Weight problem for the Yngling

Jo Grindley reports on the new Olympic women's keelboat's struggle to sort out a crew weight limit

Thursday March 15th 2001, Author: Jo Grindley, Location: United Kingdom
Last November the Yngling was voted in by ISAF as the women's keelboat discipline for the 2004 Olympic Games. This coming weekend will see the first RYA Yngling training, (in Sonars, as there are no Yngling currently in the UK) laid on to search out potential crews and helms who may or may not have previously considered an Olympic campaign. The RYA reports that interest has been so great that extra weekends have been scheduled in.
As gold medallists Mark Reynolds and Jesper Bank in the Star and Soling classes have shown, age is not a disadvantage in keelboat sailing. The RYA have had enquiries from potential Yngling crews aged 18 through to their late 30s. A quarter of those applying have just come out of the youth squad, half those who have already been competing on the women's match race circuit for the past four years, but also talented women sailors from non-Olympic or youth classes. There have also been a surprising number of calls from ex-pats currently living abroad also interested in giving the Yngling a go.

Shirley Robertson told madforsailing that she may well look at another Olympic campaign in the Yngling this winter pending ISAF's decision on whether or not to introduce a weight limit. So we decided to look into what developments have been made in the Yngling class since last November's decision to make it Olympic.

The Yngling is an established class with fleets mainly sailing in Denmark, USA and Australia. Class rules specify there is no crew weight limitation, the optimum all-up crew weight is said to be between 220-240 kilos giving an average crew weight of 73-80 kilos. In essence this would mean a lighter helm at maybe 70 kilos and two crew weighing 85 kilos each. This is maybe viable in North America and Scandinavia but for say, the Asian population, a near impossibility.

We asked Jane Moon from ISAF's women's committee if she could shed any light on the weight limit issue. "As far as I know the Yngling weight limit is going to be discussed at the ISAF Sailing Committee meeting which will be held on 1 April. I haven't seen any submissions on it yet so don't know what the general views are. Last November, thoughts were along the lines of a crew weight limit of just under 200kg (i.e. average individual crew weight of 65kg).

"I believe that this crew weight will only be for Olympic class events but that it is close to the crew weight generally sailed in Ynglings. The sailing committee will no doubt make a recommendation to Council and there may well be a decision made at the ISAF Mid Year Meetings which are in Italy on the first weekend in May."

Cliff Norbury is one of two RYA representatives on the ISAF sailing committee, and he thinks they may be looking to introduce a weight limit as low as 190 kilos, an average weight of 63 kilos. This would be a five kilo drop from the 68 kilo limit put in place by ISAF for the women's match race circuit in 1998 that appears to have worked well for the past three years. If such a low weight limit was introduced it could be said that the three people in the boat would not be big or strong enough.

When ISAF asked for classes to make submissions to be considered for the 2004 women's keelboat, they did so thinking the discipline would be match racing, but then ISAF made their shock change around last November and suddenly it was fleet racing and not match racing. Would the class have made the decision to go Olympic had they known it was to be fleet racing and the potential repercussions to the class this would bring?

Shirley Robertson commented: "With the weight limit issue, it will either destroy the established class if they bring in a lower weight limit or we'll see what happened in the Europe class in the last 10 years. Loads of boys were sailing the Europe when it became an Olympic class many more than girls at that time, but as the girls improved with better funding, better equipment and with more time spent on the water they soon became better than the boys, and the number of boys competing decreased."

We checked out the Yngling class website and found existing Yngling sailors are up in arms about any change in weight limit:
Per-Olof Ekstrand from Sweden wrote on 16th February: "We should not destroy the class with more rules. Through many years we've managed to live without a weight limit and without problems. It's the skill of the sailor that should, count not the weight. Let the simplicity of the Yngling class stay."

Christoph Stadler from Austria said: "Weight limitations are difficult to handle and will make the organisation of events more complicated and will finally always cause unnecessary discussions like handicap. We are definitely not where the Star class was when they imposed their weight limits, having crews who can hardly be called athletes.'

"Reading the invitation about the Xmas race in Palamos it is the first sign of what I thought (and feared) would happen immediately after I heard the Yngling got Olympic class for women: men will be excluded from international racing in future."

Some apt questions have also been asked on the Danish Yngling website:
Have we got the class rules we need, or will...
a) New boats be optimised and leave the older boats behind when it comes to boat speed?
b) A sharpening of the class rules make many of the old boats outside of the class rules?

Whilst there are exceptions to the rule, Olympic selection for any class has often seen a decline in participation at all other levels outside the Olympic arena. Will the Yngling class regret the day it was voted as an Olympic class?

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