The Number One Principle is that the RS:X Class should put in place internationally a structure that mirrors what is actually happening nationally in many of the leading nations across the world.
The Number Two Principle is to mirror the structure of other successful classes like the Laser so that we put in place something that has proven to work rather than try and re-invent the wheel.
And Number Three, we should recognise that the biological development of the bodies of young adults happens at different ages and at different speeds. To try and establish a 'one size fits all' policy therefore flies in the face of the facts.
Chronological age should not be the only pre-determining factor when deciding which equipment should be used. Rather it should be the development of body weight/physique. Statistics also show that, in every new generation, the human body is larger (Heavier & Taller) than in the previous one.
Principle 1: National Youth Development
Many national structures recognise that these three principles hold good. For instance, in Great Britain the RYA are running two Youth/Junior programmes. One on the Techno for those with a lighter body weight and one on the RS:X for bigger young adults. There are U17s in their Olympic development squad.
In Hong Kong, they run much the same system and specify a minimum body weight before someone can transfer to the RS:X programme. It should be noted that they feel that a good Techno sailor does not necessarily become a successful RS:X sailor because he/she will probably be too small.
In Greece, the HYF stage national championships in the RS:X Class for under 17s, Under 19s and Under 21s.
In Cyprus, Italy, the Philippines, Poland and Thailand similar evidence can be found of U17s racing on the RS:X with the 8.5 rig.
It should be noted that there was a youth boy of 48kgs racing in the 08YWC.
These programmes have been put in place and initiatives taken independent of any decisions made by the International RS:X Class Association. These initiatives pre-date any international ones now being put in place.
Principle 2: Mirror the success of others
Whatever dinghy equipment ISAF selects to use in the Olympic Regatta, there is always the IODA. The Optimist is a universal single handed ‘starter' dinghy in which kids learn to race. There are lots of good 'used' Optimists for sale on the 'second-hand' market so that the actual 'cost at point of entry' into the class is much lower than the quoted retail price.
In the world of windsurfing this ‘starter' position should be filled by the Bic Techno Class. The maximum competitive weight for the class seems to be 55kgs beyond which sailors are too heavy to be competitive bearing in mind the average wind speed over a whole regatta.
When kids move out of the Optimist and chose to continue in single-handed dinghies, one of the options is the Laser 4.7. This is the first step onto a conveyor belt which leads onwards into the 'Radial' and finally to the 'Standard'.
New talent can be delivered to the Olympic fleets. Parents are not forced to buy a ‘new boat' but can buy inexpensive used equipment. A new sail costs a lot less than a complete set of new equipment.
In the world of windsurfing, the ‘Laser' rationale should be used by the RS:X Class in providing age divisions for U17, U19, and U21.
Please remember that the IODA and the Laser Standard are both more expensive than the RS:X and neither can possibly deliver the same ‘buzz' as an RS:X. (We are biased and are happy to admit it!)
In these times of financial stress, if the development of windsurfing world wide is going to continue to develop, the RS:X Class needs to deliver ‘value for money' to everyone currently involved and to those who would like to be involved.
Principle 3: Recognise that the key is the biological development of physical attributes rather than chronological age
Many coaches feel that a young adult weighing around and over 55Kgs is no longer competitive on a Bic Techno.
Please note that the IODA Class state that a young adult of 55Kgs is not likely to win a race in an Optimist in 8knots of breeze due to his/her weight.
So lets look at the table below which shows the relationship between age, height and weight in young adults.
Relationship between age, height and weight in young adults
From the above standard tables it is clear that a boy in his 14th to 15th year could have reached 121lbs or 55kgs of weight whereas a girl could be older before she does, leading one to believe that young adult girls may need a smaller rig than young adult boy
To have a black and white age range which requires young adults, boy or girl, over the approx weight of 55 kgs to race the Techno, does not reflect the reality of human development. In addition, it will lead these kids to have a less than satisfactory experience.
The result may be that new talent is lost to windsurfing.
Transfer the Knowledge and Experience to Windsurfing
Windsurfing has been under ISAF's umbrella and benefitted from being there for nearly 30 years. However, we still do not have a flexible comprehensive universal junior and Youth Development programme aimed at delivering what young adults need.
To implement one, we should transfer the knowledge and the experiences in the dinghy world to windsurfing. After all, if a person wishes to become even more successful, the best way is to mirror the actions of even more successful people.
We therefore need to note the key points made above which are
- In the case of the Laser, Olympic hulls can be used in other development programmes just by changing rigs
- MNAs & Clubs who invest in equipment can use it in a flexible way in different development programmes giving them an excellent return on investment.
b) Strong Market For Used Equipment
- Because of a) above, there is a strong market for used equipment allowing those who invest in new equipment to get good value for money and allowing the cost at ‘point of entry' to be low for new talent coming into the class.
c) Conveyor Belt Effect
- Sailors coming into the 4.7 Laser Class development programmes can ‘trade-up' by buying a larger rig at minimal cost compared to having to buy a completely new set of equipment. This ensures that there is new talent moving up into Radial or ‘Standard' Regattas all the time.
d) Price of Equipment
- Both the Optimist and the Laser Standard are more expensive than the RS:X equipment. The RS:X is more ‘High-Tech' and has a much higher performance. It is therefore potentially more attractive to new talent.
e) Transfer from Junior Equipment (Techno) to Youth/Senior Equipment
- Young adults should be able to transfer from the Techno to the RS:X when the development of their physique dictates and not based on when their 17th birthday happens to be.
- Sailors move out of the IODA Class when they weigh about 55kgs as they are no longer competitive at that weight. Evidence shows that the same applies to the Techno Class.
The RS:X U17 Division is thus providing an outlet where these heavier younger sailors can race.
f) The RS:X is durable and maintains its one design Characteristics
- In passing, it should be noted that the RS:X is extremely durable (the 08 World Championship was won on a three year old board). Many hulls used at the 2008 RS:X Youth World Championship were three years old as were rigs.
Part 1. Conclusion
The RS:X Youth Development Programme should build on these facts and develop the structure of its youth programme around them.
Windsurfing needs a universal worldwide development programme using equipment that is durable, well supported by a pro-active brand and managed by a class with proven ambitions to stage world championships round the world.