July 04th, 2016
With the aim of reinstating sailing to the Paralympics of 2024, the equipment evaluation and selection is essential in choosing new equipment to move the discipline forward and broaden the appeal, participation and viewership of Para World Sailing.
Malcesine, Italy has already hosted the first evaluation where sailors were welcome to test and critique the proposed equipment, and now Medemblik offers the same but with the added focus on racing formats being tested by the sailors.
On the ground in Medemblik are members of the Evaluation Working Party, Massimo Dighe (ITA) and Brian Todd (CAN) both members of the Para World Sailing Committee, and they will be joined by World Sailing Technical & Offshore Co-ordinator Norbert Marin.
On the first day, we catch up with Evaluation Working Party member, Brian Todd, to talk about the evaluation and the reasons and processes involved.
Please introduce yourself
I'm Brian Todd. I'm on the Para World Sailing Committee. I have been a coach for many years in Canada and I was here in Medemblik [the Netherlands] during the Para Worlds as a development coach for all of the developing nation sailors.
What are we doing now here in Medemblik?
We are here in Medemblik now to test boats that could be used in the future in the Paralympic classes.
Tell me about the evaluation process
Well this is the second part of the evaluation, the first being held in Malcesine, Lake Garda a few weeks ago. We had the RS Venture, some Hansa boats, the Weta and the Windrider in Italy and we have the same here, all except the RS Venture which is currently having their worlds. The whole idea is to test the boats in different types of conditions to see how they manage, but here we are focussing on courses and see what formats make it exciting, fun and close to shore.
Is being close to shore important?
It is, because we have to get to a stage where people can see, people can watch and people understand it. A place where people can see it and know exactly what's happening. That boat is winning, that boat is losing. To be able to look out on the water from the land is an easier way to get numbers of people enjoying the racing.
Is it just about changing the format of racing?
We have to change the boats obviously. We are trying to get boats that are less expensive. Boats that can have a maximum amount in a container so that if we go and do a development program on a continent we can ship a lot of boats there and maybe even sell them to the yacht club or local community so that they can then develop their sailing when we leave.
So you are looking at cheaper boats and better for logistics, why exactly those reasons?
It was becoming obviously than when you have classes where the boats are very expensive, and especially when you are trying to develop the number of nations competing, to buy a boat that costs a lot of money to compete at the Paralympics is beyond a developing nations program. Also the technology to run the boats is quite significant. So, if we had a boat that was less technical and less expensive, a boat that where more people could participate and take up the sport, you would have more people starting sailing across more continents and more competition.
The number of countries participating, is that important?
It is important. Part of the reason we lost our Paralympic spot was that the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] said that we didn't have enough countries participating. Now that we are in with World Sailing we have access to around 140 countries that are associated and with the work and development of new boats and formats we should easily be able to take the number competing to 40, 50 60 countries.
What was the process of choosing the boats for evaluation?
We sent out notices to most of the boat manufacturers and the ones that responded are the ones that are here and were in Italy. The boats primarily had to be inexpensive, be able to fit many in a container and have worldwide distribution.
So at the moment there are a lot of disabilities that can sail the Paralympic classes, is it important to keep this?
Yes, it is important to keep. We want our present sailors and future sailors to be able to have the opportunity to compete. Sailing is in the brain, not always in the boat.
So, in brief, what do you have to change and can it be achieved?
What we are trying to do is achievable. We have to change the thought process of existing sailors to a different format of racing. But also, I think we can be a leader in sailing. We have the opportunity to increase our technology around theatre or close to shore sailing. For example, we can get drones up in the air, make it exciting with the technology available and also make it exciting for people viewing from land.
After both evaluations and with feedback from everyone involved there will be a thorough analysis made before World Sailing select One-Person and Two-Person boats during the Annual Conference in November of 2016.
The Boats accepted for evaluation are:
Hansa 303 (1 Person/2 Person)
Hansa Liberty (1 Person)
Weta Trimaran (1 Person/2 Person)
Windrider AS1 (1 Person/2 Person)
By Para World Sailing