You may well have heard by now that, unfortunately, we will (assuming entries reach the expected level) need to sail the worlds as a split fleet format. Essentially, the harbour authorities are insisting on it. Below is the text of an email sent on Nov 18th to World Council members, setting out more background - hopefully self-explanatory.
I should stress that the description of how the split will work is the current expectation - the defining documents for this will be the revised NOR and SI's
To: International 14 World Council members
Cc: Peter Moor, Worlds PRO
Just to update you following previous conversations about the race format in Sydney and further email exchanges with the Australian fleet. There may also be something coming on this from the Aussies as event organisers, in which case apologies for any duplication, but I thought everyone would want to know as soon as possible.
As I think most of you know, as the likely size of the fleet (more than 100 boats are expected) has become apparent, there has been increasing concern over the ability to safely run a single fleet of this size within Sydney Harbour. Major issues include physically fitting the start line and course for this size of fleet within the harbour in various wind directions, associated difficulty in avoiding conflicts with ferry routes, risk of taking the fleet too close to inhospitable leeward shores, problems with blocking off access to parts of the harbour to other users, etc. This led to conversations about whether the fleet might need to be split into two for racing.
The organisers have clearly understood throughout that the class did not want the fleet to be split. The PRO, Peter Moor, has been doing a lot of work on this, including lengthy discussions with the harbour authorities (New South Wales Waterways and Sydney Harbour Management), Sydney Ferries and Yachting New South Wales. As well as looking in detail at where courses would need to be in various conditions.
Ultimately, Peter as PRO made a strong recommendation to the Australian fleet and host club (who together are formally the event organisers) that on safety grounds, the fleet needed to be split if the entry exceeded 90 boats (and it was already at 91 at end-October). However, while this was being considered, the harbour authorities insisted anyway the fleet be split if of the expected size and threatened to withdraw the event's "aquatic licence" (which it needs to have) if this did not happen.
So it seems, unfortunately, that a split will be needed. Given the authorities' position, there seems little choice.
Peter has been discussing with the International Jury exactly how this will operate; clearly the "mix" of the fleet for the qualifying stages needs to be fair. The proposal is basically that there be 5 qualifier and 6 finals races (which means a mix of 1 and 2 race days). For the qualifiers, the fleet would be split into two randomly for the first day, and thereafter based on latest rankings (even numbered boats into one fleet, odd numbered into the other). Then the final "gold/silver" split is expected to have 60% of boats in the gold fleet, 40% in the silver.
An amendment to the NOR has been prepared, setting out formally how it will all work; the Australian fleet will publish this soon. Clearly there are lots of different ways of doing it which we could all discuss in detail for some time, but if we have to split the fleet, the basic principles of the proposed approach look sensible to me.
I realise that many may well be disappointed by this. It is not what we expected when we agreed to go to Sydney, and to those who say potential issues like this should have been highlighted long ago, I can only agree. However we are where we are. I do know Peter (and others) have worked very hard on preparing for the event, and that the decision that the fleet needed to be split has not been taken lightly. So we need to ask for peoples' understanding. But please let those in your respective countries - especially of course those who are coming to Sydney - know of the situation.
Stewart, Peter - I hope the above fairly represents the position. Please feel free to correct me if needed, and/or add anything I have missed.
And I still think that once we get used to the idea that this is how the event will have to be run, we will still have a great time!
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