A lot of people in Europe and around the world like to poke fun at Americans for having a domestic baseball competition called the ‘World Series’. But at least MLB boasts 30 teams playing around 15 games of baseball a month attracting talent from around the globe, some World Championships in sailing is not quite as impressive.
For Olympic classes it’s simple. A gold medal at the Olympic Games allows you to make a claim to be the best in the world, but for some non-olympic classes, the title of World Champion is a bit more fuzzy. While the ISAF World Match Racing Tour has graded events, a published table of rankings and a year long competition over ten events to determine the World Champion, the World Champion for the Extreme 40 Class will be determined from 6 competing teams over a week in Slovenia.
The event should be a celebration of one of the most exciting classes in the sport, but the 2010 Extreme 40 World Championship demonstrates that the new sheriff at ISAF is still letting promoters off with warnings and making exceptions rather than being strong for the good of the sport. No matter how worthy this event is, it’s not a World Championship and shouldn’t be given that status.
Mitch Booth, co-creator of the Extreme 40 says:
It was only six weeks ago that The Ocean Racing Club decided to have this World Championship, to actually commit and do the event which is a bold move at such short notice.
Bold is one word for it. Organising an internal company conference is hard enough at 6 weeks notice. Asking professional sportspeople and the media to respond within a 6 week time-frame just makes the sport look amateur. World Championships should take months, if not years to plan and promote properly.
ISAF have granted this Special Events rights, so we are not actually under the normal rules and restrictions of an international class to have a minimum amount of boats, or a minimum amounts of countries. So we basically work as a special event like Volvo Ocean Race do, or like the America’s Cup does, or like in fact the Extreme Sailing Series does. It’s the same thing.
It’s not the same thing. Neither the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean Race position themselves as World Championships. As much as I love the Extreme 40 Class – ISAF as the governing body has to put its foot down somewhere and just say – no you don’t meet the criteria, otherwise the title of World Champion is denigrated for those who compete in classes and events that do conform to the rules.
The Extreme 40 can and should support multiple event formats. The Extreme Sailing Series does not have to be the only platform for the boats which have shown in events like the ‘Round the Island Race’ in the UK that they are capable of performing in longer, more traditional racing. Just as a BMW can be used for Touring-car racing and endurance racing – the Extreme 40 also has more potential. Booth says:
I think the World Championship and the Extreme Sailing Series complement each other. The Extreme Sailing Series is grand prix racing, high energy short courses in front of the public. What we are trying to do here is something quite different. We are trying to use the boats in a more traditional way, on traditional longer courses where the boats can really be wound up to their full potential on longer legs. At the ESS, you have just got up to speed and you have to tack, dodge another guy. The manoeuvres in the last Grand Prix, 12 minutes races means you put the gennaker up and you are only up to speed for 20 seconds, then you have to gybe, furl and you are round the mark again.
The Class should have a World Championship, but the World Championship must have the best teams and the best sailors and must be the ultimate event of the class.
This is not how Booth sees the 2010 event – he says:
We are having a World Championship, it is a real event and it has great potential for the future.
This World Championship event is a good opportunity for the boats and teams that haven’t made it to the Extreme Sailing Series yet, for budget reasons usually, to get out there – with the hope that they then manage to step up to the whole series. The Round the Island Race is another example. It’s a great way to get teams sailing and boats that are not in circuit, out there and increase their chances of making it to a full year budget and campaign.
This is a worthy cause, but suggesting that the World Championship is the warm up for something else is like saying that the Soccer World Cup is just something you do when you aren’t good enough to go and play in the Premier League.
Call it the International Extreme 40 Invitational. Call it the Extreme 40 Global Edition. Create an event that satisfies the rules of a proper World Championship and show some respect to the sport by taking some time to plan something special rather than just throwing something together at the last minute. This is a class that the sailing world is looking to as one of the boats to ‘save sailing’ – it’s exciting, it’s spectacular, the class rules mandate 5th man positions and some of the world’s best sailors are involved. The World Champion should be a rock-star of the sailing world and feel that he or she has beaten the very best.
The Extreme 40 Class seem to have dodged one of the ISAF Sheriff’s bullets.