GARY BODIE: The 2016 Olympic Games will not have any keelboats. The venerable Star class will be eliminated after 2012. Women's Match Racing will only make one appearance in 2012, and then it is gone for 2016. The Rio Games will however include a women's skiff event and a first ever mixed event in multihulls. There are also likely to be significant changes in format for 2016 that have not been determined yet. These format changes may be even more significant than the boat changes.
CP: Can you explain how the event selection process works for sailing?
GB: Event Selection is ultimately decided by the ISAF Council. As a member of US SAILING's ISAF Delegation, I am a member of the ISAF Events Committee which makes a recommendation to Council. There are regulations that determine the timing and the process for the decisions, and the regulations are designed to facilitate a strategic decision, but ultimately it is a political process. There are certainly different viewpoints and legitimate differences in priorities around the world. For example, the smaller and emerging countries have invested heavily in training programs for Laser, Radial, Windsurfing and the 420 to 470 pathway. It is quite understandable that some of those countries are less interested in keelboats, skiffs and multihulls.
CP: What is the position of the US Olympic Sailing Committee towards the 2016 Olympics?
GB: I can't speak for the US SAILING Olympic Sailing Committee (OSC), but it is a safe bet that the OSC will make a major effort to compete in whatever events and formats are determined. The OSC and US SAILING would have preferred retaining keelboats, and we have had a long standing policy of supporting five events for men and five events for women. I believe that the two new events, Women's Skiff and Mixed Multihull, will be tremendous opportunities for US SAILING and our athletes.
CP: Can you explain/give us an overview of the kiteboard/windsurfer debate?
GB: Well, the kiteboarders and windsurfers would have preferred having both events for men and women but clearly that is not going to happen for 2016. If it is an either/or choice, I believe that windsurfing will continue with a large majority of votes. We tend to view these decisions through a prism of sailing in North America. But there are many nations around the world that view windsurfing as the most accessible of the Olympic Sailing Events and they have made significant investments in training programs and equipment. Windsurfing is not going away in the short term. Personally, I think it would be pretty cool to have some sort of combined event with slalom, course racing, and long distance racing on both kites and windsurfers, but I don't think it will happen. Can you team race kites?
CP: About Women's sailing and the Olympics - what is the status looking towards Rio 2016 and have there been any significant changes?
GB: The obvious change is that we have replaced women's Match Racing with a Women's Skiff. And we have added half of a women's event in the form of Mixed Multihull. That's 4.5 events for women and 5.5 for men, so we are approaching our long term goal of 5 and 5. Remember, "Mixed" means mandatory one man and one woman, and that is totally different from "Open." In our culture, we are comfortable sailing mixed and it is the norm in high school and college sailing. The exact class of boats for the mixed multihull and women's skiff will be determined after evaluation trials in the coming months.
CP: How (if) does the outlook to Rio 2016 change the game for Youth Sailing? Do you have any recommendations/advice for young and hopeful sailors who are just starting to campaign?
GB: My advice is don't be afraid to try something really different. Too often our best sailors do not consider all of the options simply because they have the most experience with a club 420 or FJ, and those look the most like a 470. Go for the multihull, the board and the skiff. Listen to our elite coaches from the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. If they tell you that you're too small, too short, or too large for one event then get their advice on which event is best suited to your body type. And carefully consider your pathway. If you are truly one of the elite youth sailors in the USA, then you don't need to spend eight years roll tacking an FJ in High School and College. Move on already. And finally, don't expect to win the US Trials or an Olympic Medal in a two year campaign after college, no matter how good you think you are. Those days are long, long gone. The future pathway toward an Olympic medal is getting involved with the US Sailing Development Team and its collaborative team culture and coaching by the best in the world.
You can also find Gary's interview on the Clever Pig website at http://www.cleverpig.org/resnews.php