Kitesurfing's place at Rio defended by coach
Yachting New Zealand boardsailing coach Dave Robertson has declared kitesurfing ready for Rio, insisting criticisms of the fledgling Olympic class are ignorant talk.
Robertson has returned after New Zealand's first official dabble into the new Olympic sport, at the kiteracing world championships in Italy.
He was one of five Kiwis competing, finishing ninth in the 135-strong men's fleet in what was a highly useful reconnaissance mission. Justina Sellers was 10th in the women's fleet.
Kitesurfing replaced the RS:X windsurfer as an Olympic class in a 19-17 vote by the international sailing federation (Isaf) earlier this year, amid a cacophony of criticism, particularly in New Zealand.
Seven of New Zealand's 18 Olympic sailing medals have been won on a windsurfer, the most recent being Tom Ashley's gold at Beijing in 2008.
Another vote will be held next month at Isaf's annual meeting. It would take a two-thirds majority to overturn the decision and history suggests that is unlikely to happen, though Robertson describes it as a 50-50 call.
He clearly expressed his desire for a move to kitesurfing, however, despite all its criticism.
"That was a whole lot of ignorant talk by ignorant people, and it was disappointing," he said.
"When the decision was made, suddenly there were a whole lot of kitesurfing experts even though they had never witnessed it or tried it themselves. It was absurd.
"All that talk that was going around in the beginning has been proved wrong, this is a sport that does work and it works really well. It proved itself at the world championships."
Two of the main concerns when kitesurfing was initially included was that fleet racing would be too dangerous, and they would be hopeless in light winds.
Robertson said both of those proved to be totally unfounded in Italy.
"One the first day we had between 6-9 knots and there we were, blasting around at twice the wind speed happy as. It worked," he said.
"The kites worked amazingly well, there were big fleets of 50 people per fleet. The first start we lined up for was pretty daunting. There were some crashes and tangles, as you would expect with that many people, but it didn't really affect those at the top of the fleet."
Robertson said it was "all unknown" heading into the worlds and there were no expectations but he returned home confident that New Zealand could excel.
The nation's background in windsurfing would be an advantage and it wouldn't take the likes of an Ashley or a JP Tobin long to get up to speed because the skills were "so transferable".
"It will add a lot to sailing at the Olympics and it will be great for New Zealanders, too. There are a lot of people who kitesurf now and there is an opportunity for us to get a jump and get to the top before the next Olympics."
He said they had done all they could to familiarise themselves with the sport in the five months since its inclusion, and they would just have to "sit tight" for next month's vote.
"We know a lot about kitesurfing now and should it be given the go-ahead, we're ready."
- © Fairfax NZ News