Cats Are Back, But the Star Bows Out

The ISAF General Council votes the venerable Star out of the 2016 Olympics, brings back the catamaran, and introduces two coed events.

In a stunning display of logic and forward-thinking, the ISAF General Council approved the slate of 2016 Olympic events proposed by the Events Committee. I could be laying it on a little thick, but then again, the council has a history of completely ignoring the recommendations of the committee it tasked with advising it on the matter of Olympic events. That means, for now, the catamaran will make its Olympic return at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and the Star will have its swan song in a year and a half in Weymouth.

According to a post on ISAF's official blog for the 2010 Annual Conference in Athens, Greece, the 10 events for the 2016 Games will be:

Men’s Board or kite board – evaluation

Women’s board or kite board – evaluation

Men’s one person dinghy – Laser

Women’s one person dinghy – Laser radial

Men’s 2nd one person dinghy – Finn

Men’s skiff – 49er

Women’s skiff – evaluation

Women’s keelboat – Elliott 6m

Mixed multihull – evaluation

Mixed two person dinghy (spinnaker) – 470

This slate is provisional at the moment and subject to a final vote at the 2011 Mid-year Meeting, scheduled for May. However as U.S. windsurfer and Athletes Commission chairman pointed out yesterday, changing this slate will be difficult. Any submissions regarding the 2016 Olympic classes will have to outline the entire slate and won't simply be able to target a specific event for the change.

Of course, there's still much to be decided with this slate: Is the board sport kiteboarding or windsurfing? And in what equipment. SImlarly the women's skiff and the mixed multihull will need to select equipment? There is also likely to be a serious look at the 470 and how to make it less expensive and a little more of a strict one-design. And the women's keelboat event will need to select either match racing or fleet racing.

Losing the Star will be a blow in the short term. Brazil can't be happy as this is a class of strength for the host country in the 2016 Games Will RObert Scheidt return to the Laser, or learn the Finn or 49er so as to be able to perform in front of the home crowd? But hopefully this is a sign that ISAF will continue to evaluate the Olympic classes on their current value, both to the athletes and the sport, not their history. And that the future of Olympic sailing will be more in tune with the cutting edge of the sport.

Of course, people have counted the Star out before. It lost it spot for the 1976 Games to the Tempest, but returned for 1980. And it was temporarily voted out after the 1996 Games in Atlanta. In other words, stay tuned next May.