the winner after a 5 or 6 day race out at sea would be a star! You can anticipate the time of finish by adding short laps at the end of the main course or use virtual marks. The boats will not be a problem. We will find a boat builder able to provide 20 to 30 similar boats for the event at no cost (I promise!) Size? Around 30-35 feet. Catamaran? Why not.

This idea would be a good way to reconcile the ‘’virtual’’ Olympic present family and the core of our sport. I sailed twice in the Olympics for France and I know how isolated we were - and still are - as Olympics sailors.

Not everybody can appreciate the challenge of competing in dinghy one designs on a windward leeward course, but people need not be sailors to appreciate the adventurous challenge that an offshore event would present. Rather than ISAF seeking the solution through changes to format or class type, let sailing take a page out of Olympic history by presenting our own marathon - the offshore distance race.

Bruno Troublé

December 19, 2010

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