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12 Jul 2010

New Initiatives to Showcase the 470

With classes attempting more than ever to maintain their spot in the Olympic Games, the International 470 Class Association has introduced some new measures for the 2010 Worlds.

According to 470 Class President Stanislav Kassarov, both are aimed at improving the media friendliness of the racing. A clever idea is that boat numbers are now assigned by world ranking, based on the latest published by ISAF on 7 July. So hull 1 has been allocated to the boat of Swedes Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Östling, who last Wednesday moved into the no1 position.

"As far as I know we are the first class to do that, although at the Holland Regatta they used to do it sometimes for the first ten boats in the fleet,” says Kassarov. "Now we have assigned numbers to each boat and those who aren’t in the ISAF ranking, their numbers start with 300, so it shows to the others that they aren’t ranked.”

They have also standardised how the sailor name and their respective nationalities are displayed on their mainsails. "The class measurement committee decided to invest some money into this project, so the class has provided the stickers with the names and now we are going to get feedback from the sailors. The sailors I have spoken to are quite happy with this idea,” says Kassarov. "The reality is that some of the top teams already had their national flag and sail sticker, but now what we are going to try is to locate the best place and make it standard across the class. Most probably it will be a championship rule, not a class rule.”

Typically the 470 class is pulled in two directions. On the one hand there is a desire to upgrade the boat to add all the latest gear to it, but there is also strong resistance to this as one of the strengths of the class is how widely it has been adopted globally (or ‘universality’ as it is known in International Olympic Committee circles) and changing the boat or increasing its price and running costs would not help this.

"A lot of people are worried because they know we do some trials,” explains Kassarov. "On the technical aspect we just want to evaluate our equipment including testing some new materials. For example we are trying now laminated sails although our sailmakers' main concern is that they won’t be durable enough and we know that. But at the same time the only way to check it is to try it.”

The first prototype sails are expected to be trialled at the 470 European Championship in Istanbul.

At the World Championship here in the Hague the first Superspars two piece mast has arrived and is undergoing testing. While the laminated sails look unlikely to be adopted, the prospects of the two piece mast being adopted are more promising as it will significantly reduce transportation costs.

If any changes are to be made then it won’t be before the 2012 Olympiad. The submissions for the equipment to be used for the 2016 Olympic Games are to be made in the autumn of 2011 so the class aims to get the testing of any new equipment completed by next spring.

"The fact that we are testing some prototypes doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to change anything, but it is the best way to evaluate the current equipment and to see the advantages and disadvantages and decide what we want to do. Personally I think the most serious impact will be on the media part of the game and we just want to give the best media exposure of our boat and our sailors to make it media friendly.”

As a demonstration of this, last year the 470 class also tried out some new course and regatta formats and followed this up with getting feedback from competitors via a questionnaire. They got 80 responses and the overwhelming feedback was that the sailors were happy with the existing format and they would prefer it remained the same. "So the class has stopped any further investigation in this aspect,” says Kassarov.

Source: James Boyd/Sailing Intelligence
Images: (top) Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell showcase the new sail stickers. (right) Stanislav Kassarov © Victor Kovalenko