Singlehanded Dinghies for the 2024 Olympics: Selection Criteria and Potential Contenders

Could a foiling singlehanded dinghy such as the Wazsp supplant the
Laser for the 2024 Paris/Marseilles Olympics?
This May 25th, World Sailing issued an invitation to tender for the 2024 Olympic single-handed dinghies, both for male and female sailors.

While the tenders have to be submitted to World Sailing in a short time frame, by June 27 2018, the selection process could last well over a year, up to November 2019.

There are many considerations in the tender documents, including professional qualifications, technical qualifications, retail pricing, competition law, to name just a few. We will not cover these here, but they may become paramount, as World Sailing is apparently being put on notice or sued for anti-trust / competition reasons (there is a report that it was served at its recent London meeting). There are also unknowns regarding how World Sailing will derive fees from the selected equipments (hulls, sails), as the organization seems in dire need for increased revenues to ensure its survival.

But even if one limits oneself to the technical requirements spelled out by World Sailing, it appears that the selection process will be highly unpredictable. Indeed, several types of boats could potentially meet World Sailing’s criteria and the differences in scoring may ultimately be very small. And many elements in the process will be pretty subjective. Even if say the top 3 contenders would be tested on the water, this will be done on such a short period of time, in the local conditions of the test location at that time, that the tests are unlikely to be representative of the various conditions that these boats are supposed to perform in.

One thing is clear: the Finn is not in a good position to meet the criteria, as World Sailing is seeking « A monohull dinghy designed to be sailed by one person, with variations in rig and sail to accommodate men and women respectively, » and a strict one-design "with few opportunities for optimization or customization."

Foiling boats may be accepted, so as trapeze boats, but the boat must support «  racing competition in winds from 5 to 25 knots » yet should be built « to function in the extreme conditions of less than 5 knots and over 25 knots, » which may exclude foiling boats.

There is lots of emphasis in World Sailing’s requirements about sailors’ height, weight and athletic ability.  But these are probably not very realistic. Indeed, all dinghies, both hiking and trapeze ones, will advantage tall people, and will have a very narrow optimal sailor weight. This is particularly the case for strict one design boats where no choice of sail / mast is possible. For example, there is a weight range of barely 20 lbs, less than 10 kg, for the Laser Standard, at the top level of the competition. The range is wider for the Finn, and previously for the Europe, because various combinations of sails and masts are allowed.

While there is emphasis on attempting to widen the range of sailors’ weights and heights, there are no sailors’ target weights set by World Sailing in its tender documents. So if the Laser Standard and Laser Radial are replaced, the new equipment may favor different sailor weight ranges. This is unfortunately left unspecified in the World Sailing’s tender. And while World Sailing is attempting to promote « universality, » it is unclear if the selected equipment will promote this. As discussed elsewhere in this blog, there are currently no single-handed equipment at the Olympics for neither light weight male nor light weight female sailors.

And to add a layer of complexity, the process may not be fully independent from the new and controversial mixed single-handed dinghy event approved by the World Sailing Council at its recent London meeting. Could the equipment for the regular and the mixed single handed events be the same? This would have as obvious consequence to not widen the range of sailors’ weights and physiques. Or will World Sailing attempt to diversify the equipment, to cover a wider range of weights and physiques? Remember, a pretty high weight target of 70 kg has been set for female sailors in the context of the London decision regarding the mixed single handed dinghy - a target weight that may be revised, as it seems the intent was to actually favor light weight female sailors - but only the future will tell if that target weight will be changed and/or disregarded for this new Olympic event - if the event is maintained of course.

Now, what are the boats that could potentially meet World Sailing’s standards? Here is a list of possible contenders. None of them meet all World Sailing criteria at 100%. Some boat types are pretty recent and are much less known than the Laser Standard and the Laser Radial. And many criteria are not allowing for objective, mesurable performance anyway. And anti-trust and other legal issues may also impact the decisions. So the outcome of the selection process is obviously everyone’s guess at this point.

Watch a Video Gallery of the Potential Contenders at this LINK

Main Potential Contenders

Laser

The Laser will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary. It is the Olympic boat for men (Laser Standard) since 1996 and for women (Laser Radial) since 2008. With over 200,000 units built, it’s by far the most established single-handed dinghy in the world (after the Optimist). The Laser comes in three rigs: Standard, Radial, 4.7 - the latter rig could be considered for lighter weight female sailors. The Radial is also widely sailed by light-medium weight men, although not being an Olympic class for men. There is also talk of the development of a new rig for the Laser, but it’s unclear if it will be presented.

RS Aero

The RS Aero was developed about 5 years ago. The mast and boom are made of carbon composite. The boat is available in three rigs: Aero 9, 7 and 5.  If the boat is proposed, it’s not clear if it will be the Aero 9 or Aero 7 for men, and the Aero 7 or Aero 5 for women.

