Yachting: Kiteboarding aims to be the best

By David Leggat


Yachting New Zealand's chief executive David Abercrombie isn't about to waste time wringing his hands over the dumping of one of the country's most successful disciplines from the Olympic Games programme.

Instead Abercrombie, acknowledging there is no course of appeal to get windsurfing back on the card for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, is planning to make sure New Zealand is among the pre-eminent nations in kiteboarding in four years' time.

The kites are in for Rio, courtesy of a 19-17 vote by the International Sailing Federation's (ISAF) council last weekend. Abercrombie is keen to have the discipline on the Sail Auckland regatta programme early next year.

Waiting with fingers crossed for six months, until the ISAF's annual conference in November in the vain hope of a change of heart, means losing a valuable six months planning. He pointed to the failed attempts of classes such as the Tornado and Flying Dutchman to regain their Olympic spots as proof of the difficulty of changing ISAF minds.

"Our initial goal is to garner as much interest as we can, see who's out there wanting to get involved and put some resources around them," Abercrombie said yesterday. "We just need to get stuck in, roll the sleeves up and go for it."

Abercrombie has some sympathy for windsurfing's plight. It has become one of New Zealand's most successful Olympic disciplines, with seven medals since its introduction in 1984.

He has had a personal involvement in the sport, and believes the ISAF did not handle the transition from one discipline to the other smartly.

"Our feeling is that possibly windsurfing took too casual an approach to it, thought they were safe," Abercrombie said.

"They probably didn't lobby as strongly as they could have. Kiteboarding lobbied bloody hard and gave some good reasons why it should be there. It ticks a lot of boxes. Windsurfing didn't go and beat the drum hard enough."

Cost-effectiveness may also have played a part with the International Olympic Committee.

"You can put a kiteboard and sail in the water for $3000; it's about $13,000 for an RS:X. You can chuck it in a bag, carry it round in an aeroplane instead of having to freight it."

Abercrombie hopes to have a kiteboarding plan in place within a month.

"We'll look to have racing prior to Christmas with a first major event," he said. "We'd be daft not to include it at Sail Auckland now that it's an Olympic class. It will give us a real opportunity to test a new class in an Olympic-type regatta environment."

He suspects Sail Melbourne in November and Sail Sydney the following month will follow suit.

That said, Abercrombie is adamant windsurfing won't finish up draped in cobwebs.

"We don't have a female athlete selected to the Olympics, don't have a windsurfer going to the Youth worlds [in Dublin in July].

"We have neglected that area, but we're going to try and keep windsurfing going in New Zealand because there's still a heap of people who enjoy it.

"Having said that, looking at things historically, if this is what we've got I reckon there's some fantastic opportunities around doing something with it. That's the way we've got to look at it."

- Hamilton News

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 23 Oct 2014 15:24:02 Processing Time: 340ms