2024 Men and Women Olympic windsurf equipment selection – tender proposals analysis

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2024 Men and Women Olympic windsurf equipment selection – tender proposals analysis
1 octobre 2019 37 Views

1 Context

The windsurf is in crisis

  • Racing formats (Olympic Games, PWA) are day after day more distant from olympic spirit (everyone access, supremacy of effort on money, non-discrimination) // franceolympique
  • Volumes are stable but margins collapsed… so brands have less and less budget for R&D
  • Youth play more sport, but are going to other disciplines with simpler equipment (box, yoga, CrossFit, street workout, surf …) // husson// credoc

The windsurfing elite racing should be one engine of our sport, like in all sports

But for years, Olympics regatta has become so away from recreational and standard racing windsurfing, that it has become like a different sport. Nobody is following. Very few windsurfers even know who is part of their national team.

Windsurfing Olympic Regatta don’t play a leadership role in Windsurfing world. The status of this sport is so low now that the question of maintaining it as an Olympic sport is discussed.

Changing is a real opportunity for World Sailing given a fresh boost to the windsurf. The new format should be able to bring together all the actors (athletes, federations, world sailing, industry, retail, media, advertisers)

The current RSX class has been developed

  • by sailors and coaches
  • for sailors
  • with the support of one single brand

But with zero cooperation with the active windsurf business world (retailers, distributors, clubs, media, advertisers etc.)

The result is

  • a 100% regatta oriented equipment and racing format
  • completely disconnected from the real windsurfing world
  • involving only one brand

My understanding is that this acknowledgement is widely shared … and that this is the trigger of the today discussions by the World Sailing Equipment Committee

I have carefully read the 5 tender documents, and It’s now clear that we are unfortunately on the way to do same mistakes we did before … and even worse on some aspects.

I even would say that the process of selection for the upcoming discipline characteristics (equipment, formats, rules) is directly resulting on these mistakes. As long as selection will be made only by professional users (racers and country representatives) voting on brands projects, we have very few chance to connect the real windsurfing world, that is made by retailers, distributers, clubs, federations, weekend sailors, media, advertisers etc. 

I especially don’t say that professional users don’t do their job, but that they cannot be aware of all aspects and results of the choice they do. As an evidence, only a cooperation with all parts of the windsurfing world can result in a relevant choice.

2 Objectives

Considering the 5 projects, some are completely unrealistic regarding the objective, and some are based on very relevant ideas, but need to be reworked on key aspects.

If we want to have a chance achieving the objective (make the olympic windsurf fully attractive again), here are the key points

2.1     Modern and attractive

  • Using up to date and exciting technology
  • Attractive for Media
  • Easy to understand for public
  • Attractive for youth (aspirations = social community, body image, low constraints)
  • Adapted to meteorological conditions
  • With stars

2.2     Fully integrated in real windsurfing business

  • R&D is mainly financed by recreational users
  • Olympic equipment R&D has to serve everyday sailor equipment
  • No business > no revenue > no development > no Olympic windsurf
  • Helpful for windsurfing world, or at least neutral
  • Olympics should have a leadership role
  • Olympics should not kill the real windsurfing  
  • Compliant with anti-trust rules

2.3     Keep developing

  • Rules have to be chosen so that equipment could evolve thanks to R&D
  • Remaining up to date is a key to stay connected to the real windsurfing
  • Rules have to avoid that development conducts in high prices 

2.4     Sustainable

  • Transport of racing equipment has to be easy and safe, so compact and light
  • Regional supply and service as to be chosen to reduce delivery and service costs
  • Equipment has to be strong enough to keep integrity for at least one olympic cycle
  • Less equipment (more compact, durable) = less environmental impact

2.5     Seamlessly connected to the youth and junior activity

  • Youth access has to be supported in terms of sportive interess
  • Youth access has to be supported in terms of attractivity
  • Youth access has to be supported in terms of financial aspects

2.6     Fairness

  • Athletes performance has to be more important than equipment performance
  • Financial capacities should not be the deal
  • Equipment purchase has to be non-discriminating
  • Equipment renewal has to be limited
  • One should let the time for countries to finance equipment

2.7     Affordable

3      Tender projects analysis

In the following, I will confront each project to these 8 points. If you want to read the details of each projects, here are links to each tender document.

3.1     Modern and attractive

3.1.1    Objectives

  • Using up to date and exciting technology
  • Attractive for Media
  • Easy to understand for public
  • Attractive for youth (aspirations = social community, body image, low constraints)
  • Adapted to meteorological conditions
  • With stars

3.1.2     RSX and GLIDE

On that criteria RSX and GLIDE clearly don’t match the objective. Both are far away from real windsurfing world.

