Thursday, 2 September 2010

RS:X Class – Happy to be in Denmark

Image copyright Vincenzio Baglione.

by Henrik Møhl

It may be layday at the RS:X World Championships in Kerteminde, Denmark, but ashore various groups have been active, busily ironing out issues such as the future of the class, in meetings culminating in tonight’s AGM.

One issue under discuss is the calendar including the World Championships in 2012. “We ask people to bid to hold a championship,” says Mike Dempsey of how this process takes place. Dempsey is President of the RS:X Windsurfing Class and also father of Nick, the Athens silver medallist and defending RS:X World Champion.
Dempsey relates the criteria: “Normally they have either held a Worlds beforehand or they have held a Junior event. This venue, Kerteminde, is pretty unique in that it hasn’t done that, but they did hold the ISAF Youth Worlds just further up the coast [in Aarhus in 2008]. We know the infrastructure within the Danish Sailing Federation is pretty sound.”

Sitting in the VIP section of a large tented cafe in the heart of the race village right by Kerteminde Marina, Dempsey says that this is the most pleased he has been with a site layout at a sailing venue for many years. In addition the organisers are experimenting with a groundbreaking new Danish system for following the racing called ‘Sailstream – You Are the Producer’. This combines the TracTrac tracking system with several channels of video, including one with commentary on the racing by the RS:X class’ charismatic COO Rory Ramsden, streamed live from the water via a unique wide area wireless broadband network.

“We are half way through the week and everyone is happy. And the weather has been wonderful,”says Dempsey.

Dempsey senior, who originates from Edinburgh, came to his present position after being “dragged around the UK and Europe” by his aspirant son, who has been competing in windsurfing at a top level for more than 12 years now. He has been in the RS:X Class hierarchy since it started five years ago and he has been its chairman for the last two. Since the end of the 1990s Dempsey has also been the UK delegate to the ISAF Windsurfing Committee.

Aside from the calendar, tonight there are more profound issues to be discussed, many relating to the report by the ISAF Olympic Commission and the requirements this stipulates in terms of what sailing must do as a sport to stay in the Olympic Games. Then there is the perennial issue of trying to keep the place of windsurfing and the RS:X secure in the pantheon of Olympic sailing events.

“The main issue is that we have to make ourselves bulletproof so that we stay as an Olympic class,” says Dempsey. “We have to be proactive, staying in front of what the Commission is thinking up.”

One feather in the cap of the RS:X is new media and the class claims to have the most popular website of any Olympic sailing discipline, thanks to the efforts of COO Rory Ramsden.

Another objective is to get more female competitors. Dempsey counts that one reason for this is that they are still trying to get the Techno junior and youth board adopted more widely around the world. Dempsey has the objective of 40% of the RS:X fleet being women, but would ideally like to shoot for 50%.

Another proposal being voted on tonight is to get boards out to ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs) in as many countries as possible that don’t have them at present. The class is going to encourage a trade-in of old equipment and surplus old stock and will have this reconditioned and possibly rebrand it up with a new name – Dempsey calls it the RS:R. “Then we can go to MNAs who are not currently racing RS:Xes and say ‘here are five, ten boards for a fraction of the new price. We don’t expect you to come to the Worlds and Europeans, but you can train and race nationally and the youths can race on this all over the world. And when you come to the Worlds, you have to race on equipment that is current at the moment.’ Then we will either give them free charter or a very good discount. So they can send someone and they can go and race. It gets the class there and gets them racing on good equipment.”

Also to be discussed tonight is the prospect of the RS:X Windsurfing Class joining the International Windsurfing Association. “The idea there is that we will have a joint Junior and Youth World Championship which is what we used to have in the late 1990s. Now we have the Techno which is fully supported by the RS:X class. We fought hard to get ISAF to recognise it as the world-wide junior board.”

Dempsey says that they wanted to make the pathway clear so that now sailors have to change their sail only four times and their board only twice between the age of 12 up to Olympic development squad level.

There will be more clarity on these issues later tonight.

Otherwise for the sailors it will be early to bed with the Men’s and Women’s fleets divided into Gold and Silver, racing for two days in this configuration leading up to the top 10 from each fleet going through to the medal race on Saturday.
Racing is due to get underway tomorrow at 1100 local (0900 GMT). 8-10 knots from the ENE is forecast.

RS:X Worlds