Bruce Kendall: innovative mind

Bruce Kendall believes Olympic sailing formats need evolution to ensure it is attractive to the public and the media.

Yachting races are most often not exciting to watch or follow on live on TV or from the shore or even on the water, as they are too often too inactive and boring, not easy to understand or follow.

It is often boring to watch as the sailors are mostly still in the boats and the most boats are not dynamic to watch when they are sailing in a straight line. The sailors need to be more interesting to watch by being more active and the boats need to be doing more maneuvers.

Computer generated graphics combined with GPS do makes races easier to understand but the aspects of wind shifts and water flow effecting race outcomes need to be shown better.

The current format of up wind racing is generally too hard to cover live in exciting conditions [above 15 knots] on TV as the boats carrying the cameras need to be specially designed, large and the cameras needed are expensive.

Currently the sailors get too far away from the camera to keep in shot easily if the camera boats are out side the course. Camera boats should not be moving inside the course as they make waves, wind shadows and create an unpredictable obstacle.

Flying craft for filming yachting is either expensive, too risky to failure and or affects the wind too much.

Small fleets become too elitist to encourage new people into the sport and very large fleets are too difficult to manage and cover well on television. One system dose not fix all.

Television coverage is difficult to sell to television companies for the above reasons and live television is even more difficult sell due to the unreliable start and finish times.

Post race or regatta montage programs are confusing to watch and unfulfilling. It is too difficult to build a story with suspense and have an exiting conclusion post event when an event is not live and poorly covered.

The smaller course and shorter the race time, the easier it is to watch and cover on TV. The smaller the course and shorter the race, the less boats / boards can be on the course at one time. So the “often unfair medal race” that dose not reward consistency was created.

Currently we have fleet races of about 60 boats with races from 20 to 50 minutes that can start at any time. The races are almost impossible to watch live and the media would find it impossible to show the story on TV. The regatta finishes with a medal race with 10 sailors that has double points and is not discard able. The course is often still too big to see easily and constancy of performance is not well rewarded.

Solutions

The solutions are in improved regatta formats and sailing rules.

There needs to be a range of racing formats during a regatta to ensure all needs are meet for the sailors, sponsors, spectators and media.

Regattas need to decide the best sailors fairly and safely with as little out side interference from other boats not racing, the race committee and jury.

The regatta needs to have big fleets and long races to allow everyone to race against each other with out the start dictating to result too much.

The regatta needs to reduce fleet size during the regatta while keeping all the best sailors racing against each other in every race.

The final races of the regatta need to have smaller fleet sizes and courses to make the racing easier to show on TV.

Races shown on TV need to be on time with their start times and kept to a specified length of time suitable for television audiences. Kinetic sailing must be allowed to reduce wind minimums as far as possible and “on water judging for kinetics” judging needs to be reduced or eliminated. As long as there is a reasonably consistent wind speed and direction for the start and the first beat, the race should start and finish. The final numbers for the “consistent” definition needs to be tested and voted upon considering the variations of each class.

Olympic class centerboard boats need to consider more the public perception and marketability of the sport rather than the sailing purist concept evolved from forms of sailing where active kinetic influences are not possible to effect performance and where it is often considered that the Olympic classes as just training for big boats.

General format

The over riding principal A format with safe, fair racing over a wide range of conditions with minimal out side interference from race committees or judges and it should ensure the best sailor wins.

Format

A long all-inclusive first race with a reducing fleets system during the regatta allowing for more media and spectator friendly races at the end of the regatta.

Marathon

The first race should be a marathon starting with a long up wind beat or a direct down wind leg of at least one hour or more before the fleet rounds a mark. The course should take at from 2 to 4 hours.

This gives the media the opening photos of the event pictures of the number of competitors there on the start line and great images of a large number of boats sailing down wind. This visual spectacle has a better chance of attracting sponsorship due to the large numbers seen. There is also a better opportunity to set a course where the fleet sail around or close to unique land marks for photo opportunities and close to spectator viewing from land or spectator vessels.

A marathon race gives the competitors a chance to race against every other sailor at one time. Weekend warriors racing with the best. Sailors have a chance to really show how fit and fast they are and how good their “big picture weather and general race tactics are, especially if they have to race around geographical marks with wind shadows and water flow variations.

The marathon can be started from the beach if space the equipment and conditions allow. This is great viewing for spectators and the media. It is easier to manage the start to be on time with out general recalls.

The finish can be bought very close to the spectators. In a marathon, normally the start has less effect on the race outcome than a short race. Two marathons could allow for a fair first discard.

A marathon is a good way to break ties and divide fleets to smaller numbers.

Windward leeward courses

Windward leeward courses courses are the best for passing opportunities for racing and need to be at least 80% of the racing during a regatta. Windward leeward courses are can be difficult for spectator viewing and media coverage if fleet courses and sizes are too big.

Course races of between 30 to 50 minutes with fleets of no more than 60 have been found to be the easiest to manage for race committees in the laser, etchell and windsurfing classes. When there are more than 60 it is more difficult for the race committees to be accurate at calling OCS starters, there are generally more general recalls and less regard for the rules by the sailors when rounding marks.

When the start line becomes too long or too congested and the first beat too short, the start has too much influence over the race to be consistently fair.

The bigger the first beat relative to the amount of sailors, the fairer the racing. 30 to 60 minute races with fleets of less than 60 needs to the bulk of the fleet racing results.

Fleet reductions

After 6 race results, the fleet sizes can be modified at the end of each day of racing to continue reducing the numbers in the top of the fleet while increasing the numbers racing in the bottom of the fleet.

With smaller fleets, the courses can then become more restricted in windward leeward columns and or closer to the shore to encourage more tacking gibing and general maneuvering closer to the media and possible spectators. Small harbors could be used for a last race with just a few sailors.

Smaller fleets and courses allow the media and spectators to follow the racing easier and potential medalists will be able to better focus on racing each other without the danger of inexperienced sailors colliding with them or adversely effecting their results.

Fleet sizes should be able to begin a regatta with unlimited entries and finish the regatta with a race of possibly 4 or less sailors in a media time slot friendly, easy to see live on sight race.

General race management improvements

Discards

There should only be one worse performance discard for an entire regatta in order to keep it easy for the media and spectators to follow.

Race scoring system

Consistent high performance over a large range of conditions needs to be rewarded. This should be the over riding principal for deciding who wins. The points from the last races of the regatta with reduced fleet sizes should not be discard able as the quality of the fleet improves and the luck involved reduces. Possibly the points values need to be increased as the fleet size reduces during the regatta. The sailor’s points need to be carried right through to the end of the regatta. The details will need to be experimented with in a real regatta situation.

Average points should not be given for redress decisions as this is often not a fair or very accurate form of compensation, GPS positioning should be used more often to calculate a fair compensation.

Races should not be allowed to start when there is an OCS starter. This is unfair to the sailors who started correctly that are affected adversely at the start and around the course. It is also confusing to spectators and media who may not know that sailor is not actually racing.

General format solution

There needs to be a bi annual format and racing rules experimentation regattas run by the Olympic classes, coaches and sailors with media experts and ISAF
observing and advising.

Properly designed and tested recommendations can then be put forward in a timely fashion to be voted upon by the classes and then presented to ISAF for voting to ensure the sport has the opportunity to continue to evolve in a sensible and efficient manor.


SOURCE: Windsurfing New Zealand