In the last 18 months – the Coronavirus year – sailing with two-person crews has become increasingly popular, inshore and offshore. That’s because the small teams allowed sailors to better adapt to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Shirley Robertson © Magenta Project
What the new class would have meant for the Olympics is summed up by Olympic sailor Shirley Robertson: “Sailing offshore in teams of two would have attracted potential competitors who weren’t interested in dinghy sailing”, Robertson said. “Most importantly, to me, it would create a different pathway into long term inclusion and commitment in the sport.”
What Robertson means is also a boost for women sailing: “Creating a mixed double handed pathway, would, following a Games cycle, produce a pool of really talented women decision makers with an irrefutable skillset as valuable onboard as their male counterparts. This would be an unprecedented step forward. It would be a stride towards the levelling of a playing field that is so very far from being equal across all aspects of our sport.”
Offshore sailing is becoming popular
In America, North Sails President Ken Read suggested that adding another dinghy or board class to the Olympics would not increase the appeal of sailing. The boats all look the same to sailors and non-sailors. An offshore event, on the other hand, represents the type of sailing that 2/3 of the world’s sailors do. Read added that hosting the event for the first time in France, with the country’s big heritage in offshore sailing, is the best venue for the event’s premiere.
Ian Walker © private
Two-time Olympic champion, Ian Walker is more sceptical. In a recent interview in Seahorse Magazine he cautioned we should be careful what we wish for. “I can believe there would be an awesome race in a fleet of supplied boats for a lucky few in Marseilles, but I am still not clearer on how we get from here to there.” Walker is Director of Racing at the RYA and a very successful sailor himself – two-time Olympian, Volvo Ocean Race winner and America’s Cup skipper.
He says: “In the time since the discipline was selected by World Sailing, there has been little development of fleets of boats and precious few events. Without fleets of evenly matched boats there can be no regattas, and without any regattas, there can be no rankings and no method of selection for these events or for the Olympics themselves.”
What more proof is needed?
I can only counter that I am currently enjoying mixed double handed offshore sailing with James Harayda on a Jeanneau Sunfast 3000. We are setting up this year for the Rolex Fastnet Race in August 2021 and competing in the UK Double Handed Series.
Dee Caffari and James Harayda on board © Felix Diemer
The fleet has grown and so has the level of performance. There will be circa 90 teams competing in the Fastnet Race, more than in Class 0 and Class 1 combined. What more proof is needed of the growing popularity of offshore double handed teams?
But water still flows down the Thames. For 2028 in Los Angeles, I see a good chance that the discipline will make it into Olympic sailing in the second attempt.