“Are you ready for the tears of rage?” sang Mick Jagger on the Stones’ brilliant song Sad Sad Sad and for the Finn fleet currently duking it out for the prestigious, although physically underwhelming, Gold Cup in Porto, Portugal this week, a day-off due to wind issues led to a new angle of attack in their desperate bid to stay in the Olympic Games. Now the ‘woke’ card is in play – these are 20-something’s after all – (I don’t blame them, it’s worth a shot and their concerns are real) with a wide ranging set of depressingly dour quotes from the youth side of the fleet bemoaning their fate as Olympic outcasts from the last gun of the Tokyo Games.
Encapsulating the mood amongst the younger sailors in the fleet, Facundo Olezza from Argentina opined: “To be brutally honest, the last couple of years have been really tough for me psychologically. It’s an everyday struggle because I don’t like the way we are being treated as human beings. I don’t feel that World Sailing care for us. There was not even one single statement for the Finn sailors, from its president or from the Athletes Commission. No one cared to give us the opportunity to keep doing the sport we love.“
And this was backed up by Aussie Jake Lilley saying: “I am really disappointed and sad for the sport in the direction it is heading. This class obviously has created all these legends over many decades. That is all lost. For me on a personal level my Olympic sailing career is done at 27. Like what can you do? There is nothing else for us to sail. So that’s it. And that’s bitterly disappointing.”
You feel for the kids. They’re just starting out on their Olympic odyssey committing their lives and souls to travelling largely unsupported to regattas around the world, living out of camper-vans, cadging nutrition and a sofa where they can and pursuing a dream of gold and eternal glory. They want to join the elite ranks and can see others in the fleet that have – for every Giles Scott, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney there’s a hundred wannabes who all want a piece of the action. What a thing to do in your 20’s and early 30’s – it’s exactly what everyone should do. It’s a carefree, mortgage-less, child-less hobo lifestyle where a shower is a luxury and a haircut is optional. Focus is everything. How wonderful. Think the surfing dudes lifestyle of the late 1960’s and that’s the Finn circus. And it’s all being brutally dismantled by World Sailing.
Sorry but 85kg is now deemed as unnecessary and collateral damage on the ridiculous Olympic path to urbanity and ‘yoof’ relevance. It’s a huge shame. The dinghy-park camaraderie and traveller unity will be lost forever. But as with any cause worth fighting for, this one is well worth the continued perseverance of the class. Hats off to Robert Deaves, the outstanding Class Secretary, for taking the fight on from every angle and he’s getting heavyweight backing with ‘Chairman’ Tom Ehman weighing in on Friday night’s Sailing Illustrated Podcast arguing to keep the Finn in as the 10th medal. Of course he’s right. Chairman is rarely wrong. But will the IOC and World Sailing listen? Unlikely. The button is on mute and when we look back at this dereliction of duty by our governing body in 10 or 20 years time we will be kicking ourselves that as a sport we didn’t stand up to World Sailing and halt their ineffectual, pandering madness.
All I can see is huge revolution coming down the tracks with the current incumbents on the myriad of committees not just largely forgotten but completely forgotten and some of the golden generation – Ian Walker or Mateusz Kusznierewicz spring to mind – replacing them and getting some common sense into the agenda. Sadly, it will most likely be too late. The horse will already have bolted and Olympic sailing will either be a forgotten discipline or just a showpiece surf-oriented event on the fringes. Legends will not be borne out of the Olympic Games going forward a generation or two.
Enjoy Tokyo 2021 (or is it Tokyo 2020?), it will be the last decent Olympic hurrah. “Sad. Sad. Sad,” as Jagger would say…