Kite = young people. Youth = salvation of sailing. We need to understand it


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I voted for kiting with foils at the next Olympics in 2020. I threw out the Finn. And I’ll explain why.
But first I summarize the background. The World Sailing Federation (Word Sailing under the command, until the next elections in November, of Italy’s Carlo Croce) must decide which Olympic classes will take part in the Japanese Olympics in four years’ time. Likely confirmed are the nine classes except for the mythical men’s single-drift Finn, rumored to be in the odor of rejection in favor of Kite with foil.

Some numbers to understand the context. Worldwide there are about 2,500 active Finn practitioners with an average age of about 40 years. Kite practitioners are estimated at more than 1.5 million with an average age of 20. Getting a Finn around the race courses requires a car, a road cart and a chute. The Kite with foils fits in a bag that you send on an airplane. The highly technical Finn reaches a maximum of 10 knots in risky glides in strong winds. The Kite with foil flies at 25 knots and can tighten the wind up to 40°. This is the comparison in numbers.

ika_kitefoil_gold_cup_italia_01YOUTH AND OUTREACH
The cold analysis is in Kite’s obvious favor, if we reason from the perspective of the broader dissemination and promotion of the sport of sailing, or rather the expanded definition of what sailing is, which is “an object that moves on water propelled by the wind.” What is the world federation of a sport supposed to do if not, first and foremost, promote its maximum popularity, in all its forms? And, most importantly, attract younger people to practice it. It matters little by what means, as long as the navigating object has technical features that enhance the capabilities of the person driving it. So as to reward those who are better and thus be able to win an Olympic competition.

But the resistance to opening up to new forms of sailing is enormous. First of all, because the managerial apparatuses of federations, national and world-in every sport-are mostly composed of gentlemen of a certain age unpaid except by expense reimbursements. They are not sports promotion professionals. They just do it for passion, for pleasure, for power. Then, however, they stumble, as has happened in soccer, into legal trouble over golden consultancies or unjustifiable expense reimbursements. This is not the case in sailing, where the spirit of yacht club fair play still remains firmly in place. But there is no doubt that more professional management with managers who have studied sports marketing, appropriate to the times, in the name of developing the sport of sailing, would be desirable.

Another interesting relief, the world kite racing circuit escapes the perimeter of the world sailing federation, which only puts its stamp on it, without putting a beak on it. It is organized by WKT management, sports professionals like those who organize the Moto Gp world championship or the Formula 1 world championship.

In the poll we launched online (Finn vs. Kite) with over 1,000 voters, 59% favor Kite with foil entering the Olympics while 41% would like Finn to remain an Olympic class. This result prompts another reflection. The sport of sailing suffers from a disaffection on the part of younger people. Sailing loses steam in the universal imagination. Long gone are the days when sailing was at the top of teenagers’ desires. When the dream was to cross the ocean, to take splashes in the face, to go on the trapeze of a drift. The world is changing, young people want new stimuli appropriate to the times. Kite with foils undoubtedly attracts young people, as it has been in the past for sail surfing, at first opposed by sailing purists and now accepted. Sailors, we are a people of old men, if we do not decide to open ourselves up to the changing times (quote from Nobel laureate in literature Bob Dylan, an old-timer who is also liked by young people).

Luca Oriani



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