The Danish Perspective
Name: Dan Ibsen
Position: Secretary General, Danish Sailing Association
Other responsibilities: Member of the Danish Sports Confederation Sports Media Commission, Vice President of the European Sailing Federation on the EUROSAF Events Committee, Chairman World Rankings Sub Committee in ISAF
First Raced: 606, Yngling, Flying Junior, 420 and 470.
At age: 10 to 18 years
Current Sailing Activities: Laser, keelboat X-362 Sport, different one design keelboats as well as cruising activities
29erXX: The Danish Sailing Association has worked hard to showcase high performance sailing for years. You've done a great job hosting many world championships, pushed advanced technologies like tracking and provided great websites for spectators to follow along. What is it about high performance sailing that attracts Denmark's focus?
Dan: Faster, modern and trendy boats attract the youth. A lot of different high performance sailing disciplines are growing in Denmark, for example skiff sailing, windsurfing, Kiteboarding and sportsboats (keelboats). This year we have the A-Cat Worlds in Denmark and in 2013 there is the 29er Worlds, 29erXX Gold Cup (maybe worlds) and the 49er Europeans. Denmark pushed hard to get the 49er in the Olympics in 2000 and since this it has, to my knowledge, been the most televised of all the Olympic sailing events.
29erXX: You're also a Vice President of EUROSAF. EUROSAF is hosting a high performance championship this fall. Tell us about the event.
Dan: The idea came up last summer, as the town of Murcia and the Spanish Sailing Federation were interested in organising a new event for the Olympic Classes. As there already are many major regattas for the Olympic Classes, we discussed other possibilities which would be interesting for both EUROSAF as well as the organisers in Murcia. EUROSAF came up with the idea that sailing needs new events, which showcase new exiting classes and disciplines in our sport, which already is growing and has a potential to become attractive as Olympic disciplines as well as international classes/discipline in the future.
29erXX: What does EUROSAF see in a high performance championship that makes this a worthy investment?
Dan: It is important for EUROSAF to stimulate the development in sailing, both for existing boats, but we also have an strong obligation to support the development of the sport, showcasing the new trends, boats and formats. At the same time we need to develop our event in order to become more media and spectator friendly. The better we can expose our sport in both traditional and new media, the easier it will be to recruit new sailors to the local sailing clubs. The competition with other sports is strong, and sailing needs a more modern and trendy profile in order to attract the youth of the world. Skiing has successfully done this with Border Cross, Half Pipe etc. now in the Olympics – sailing needs to do the same.
29erXX: The Danish women have been very successful recently in the 29er. And not just one team. How did Denmark come to have such a deep women's skiff fleet?
Dan: First of all it is the young sailors themselves that has been attracted by the 29er as a new modern skiff dinghy. But the Danish Sailing Association has especially been supporting 2-person dinghy sailing through the last 10-15 years in order to grow this part of the sport again. First this was done intorducing the Hobie 405 and many of these crews moved to 29er, and with regard to the men to the 49er. The last 6 years we have been further supporting club sailing with strong financial support from our sponsor TORM (shipping company) with a programme consisting of many hundreds of RS Feva dinghies. Many of those crews (both boys and girls) move on to the 29er. When we had the ISAF Youth Worlds in 2008, we secured that all the 29er’s were sold in Denmark to clubs and young sailors, and this really gave a big boost to skiff sailing for younger sailors. We also created a TORM Youth Grand Prix series, where all the young sailors can compete, no matter which class; This means that your friends attend the same regattas, despite sailing other classes. Thereby you strengthen the social relations in the sport, which is as important as the competition.
29erXX: We've heard rumors that some 29erXX teams have been included on the Danish national team. Is this true? If so, how does it work?
Dan: Several of the women crews in 29er have also 29erXX rigs and sails. And they are already much exited about the possibility of having a Women Skiff at the Olympics in 2016. Therefore it has been decided to include those crews in our national development squad, while we are waiting the decision in ISAF about the Olympic events and equipment. Again, we keep the whole group of sailors together, across the classes in order to motivate their sailing career and make them stay in the sport.
29erXX: If you could give a country without much skiff sailing some advice on how to get started, what would it be?
Dan: Younger crews should have a possibility to try skiff sailing as soon as possible, alongside with other boats. In the beginning they might only be able to handle the boats in light and medium winds, but they will quite quickly adapt the skills and sail the boat also in stronger wind conditions – and they will love it, because it is fast, fun and exiting. During the ISAF Youth Worlds in Denmark in 2008, I especially talked with many of the young crews in the doublehanded dinghy and multihull, respectively the 29er and SL16. Many of the crew came from other more traditional boats, but there was not any doubt in their minds, they really felt that those kind of boats were fun to sail. They had big smiles on their faces every day.
29erXX: If you could write the slate for the 2016 Olympics, what would it include?
Dan: If I personally should recommend a slate for future Olympics, it should include both world wide spread classes, where many different smaller and larger nations can compete, but the rest of the disciplines MUST be high performance and thereby fast and visually attractive for spectators and TV-media and live-streaming on Internet. Among the last four disciplines there should be skiff for both men and women , multihull with double trapeze and asymmetrical spinnaker and personally I believe that kiteboarding as soon as possible should be included in the Olympics. It is a problem with only 10 medals in sailing, and I personally believe that ISAF should ask IOC for more medals in the future; Other sports are getting more medals, but we cannot expect to have more sailors. This can be solved by partly continental qualifiers for the Olympics, so as many countries as possible get a possibility to qualify for the Olympics at their continent. Two more medals would help sailing to have a better spread of events/disciplines, including the ones that can expose the sport to spectators and live media.