Friday, August 11, 2006

World Championship

Yachts and Yachting has been reporting on several dinghy world championships over the last few weeks. Enterprise Worlds with 112 boats at Looe in Cornwall (coincidentally the site of our honeymoon but we didn't do any sailing); 112 entries again (another coincidence) entered for the 505 Worlds at Hayling Island; and 111 (ah not quite the magical 112) GP14s sailing in three fleets at their World Championships in Sligo in Ireland.

Fantastic. Huge turnouts. Tough competition against sailors from all over the planet. Truly worthy champions.

But wait. Hold on. Is that last paragraph really true? Scanning through the results for the Enterprise "Worlds" I see three crews from Ireland, one from the USA and one from Sri Lanka. The other 107 entries were listed as GBR, Great Britain. Hmmm -- are you really a world champion if the sailors you beat are nearly all from one country?

The GP14s did slightly better. As you might expect the vast majority of the fleet was from Great Britain and Ireland. Then there was one crew from France, one from the USA, one from Sri Lanka and two from Nigeria. At least they had representatives from four continents, but only barely.

The 505 Worlds apparently had a more broadly based fleet. Strong representation from many European countries and a sprinkling of sailors from USA and Australia. Better. But that's still only three continents out of six (we won't count Antarctica) with nobody from Asia, Africa or South America. Is the new 505 champion only champion of half the world?

So what's to stop me from designing some wooden tub, calling it the "Tillerman One Design", inviting a few friends round to my lake and calling it the Tillerman OD World Championship?

Well, for one thing the International Sailing Federation would have something to say about it. ISAF jealously defends the right to designate when a regatta really is a World Championship. According to the ISAF regulations a centerboard class can hold world championships if it maintains minimum participation averaged across three consecutive events of 30 boats from 8 countries and 3 continents.

So if the 2006 Worlds are typical, the 505s are looking good, the GP14s are failing on the 8 country test and so are the Enterprises. I'm sure these classes are not the only ones just scraping along on the borderline of being able to run "real" world championships. It's no secret that many classes are heavily concentrated in one part of the world such as Europe, North America or Australia.

Does it matter? Maybe not in the big scheme of things. But designating a regatta composed of 95% Brits as a world championship is about as ridiculous as calling a series of baseball games the World Series when all the teams except one eligible to qualify for it come from one country.

Isn't it about time we reserved the title of World Champion for sailors who triumph over a fleet with strong competition from all six major continents?


Anonymous said...

Well, look at the MLB World Series... with the exception of a couple of Canadian teams, it's all one country's teams...competing for a "World" title. Doesn't make much sense...but I don't think that world participation is required for a World championship—it should be...but isn't.

Tillerman said...

I did mention the World Series in the original post Dan. I agree it doesn't make sense. And, by the way I think there's only one Canadian MLB team now. Montreal moved to Washington.

(If that last sentence doesn't make any sense to non-North-Americans reading this, don't worry. Baseball, which I love dearly, is a bizarres sport.)

Ant said...

OK Tillerman you seem to be REALLY mixing it up at the moment.. and maybe should do at least a little research first..

Taking the Enterprises... the 2005 World Champs were held, with ISAF dispensation, in February of 2006 because of the Tsunami disaster... There were entrants from around 6 different countries.. holding another world event in the same year, yep you guessed it, most people that need to travel are gonna go to Sri Lanka not England! So please, please check first; the results of this year are not the be-all-and-end-all.. read some more results sheets for the last 3 years and then come back with a sensible story... it may be the same, but check first...

Lets face it, its all about sailing, World Championships were created (and endorsed by ISAF) at most fleets hay-day, if things tail off then so be it, we all know that most fleets have peaks and troughs, fleets come and go from countries and from classes... I am sooo looking forward to the decline of the Laser fleet just to put people with the one-sided view of sailing back in their place..

Go ahead and design your own boat, hold a "world cup" event in your backgarden after the sunfishes have finished their Sunday race... I won't be joining you, but if you wanna be world champ then thats fine, well done...

So, why does everyone bitch about laser sailors, maybe its because of their crap attitude:

..But designating a regatta composed of 95% Brits as a world championship is about as ridiculous..." [Tillerman]

It wasn't freaking designed that way... and off you bloody go with your "Big-Up-The-Laser" rant... I got 1/2 way down the post and thought, hmm, vaguely sensible, unbiased, but oh no down at the bottom goes the snarky Laser comment..well done...SIGH..

Live Life, Sail and have good karma...

LSD is a good mantra; world championships are there, either join the class or shut-up.. friend at Draycote was the European International Canoe non-asymetric champoin this year... slightly specialist but I'm still proud of Colin, he beat a load of other European yachters and thats cool...

Tim Coleman said...

Doe it matter?

EVK4 said...

Sailing isn't a real sport, it's more like wrestling. There should be multiple titles, "TV Champion" "Freshwater South America Champion" "World Champion" "Wurld Champion", etc.

Then you can get the sailors really angry at each other, create some trashtalking and grudge matches and you've opened up a whole new pay-per-view market.

See, I have the ideas that will make sailing grow.

I think the Laser Masters North American Championship is here in SF this weekend. Tillerman should be going for that belt.

EVK4 said...

Off-topic, MLB is as international of a sport as you can get. Since the teams are comprised of players from all over the globe, you can make a case that the team that wins is the best in the world even if they play all their games on one continent.

Tillerman said...

Good point about baseball Edward. Because of the vast economic pulling power of MLB in North America, there's no doubt that the best players in the world (and they do come from most continents) are in MLB.

I believe the event in San Francisco this week is the US Laser Masters. The North American Laser Masters are in Milwaukee in September. I won't be sailing in either this year but I sailed the US Masters last year when it was in Annapolis.

Pat said...

Now how are you doing on the vast economic pulling power of the Tillerman One Design? CA might show up for the world championships (sometimes New Mexico qualifies as another country) if you provide enough (world-class) beer.

Tim Coleman said...

Just a thought but what would be the title of a championship that doesn't meet the requirements for a 'world championships'?

And here is another thought; is it fair to compare the world champion of say the LASER, being a single-hander that can be very demanding, with say the 49er? or what about the Mirror? or the Topper?

The levels of expertise and ablity vary considerably and sometimes there is very little difference of ability in a good chunk of the top of a world championship fleet of some craft. The Enterprise is one such example, many of those who finished well in Sri Lanka did not fair so well in Looe, the difference maybe down to venue and conditions but there were almost 3 times as many boats competing at Looe.

There are also other craft where even the top sailors are really very mediocre.

I have noticed that quite often the world champions are 'professional sailors' in that they work in the industry and will often compete in a number of different classes. Is this a better mark of a champion? The ability to race in differnt craft and be the best?

At the end of the day does it matter? Afterall what in the world is so impressive about sailing a small boat around a load of small plastic bouys? It's not exactly a cure for cancer or something like that is it?

Sailing and racing boats is fun. When folk start getting uptight about it then the answer is quite simple: they need to Get a life!

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