“Quick hour on the boat?” Oh those famous last words that elicit the customary rolling of familial eyes and a look of total, sheer horror in a teenager’s visage. You know, I know, we all know that a ‘quick hour’ is a secret code, a black hole, a parallel universe, a time continuum. Like an alcoholic having just the one, the boat-owner is lost in sanding, bolting, bimbling, checking, taping, split-pinning, splicing, scratching of head-ing, more bimbling and before you know it what started out as a good intention to be home for lunch has cast serious doubt over Sunday dinner. The dog is happy. A bowl of roast chicken has a high probability of coming his way with potatoes and perhaps, maybe, some gravy. Where does the time go on a boat?
For those that kitefoil however, there are no such problems. Their life is simple. Gone are the hours of tuning rake, stay tension and pre-bend. There’s no ‘down-below’ to strip and the joys of trying to get a kicking-strap system to work effectively are no more. I fear for the dying art of winch maintenance. No my friends, all you need now are a pair of footstraps, a 6-inch foil, a platform, some thin dyneema, your mother’s knickers, youth on your side and a beach. Your flowing, unkempt blonde locks are a thing of marvel and the Olympic Games are at your mercy, dying to have your youthful exuberance to use so effectively for their own social-media obsessed means.
The world is changing. Or so they would have you believe. But there’s little evidence in the dinghy parks or the beaches that this trend is so entrenched to offer up the Olympic ideal. Kids are still in their Starlings, P-Class, RS Fevas/Teras and Oppies. Sorry? I thought EVERYONE was kiting? And foil kiting to boot. So where are they? Where are these teenage influencers that are changing the world, flying above the waves and onto global iPhones usurping YouTube at a canter and inspiring legions of new participants to their fabulous sport?
If Kiting is the answer, what was the question? And who the hell asked it? Surely this wasn’t something that was lobbied for or a concept that was debated and agreed on by (let’s be generous) middle-aged suits sitting around a conference table at a fully paid-for venue in a glamorous location? No, no, no. That would never work. Deep analysis would have to be undertaken. The Oceania and African delegates alongside 206 National Olympic Committees would need to be convinced and no Power Point presentation by someone in flip-flops would cut the mustard. Would it?
My view is that kiting has snuck in through a distinct lack of imagination or vision. It’s a conceptual decision that turns a blind-eye to fact. It’s what the powers-that-be would like to think everyone is doing but in effect it serves no-one. The talent pool is shallow and if the idea was to encourage participation at a grass-roots level well you can be nigh on certain that this will get still-born by the rich nations who will dedicate more resource and effort to obliterate the also-rans.
The dream that a kid in the Dominican Republic with marginal life choices could pick up the sport and run with it, like a nautical William Webb Ellis, and score Olympic Gold, bringing adulation and prestige to his island nation are a pipe-dream. An Olympic pipe-dream. It just isn’t going to happen and the misty-eyed on the IOC who are about as far-removed from reality as Royalty, are so far out of their depth here and swimming against a tide of cash.
But let’s be generous. Kiting looks like a wonderful pastime. It’s a colourful aberration on a Sunday stroll down a beach for the semi-nautical curious. It looks great in the setting of San Francisco but mildly annoying for the cruiser-racers plodding downwind in front of the St Francis with the chaos of kites freaking them out on a Sunday afternoon Bay race. Who cares? The kids are in charge now. And dare ye not criticise for fear of being cancelled and cast off as a luddite stuck in an inglorious past. Your days of influence are over. The Olympic seal has secured a golden future and a top seat at the court of relevance. Be off with you.
At the end of the day, we’re going to see a spectacle at the Olympics and sailing is being used as a vehicle to deliver eyeballs. It’s not about Citius, Altius, Fortius anymore, it’s Money, Money, Money. It always was. But in the past there were leaders of influence and vision that staunched the bleed. Criticise now and prepare to be outcast – hence why we saw so few heavyweight ex-Olympians fighting the Finn corner.
Snouts are in a very mucky trough and sailing is a mere conduit to a different cause. Is the fight against our ruling authority a hill worth dying on? For some of us, yes. The folly and the farce should be called out. The decision making should be questioned in the same vein and with the same machiavellian deviousness that it is delivered and executed. But expecting change is akin to hollering into a Force 12 gale. Decisions are taken behind closed and protected gilded doors with the age old root of all evil at their very heart. Join the dots and you get the same answer.
The America’s Cup is a cakewalk in comparison.