Melges 14

The Melges 14 was also developed about 5 years. Mast and boom are carbon composite. Three rigs are available: Red (58.8 sq ft  / 5.46 m2),  Blue (85 sq ft / 7.8 m2) and Gold (98 sq ft / 9.1 m2).   If the boat is proposed, it’s not clear if it will Gold or Blue rig for men, and the Blue or Red rig for women.

D-Zero

Developed in 2014, the D-Zero is another contenter, with carbon composite mast and boom. It is available with two rigs: Grey rig (87.2 sq ft / 8.1 m2) and Blue rig (74.3 sq ft / 6.9 m2). Logically, the Blue Rig would be proposed for women while the Grey Rig would be proposed for men.

Wazsp

As the specifications of World Sailing allow in principle for a foiling dinghy, a possible contender would be the Wazsp, which was developed as a one-design and more affordable equipment than the International Moth. The Wazsp is sailed by both men and women. There are two sails, one of 6.9 m2 (73 sq ft) and one of 8.2 m2 (88.3 sq ft).

Other Potential Contenders

This post does not ambition to review all possible options. But it’s worth mentioning that the Byte and the Europe could in principle be considered.

The Byte nearly made it for the 2008 Olympics, but the Laser Radial was chosen instead. The Byte was twice the chosen dinghy for the Youth Olympics, yet there are no singlehanded dinghy regatta at the upcoming Buenos Aires Youth Olympics.

The Europe was the Olympic single-handed dinghy for women during four Olympiads, from 1992 to 2004. It’s a boat that is sailed by both (light-medium weight) men and women.

Also, more daring designs could potentially be considered, such as the Devoti One (a high performance single-handed skiff with main and gennaker) and the RS 700 (a high performance single-handed skiff with main, gennaker and trapeze). But it will probably be much harder for such designs to meet the World Sailing criteria. Boat speed and performance are actually not among the World Sailing criteria, despite all the buzz about making sailing more telegenic.

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FUTHER DETAILS

The technical requirements by World Sailing, against which scoring will take place, are as follows:
- Equipment development within the Olympic cycle: no development scores the highest here
- Athletic ability: the most demanding equipment scores the highest
- Height variable: lowest impact of sailor’s height to be score the highest
- Weight variable: lowest impact of sailor’s weight to be scored the highest
- Durability variable: highest durability to be scored the highest
- Other costs variable: transportation, launching, measurement and other such costs should be kept as low as possible
- Environmental impact variable: most environmentally friendly equipment to be scored the highest

It appears that the 7 requirements will then be weighted, yet, according to the tender documents, the working party may decide on different weights for these criteria.

In addition, World Sailing is mandating « A monohull dinghy designed to be sailed by one person, with variations in rig and sail to accommodate men and women respectively. »

This has substantial implications, as it will not be possible to choose from two different brands for the male and female dinghies, unless of course World Sailing amends this rule in the process.

World Sailing also requires for the boat to have the ability to be chartered locally through a strong distribution network. This implies that the boat is a strict one-design with few opportunities for optimization or customization.

Lastly, World Sailing requires for the event to be competed in a traditional format of fleet races, therefore the equipment should be suited to that purpose.

WORLD SAILING CRITERIA

As a reminder, Regulation 23.1.2, that is used in choosing Olympic events and equipment states that, World Sailing shall seek to ensure that the Olympic equipment taken together shall meet the requirements and objectives of the IOC and to:
a) demonstrate the diversity of skills required to race various types of boats, and minimise the overlap between Events;
b) place an emphasis on athlete skill rather than equipment development, and limit the impact of equipment on performance;
c) demand a high level of athletic ability as well as excellent sailing skills;
d) be attractive and accessible to young athletes from all continents, and of different size and weight, with a clear pathway from World Sailing Youth to Olympic Events and Equipment;
e) maximise the participation of the world’s best sailors and showcase the diversity of the sport;
f) provide an effective platform for promotion of the sport, and elite sailors, between Olympics;
g) progress towards an equal number of Events for men and women to participate in;
h) avoid unnecessary or excessive equipment costs, development costs, measurement costs, coaching costs, race organisation and race official costs, and television and other media costs;
i) offer continuity of Events and evolution of Equipment to give MNAs and sailors a dependable pathway into Olympic competition with continuity of investment;
j) provide suitable Events and Equipment for Regional Games and other regattas;
k) minimise environmental impact.
The One-Person Dinghy event has been identified by the Events Committee as being Universal. The portion of the description of a Universal Event that adds criteria to the equipment selection, is as follows;
- Equipment is widely accessible around the world;
- Success is more related to athletic superiority and tactical understanding than technical knowledge of the specific equipment;
- Equipment is simple, standardized and no option is given for development, optimization or customization under its Class Rules.

See media release and documents by World Sailing: http://www.sailing.org/news/87044.php

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