Both are absolutely not attractive for youth: By working with clubs and school, we can observe every day that youth are gradually neglecting traditional series based on dagger boards like Techno 293 One Design. What will attract youth ? social community, body image, low constraints …so definitely not heavy and complex gear (multiple sail surface, multiple options) or technological war.

The RSX case is a bit special on that criteria since the RSX class would evolve in WINDFOIL1 after 2024, and so can be accepted as a transition solution.

3.1.3    WINDFOIL1, iFOIL and FormulaFoil

The wind speed issue is a main concern : World Sailing rules say that athletes have to be able to compete between 3 and 30 knt. At the moment, flying with a windfoil requires at least 5 knt of wind when sailing alone in steady wind, perfectly flat water, with a huge sail (10m2) and top end equipment.

With more than one racer in the same area (up to 30 racers on the start line), a lightly choppy water, this limit can raise to 10 knt. Even when setting up special formats (GPS etc.), I should draw attention to the need of 8 to 10 knt of wind. Under this limit, no chance to have an attractive and visually interesting windfoil competition.

On the other side, sailing with no wind has no sense. 

So 

  • rules have to be adapted so that competition has a sportive and visual interest.
  • Windfoil technology is very new and under constant evolution. R&D has to be challenged on a better and more efficient usage of wind strength.

3.2     Fully integrated in real windsurfing business

  • R&D is mainly financed by recreational users
  • Olympic equipment R&D has to serve everyday sailor equipment
  • No business > no revenue > no development > no Olympic windsurf
  • Helpful for windsurfing world, or at least neutral
  • Olympics should have a leadership role
  • Olympics should not kill the real windsurfing  
  • Compliant with anti-trust rules

The integration in windsurfing business means 

  • The selected equipment has to be distributed and serviced in the same network than all other windsurfing equipment.
  • A lot of money will be spent by brands on olympic equipment R&D. This R&D has to be also positive for everyday sailors. 

3.2.1      Distribution

FormulaFoil

There is no details about distribution policy in that project !

WINDFOIL1 (#5.8) and iFOIL (#5)

“The equipment is distributed worldwide to the market through their respective distribution networks. In the case of Starboard Windsurfing, that is through its sales network of 75 distribution partners, to the end-user and windsurfing associations directly from the distributor or via retail shops.”

After having request some details about iFOIL, the explanation was

  • Spare parts will be available as public price through the retail network
  • Complete package will be available directly from distributor at discounted price

To be clear, complete package will be sold to end user directly at the wholsale price (full margin for the brand, no margin for the retailer).

For retail, which is the weakest part of the windsurfing business, this is a double sentence! On one side, it will be bypassed on package sales. On the other side, this stuff will come back and saturate the second hand market. The main difference from RSX and GLIDE project is that WINDFOIL1 & iFOIL equipment parts can be purchase and use by recreational users (except 9m2 sails). Technically, this is a positive point for the integration in the real windsurfing market, but all the business chain has to be involved (including retail), with no bypass! If not, be sure that brands playing this dangerous game will be boycotted by retail on all their product range. The windsurf market is in weak situation and don’t need this type of war.

RSX and GLIDE

Current RSX equipment is distributed by a special network. It doesn’t participate on standard windsurfing market but it doesn’t damage it because equipment is far from standard equipment. Second hand stuff doesn’t come and disturb the retail market because nobody except Olympics athletes will buy that. On that criteria, the RSX is neutral. GLIDE would have the same impact: no gain but no pain.

If RSX is chosen for a next 4 years cycle, NeilPryde have also to conform to this rule. The pricing structure of the project is compatible with that evolution.

3.2.2     R&D benefits

RSX  and GLIDE

No R&D is planned, so no cost, but also no benefit for the real windsurfing word

WINDFOIL1, iFOIL and FormulaFoil

These project are using an equipment that could be close to standard windsurfing. Close but not the same: 9m2 and bigger sails are used by less than 1% of everyday windsurfers. The choice of such big sails leads to use of very large board, so then very stiff foil. This has 3 main consequences

  • Equipment is 20 to 30% more expensive that one based on 7.8m2
  • The R&D will be focused on power (powerfull sails, powerfull boards, powerfull foils), when everyday windsurfing equipment development should be focused on yield (less weight, less volume) … so very few benefit from money involved.
  • The low drag characteristic of foil is not used

Nota. Big sails are chosen because it’s the easiest way TODAY to race in very light wind. By deciding to limit gradually the max sail size (cf 3.3), one may influence R&D to work on yied and finally benefit to everyday windsurfing world.

The current foil racing format (PWA) is based on 91cm wide boards. This dimension has been negociated between racers. It's a balance considering performance and transport issues. In terms of business (mass effect), industry (R&D), cost, sustenability, It's non-sense to create a new board format for olympics.

3.2.3      Compliance with anti-trust rules

One of the main arguments against RSX is the monopoly position of NeilPryde.  

