New equipment provides a stay of execution for windsurfing and makes for more excitement at Olympic Games
The RS:X class is to remain in the programme for the 2020 Olympics, but its future at the Paris Games will be put under renewed scrutiny at a World Sailing mid-year meeting
An additional foil underneath will increase speed and is set to provide windsurfing with the chance to survive another Olympic programme cull in May.
While the RS:X class will remain in the programme for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, its future at the Paris Games four years later will be put under renewed scrutiny at a World Sailing mid-year meeting in London.
A working party within World Sailing has suggested the men’s and women’s windsurfing events, plus the men and women’s two-person dinghy (470 class) and the men’s one-person dinghy heavyweight will have to go through a review process to decide if they can stay.
There are 10 classes on the Olympic sailing programme and the remaining five including the men’s and women’s 49er, laser (men’s), laser radial (women’s) and nacra 17 (mixed) are safe for the 2024 Games.
“We are quite confident our event can stay in the Olympics,” said Dennis Chau Wai-keung, executive director of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association. “Windsurfing fits every requirement as an Olympic event – youth appeal, universality, diversity and media appeal. But we understand there may be some changes to the equipment to make the event more exciting.”
Chau said a convertible version of windsurfing board is being tested, adding a foil underneath to minimise the friction so that the speed can be bolstered. “It takes about 10-knots of wind to make the foil work, making the event more exciting and appealing to the audience,” said Chau. “It is ready in the market and we have also bought two sets to trial.”
The working party hinted in its report that windsurfing would stay but with the addition of equipment, saying: “ ... the two windsurfing events should be placed under review not necessarily to remove windsurfing from the 2024 event programme but to enable a review of the windsurfing event and equipment.”
Chau said the men’s one-person dinghy heavyweight would have more chance of being axed as it does not enjoy the global appeal of other events but is popular in Europe. It’s gender requirement also makes it difficult for the event as the IOC’s aim to strive for gender equity in sport.
Kiteboarding, meanwhile, has another shot at being added to the Olympic programme after its rejection for the Rio Games.
This is not the first time windsurfing is having its Olympic status reviewed. The event was initially axed from the 2016 Rio programme at the 2013 mid-year meeting and replaced by kiteboarding but was reinstated after a last-minute effort saved the event at the general assembly.
Windsurfing is one of Hong Kong’s most successful sports at international level, and the SAR famously captured its only Olympic gold medal through Lee Lai-shan at the 1996 Atlanta Games, while Lee, Chan King-yin, now head coach at the Sports Institute, Cheng Kwok-fai and Hayley Chan Hei-man also claimed gold at the Asian Games.