My understanding of the rules for the 2012 selection process is that it has to be a One Design class, and it has to be established by 2008. The question is whether FOD (Formula One Design) can actually establish itself as such a class - it's hard to see formula racers flocking to it, and the Olympic racers are a bit busy right now.
What I think Starboard got right:
- Yes, full planing racing is more exciting, simpler, less costly, more representative of the sport, etc. - just like they claim.
- Yes, the equipment exists (unlike the RS:X, which was just a bunch of proto-typed gear at the time of the selection - and the production stuff came in way heavier and with huge consistency and quality issues)
- Yes, Formula is the most successful racing format around - and for good reason, as it's fun, challenging, and strikes a good compromise between those aspects and the feasibility of getting events to actually happen. Longboard racing is lacking on the former aspect; slalom is lacking on either the second or, if taken to the extremes of light-air slalom in 8 knots, the former.
What I think they got wrong:
- Anyone else bothered by the assertion that with a 3-cam 11m, a 75% carbon mast, an alloy boom, and ONE standard fin, we'll have quality racing for a broad band of competitor weights in conditions spanning 6-25knots? I think it's safe to say that's over-selling the point a bit. To wit:
- 6 knots is highly marginal even with 12.5m rigs and super-powerful fins on today's wide-tailed boards. Even 8 knots is a bit sketchy. And since race committees tend to be somewhat liberal in interpreting minimum wind threshold requirements when there's a big event at stake. For China, given the conditions there, the 6 knot threshold will probably mean that they'll start racing as soon as the anemometer on the start boat comes up over 5 knots a couple times - and that would make for horrid formula racing (it makes for horrid racing on RS:X, too, but at least they didn't promise anyone exciting performance in that wind range, just that it would be doable).
- On the other end of the spectrum, that 11 with a fin big enough to get going in under 10 knots will be a real handful in true 20 knots, and somewhere near uncontrollable for even most pros at a true 25 knots. So for a small surcharge on the equipment (a second rig and fin pale in comparison to the cost of travel and training for Olympic hopefuls), we could instead have real competition over the whole range. Seems penny-wise-pound-foolish to me.
- What's up with the alloy boom? Trying to show some cost savings? Racing this gear at anything like an Olympic schedule, that boom will come up for replacement a fair bit - why not be honest and just spec carbon? Again, penny-wise...
- And yes, the gear is cheaper and less complicated than the RS:X, but does anyone truly believe that the claim of useful hull lives of 4-5 seasons truly apply for Olympic hopeful-level use? Reality still blows away the RS:X on economic terms - why oversell?
- Yes, there'll be less pumping than with the RS:X - but that's not saying a whole lot. Meanwhile, by enforcing one-size-fits-all and cutting off the big rigs, you can be sure that there'll be a ton of pumping if there's any racing anywhere close to the 6knots they're promising the organizers.
- Oh, and then there are semantics - Formula originally referred to the notion that equipment was regulated only by numbers - Formula 3/1 meaning one board/three sails, etc. - with the intent being to strike a compromise between keeping cost reasonable while also enabling innovation and spanning a large range of conditions and sailors weights/sizes. The result is that at the last FW Worlds, the 1st and 2nd placed sailors (Antoine Albeau and Steve Allen) are almost 20kg apart in weight, yet they were racing very competitively - don't expect that if they both have to use the same size fin and sail. Formula One Design, on the other hand, is a bit of an oxymoron.
On the whole one-design requirement, I'd have to say that it's pretty hard to swallow that one - it's not like every skier or bike racer has to be on the same equipment for fair competition. In the sailing world, one design is the accepted norm, so I guess as long as we're under their umbrella, we'll have to play by those rules (unless we somehow get the numbers and internal funding infrastructure to write our own meal ticket). Still doesn't make any sense if you ask me, though... ;)