So RSX may only be a transitional solution

iFOIL is totally non-compliant with these rules. It would be a non-sense to push out the RSX solution to jump on iFOIL !

3.3     Keep developing

  • Rules have to be chosen so that equipment could evolve thanks to R&D
  • Remaining up to date is a key to stay connected to the real windsurfing
  • Rules have to avoid that development conducts in high prices 

3.3.1      GLIDE

GLIDE doesn’t fit this criteria

3.3.1      WINDFOIL1, RSX, iFOIL, FormulaFoil

These project are compatible with this criteria, but only WINDFOIL1 is really documented on this criteria

If one of these project is chosen, I suggest that max sail size would be gradually limited (cf 3.2.2):

Sail / Board Men Sail / Board Women and Youth
2024 9 m/ 91cm 8 m/ 88cm
2028 8 m/ 88cm 7.5 m/ 85cm
2032 7.5 m/ 85cm 7 m/ 82cm

By limiting gradually the power of rigs

  • R&D will be challenged on yield and efficiency
  • Equipment will become gradually lighter, simpler, easier to transport, and cheaper … a step forward to future.

The idea is to set the sail size gradual limitation as a principle, and to decide the values after each Olympic cycle for the next one. There is no innovation without constraints!

3.4     Sustainable

Sustainability is not only a question of production like explained in WINDFOIL1 and iFOIL. This aspect is a drop in the bucket. Answers given in every projects are like a way of salving our consciences. Only iFOIL is a bit more developed on that criteria.

Sustainability has to be considered on the whole process!

  • Transport of racing equipment has to be easy and safe, so compact and light
  • Regional supply and service as to be chosen to reduce delivery and service costs
  • Equipment has to be strong enough to keep integrity for at least one olympic cycle
  • Less equipment (more compact, durable) = less environmental impact

3.4.1      Environmentally responsible production and material

Like WINDFOIL1 / RSX and iFOIL

3.4.2      Durability (on water and during transport)

Better than producing with more recycled material, producing less is really virtuous.

Using durable equipment is the best lever. I suggest that a limited number of registered equipment parts would be permitted for each sailor during the whole Olympic cycle.

  • Board : 1 per Olympic cycle
  • Sails : 3 per Olympic cycle
  • Masts : 2 per Olympic cycle
  • Booms : 2 per Olympic cycle

This rule should also fit the 2.6 (fairness) and 2.7 criteria (affordable)

The WINDFOIL1, iFOIL and FormulaFoil projects have not proven their ability to apply. Today foil racing equipment is clearly no strong enough to match this type of regulation. 

The RSX history has shown that racing equipment durability is hard and costly to achieve, in terms of finance, as well as in terms of performance. 

With more simple equipment, RSX and GLIDE are better positioned on that criteria

3.4.3      Less equipment

Foil based projects involved more complex equipment parts than RSX and GLIDE projects. 

Technically, a windfoil gives a wider wind range than traditional windsurf. It’s no sense to go on a two rigs combo like in WINDFOIL1. I suggest choosing only one rig (9mfor mens for 2024 and less after … cf 3.3). This will to limit purchase costs, transportation costs and carbon footprint

3.4.4      Transport carbon footprint

The worst environmental footprint of olympic equipment (considering his whole lifecycle), is the transport. 

Racing & training at a professional level implies countless travels. Reducing weight and volume of equipment is one main lever regarding environmental footprint

One single rig, smaller sail size, shorter masts, shorter booms, thinner boards will have a deep impact on equipment carbon footprint. One can gain more than 30% on the carbon footprint. For this reason, also, 3.3 suggestion is relevant.

3.5     Seamlessly connected to the youth and junior activity

The junior and youth pathway is very weakly analysed in many projects … especially when considering what happens before coming to the olympic class.

  • Youth access has to be supported in terms of sportive interess
  • Youth access has to be supported in terms of attractivity
  • Youth access has to be supported in terms of financial aspects

3.5.1      Junior sailing

WINDFOIL1 answer is based on Bic Techno Class under 17 years old. 

When going on the ground, one can notice that the techno 293 class is losing everyday more adepts. Most of them are going on more funny and modern supports like foil and funboard. 

If we seriously want to address this item, it’s time to prepare a true junior windfoil class, with durable and affordable equipment. By letting this item uncovered, that leads to situations like in France where a French Youth Windfoil Championship has been done with very few limitations. The result is a top 10 racers with equipment as expensive as in PWA, and others on aluminium foils and freeride sails !!  Let’s look for fairness…

Like proposed in FormulaFoil, the Techno windfoil class, or another affordable windfoil class has to be developed in parallel of Olympic class.

3.5.2      Youth sailing

When considering a youth pathway on Olympic class equipment, one also consider that the sail size is not the only parameter to adapt : using a 95cm wide board with a 7.5 msail on very light wind is a non-sense. The drag of the board is not adapted to the lower power potential of the rig. 

