JP Tobin sails back after windsurfing reinstated

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012
JP Tobin
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FLYING THE FLAG: JP Tobin will be the sole New Zealand representative at the world windsurfing championships.

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JP Tobin will dust off his RS:X board and eye another Olympic campaign, with the windsurfing class reinstated at the expense of kiteboard racing for Rio 2016.

Six months of lobbying by the international windsurfing community yesterday paid off, with the controversial decision in May by the International Sailing Federation to drop windsurfing in favour of kiteboard racing - a call that stunned the sailing world given the latter was untested - reversed at the International Sailing Federation's annual meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

Tobin, 35, who was seventh in the RS:X at the Olympics, believed the result was "always on the cards" given the controversy surrounding kiteboard racing's original inclusion in May.

Some national bodies apologised for voting for kitesurfing in the first place and others, like Spain, claimed they had been confused by the process.

"The whole thing was very odd and this is vindication of what the sailing world wanted," said Tobin, who woke yesterday to a knock on the door from his Olympic coach, Grant Beck, who delivered the news.

Like many windsurfers, Tobin had been waiting for yesterday's vote before deciding on his future.

Now the RS:X is back in, the 2012 world championship bronze medallist wants to campaign for Rio, starting with February's world championships in Brazil.

He also plans to race a kiteboard on a less formal basis.

"Kiteboard racing has built quicker than it would have planned for because of its original inclusion. I'm sure it will get included at World Cup level and we'll see where it goes from there once it is established.

"But I've been doing some windsurfing coaching and it's just great that all these talented kids have their dreams back online."

There were two avenues for the decision to be overturned, at council level or the higher general assembly. Windsurfers needed a 75 per cent majority at council level on Saturday but failed, falling short at 68 per cent. However, only a simple majority was required at general assembly. Windsurfing will maintain its Olympic presence, which dates back to 1984.

Unlike the council, where members represented areas and some, like Oceania's New Zealand delegate Ralph Roberts, were instructed to vote in line with their area's wishes (most Oceania nations preferred kiteboarding), the vote at general assembly was made by representatives of the individual national authorities.

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Yachting New Zealand (YNZ), represented by president Jan Dawson, had emphasised its preference for windsurfing to remain in 2016, with kiteboarding to be given more time to develop.

Before the meeting, both YNZ chief executive David Abercrombie and windsurfing great Barbara Kendall said the decision had a good chance of being overturned at the general assembly.

Kendall, a critic of the process that led to windsurfing's axing in May, yesterday expressed her relief at the turnaround.

New Zealand has a rich history in windsurfing; seven of the nation's 18 Olympic sailing medals have come in that class. Tom Ashley, who was nudged out by Tobin for New Zealand's sole spot at Weymouth, won Olympic gold in the RS:X in Beijing.

- Wellington

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