Kiteboarding has a huge range of competition formats on offer, but not all of them are suitable for the Olympic sailing competition. Lets have a look on what creates the buzz for media and spectators while complying with the reality of Olympic sailing venues...
From the current five major disciplines - freestyle, waveriding, speed, course racing and kite cross - only two do make sense for the Olympic sailing regatta. Freestyle and wave riding unfortunately do not fit in the wind range the venues usually have to offer (and waves are even harder to find), and the IOC is not too keen to add more events which are judged on subjective criteria.
Speed competitions would work in any given windspeed and would be attractive due to the possibility to achieve Olympic records, however in the usual wind conditions it would not be very spectacular. This discipline unfolds its fascination from 35 knots windspeed onwards, although board speeds in excess of 30 knots can already achieved in 10-15 knots true wind. So- this discipline will be surely under review in an upcoming evaluation process.
This leaves us with course racing and kite cross as most likely formats. Both of them fit the wind range of 5 to 25 knots very well and can perform easily in excess of those, which means no abandoned races due to too much wind anymore. Lets go into detail:
Kite Course Racing is run exactly as any other sailing competition in the world, as a fleet race run under the Racing Rules of Sailing, protests on the water, turn or scoring penalties, protest hearings in front of international juries etc. Everything quite similar to standard dinghy racing, except that kiteboards are already fully planning in 5 knots of wind and thus are spectacular to watch already in the lightest wind conditions. A true implementation of "Citius, altius, fortius" !
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The other racing discipline under review is Kite Cross. In contrary to Course Racing, Kite Cross is run in K.O. elimination series, with heats of usually 4 competitors sailing a downwind slalom course and only the top two advancing. The course might have mandatory jumps over obstacles depending on venue and wind conditions. This format is pretty similar to the successfull snowboard-cross and ski-cross formats from the last Winter Olympics, a true crowd pleaser.
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The wind strength needed for Kite Cross is even lower than for Course Racing, as competitors usually do not have to go upwind. Another big advantage of this competition format is that the gold medal is decided in the final heat of the competition - Gold, Silver, Bronce, Sorry.
Both competition formats are able to greatly reduce the time frame of the Olympic sailing competition. Kiteboard racing - be it Course Racing or Kite Cross - takes place close to the beach directly in front of the spectators, and courses are rather short. A typical course race with an one nautical mile upwind leg takes app. 15 minutes for the finisher, allowing for up to eight races per day. Three competition days plus medal race are way enough to determine the Olympic Gold medalist.
Kite Cross is even able to be broadcasted live - heat times are usually around 3 minutes to complete the four to seven buoy downwind slalom course, and competition is run in rounds - from qualification over quarter final, semi final up to the finals. This creates completely new opportunities for live broadcasting and media presence.
Which of the formats will be chosen ? This is all up to the evaluation process if kiteboarding is chosen as a possible event for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The equipment choice is subordinate at the moment as the first task of the evaluation commission will be to determine a format that suits boards - be it kiteboards or windsurfers.
What ever the outcome will be - the addition of kiteboarding would tick all boxes of what the IOC demands from ISAF and would greatly add value to the Olympic Games.