  • A 90cm wide board is perfectly optimized with 9mrig.
  • Using wider boards produce more drag, that in not compensated by rig power.
  • Thinner boards will not be able to carry the weight of the 9mrig .. and then limit the flight capacity in light wind.
So board size should depend on sail size. If we decide to have different sail size (women, youth), we should have different board size. As en exemple, with 7.5mrig, the optimum is around 85cm wide.

Developing a women and youth board is also an interesting way to bring some R&D budget toward more standard equipment (ie. Suitable for less skilled athletes, or recreational users).

3.6     Fairness

  • Athletes performance has to be more important than equipment performance
  • Financial capacities should not be the deal
  • Equipment purchase has to be non-discriminating
  • Equipment renewal has to be limited
  • One should let the time for countries to finance equipment

Fairness is a pillar of Olympic games. This is the reason sailing class are mostly based on monotype equipment. 

3.6.1      Monotype vs Rule Box

 iFOIL and GLIDE are based on monotype equipment, so fairness is easy to ensure.

WINDFOIL1 and FormulaFoil projects would constitute a radical break in traditional Olympic sailing spirit since the competition will be about athlete’s skills as well as about equipment performance. RSX will lead in the same problematic after 2024.

By choosing one of rule box based projects (Windfoil1, FormulaFoil), we have to be very strict on rules guarantying fairness. Equipment performance will have a main impact on results. So one can limit the impact by establishing new rules.

FormulaFoil is clearly described in vague terms … no idea about how fairness could be addressed.

3.6.2      Limiting number of equipment

We know that equipment will be developed with a sustained and continued R&D.  The richest athletes and nations may be tempted to upgrades their equipment very frequently to be always at the top of research … when other competitors can’t afford.

The number of equipment used per racer for a whole Olympic cycle have to be limited, according Chp 3.4.2. 

Control have to be done via hidden chip included inside each equipment (Cf GLIDE 11.c). That sould be done during each competition (national or international).

This rule will force brands to propose durable equipment, and avoid over-cost for racers.

3.6.3      Giving time for athletes and federation to invest on new support, and then train

Foiling is dramatically different than dagger sailing. It takes time to train and adapt.

By choosing foil for 2024, we give a very strong advantage to nations where the foil is already well developed (France for exemple), or rich nations that have generous financial resources. This is definitively not fair.

Like proposed in RSX, 2028 is a more realistic target considering this criterion.

I should draw attention to the under-valuation of delivery risk in case of 2024 choice for WINDFOIL1. 

This project is based on 3 suppliers’ concept BUT

  • Phantom is a very small company and will need time do scale in term of production (cash flow, production monitoring) and after sale management
  • NeilPryde has invested a lot in RSX, and will probably have few cashflow to scale fast on this new project

So be prepare to have actually a de-facto mono supplier project for 2024.

3.6.4      Having strict regulation on rigs and foil

In WINDFOIL1, there is very few limitations on rigs and foils

To ensure consistency, reduced budget and fairness, design HAS to be blocked for at least 2 years

 #1.6 “Eventual 2 years’ registration period” 

If we want to avoid equipment competition, and proce drift, one should also setup more constraints:

  • minimum board weight
  • max foil size
  • minimum rig weight
  • type of carbone use (T700, and not M40J, M50J etc.)
  • etc.

3.6.5      Avoiding price competition

Prices have to be blocked for one 4 years’ cycle

Prices should be similar from every supplier for each equipment part

3.7     Affordable

The equipment price is a key aspect that influence

  • Fairness (less rich athletes access)
  • Set-up time
  • Youth and Junior access
Project Price Men Price Women Price Youth
Windfoil 1 9700 10500 8900
WF1 one rig option 8100 8030 7900
RSX 5790 5640 5640
iFoil 9180 9000 9000
Glide 1974 1974 1974
FormulaFoil 11000>13000 11000>13000 11000>13000

On that aspect, GLIDE and RSX are dramatically cheaper than Foil based project

If one foil based project is selected, a decent choice has to be done for lowering the investment. Like explained in #3.4.3, a 2 sails quiver (and 2 masts) has to be excluded. Above table is showing WINDFOIL1 option with only one rig … which is scientifically cheaper (-20%), lighter (20%), more compact.

WINDFOIL1 project is based on a 2000€ board price. 

I should draw attention to the under-valuation of board price considering the durability we need (sustainability, affordability on mid-term, fairness). The 3000€ value given in iFOIL is more credible.

The Foil products are pretty young. We have maximum 3 years of distance, and such products have never been exposed to as intensive usage. Be prepare to re-evaluate the cost of improving the durability ... so the cost of products. 

Clearly, FormulaFoil would lead in an un-controlled price drift

Posted in: Windfoil