Skip to main content

ISAF rules catamarans out of Olympics

Friday 11th of November, the ISAF Council voted against any Multihull Event for the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in Britain. It decided that in future the only sailing boats to be raced should have one hull.
In doing so, it voted against the fastest boat at the Games, the only Event Open to both Men and Women, a permanent fixture for three decades, the recommendation of its own Events Committee, the strong endorsement of the host nation, and a sport invented in Britain.
The international catamaran community is shocked at the ISAF decision. “The bottom line right now is that Multihull sailing has no seat at the ISAF table. And, ISAF has voted that it is a monohull organization” according to Mike Grandfield (US), Chairman of the International Tornado Association, the Olympic Multihull.
“This is has nothing to do with objective assessment of Olympic selection criteria, but everything to do with sailing politics” says Nick Dewhirst, Chairman of UKCRA, the UK Catamaran Racing Association.
That is backed by David Brookes (AUS), the ISAF Representative for Hobie Cats: “It is disappointing as we did have the votes until the US Delegation did a “deal” with the 470 Class at the expense of the multihulls.”
While ISAF Chairman, Goran Petersson’s (SWE) statement says “The ten events chosen for the London Games provide a perfect showcase of the wide range and diversity of sailing”, Dewhirst believes this is patently not so.
He says that you can sail in the Games standing up, with a lump of metal to slow you down, in something slow or unpopular and with one, two or three men in a boat, but you can’t do what the sailing public wants, which is to sail the fastest and most exciting kind of boat with a member of the opposite sex, because it has two hulls. You can’t race in either the third most popular boat in the world (Hobie Cat) or the fastest one (Tornado), so if the Sailing Regatta is not about diversity, popularity or excitement, what does ISAF think it is about?
The International Olympic Committee has already sent ISAF a warning that sailing is at risk by cutting back the number of its Events. This decision increases the likelihood that the whole Sailing Regatta could be thrown out of the Games entirely, as some nations see it as white, rich and exclusive

The "open multihull" (Tornado) lost to the men keelboats (Star) by two votes in the ISAF Council meeting.
The results of the ballot were the following:

Men's event (first six selected)
One person dinghy – Men (36 votes)
Windsurfer – Men (35 votes)
Two person dinghy – Men (34 votes)
Two person dinghy high performance – Men (34 votes)
One person dinghy heavy – Men (33 votes)
Keelboat – Men (23 votes)
Multihull – Men or Open (21 votes)

Women's events (first four selected)
One person dinghy – Women (35 votes)
Windsurfer – Women (34 votes)
Two person dinghy – Women (31 votes)
Keelboat match racing – Women (21 votes)
Two person dinghy high performance – Women (20 votes)
Multihull – Women (3 votes)

Very dissapointing for the catamaran community

See the list of voting / per country : we got em ....

official ISAF site link :

link to press release of the UKCRA:

Press release UKCRA:

UKCRA have also set up a new petition, this one being aimed at the IOC.
If you disagree with ISAF's recent decision then please sign the petition which can be found at

First reactions from several Catamaran sailors and A class sailors :

(from the petion website , see link above, read all the other reactions as well !)

Robbie Daniel : Why take the most exciting class out of the Olympics. It is one of the more cost effective classes since you can fit 10 in a container. It is a sport that applies to all ages. Sailing is doomed in the Olympics with out flash on the water

Scott anderson:An utterly disgraceful decision by the body that is supposed to represent all sailors , not just monohulls.It is an insult to all multihull sailors worldwide past and present - ISAF you are now the enemy.

Will Sunnucks: The Olympic movement strives for the ultimate - the fastest and the best, reflecting the colour and diversity of sporting activity around the world. Multihulls have superior performance, are interesting to watch and should certainly be included in the 2012 Olympics.

Glenn Ashby :
Multi Hull sailing world wide represents a large majority of sailing. There are numerous dinghy classes currently competing within the Olympics. I feel that it is only fair and just to have at least one multi hull dicipline included in the Olympic Games. The Multi Hull being excluded is an insult to Multi Hull sailing around the world!

Darren Bundock: I have lost all faith in the ISAF and especially the council decision making process. Sailing has taken a massive backwards step not only eliminating the multihull but not implementing the women's high performance skiff or the woman's multihull. Keeping the double handed dinghy and not moving with the times. Our sport had the chance to take a massive jump in London 2012 (finally a Olympics with maybe wind) but our sport has been destroyed by a council made up of inactive un-youthful ex sailors living in the past. The multihull has been discriminated against, it was the easy option. Despite multihulls making up for 25% of the sailing fraternity we have very little representation on the ISAF council. The lobbying, Pub parties and deals that go on in the corridors before the ISAF Council meeting under my definition spells corruption. How can they throw out the Events committee recommendations after all they are ISAF's experts that are in touch with the sailing communities

John Forbes: The multihull is the most spectacular of all sailing classes and should be the last to go. If they must discard one sailing class then get rid of the slow boring boats like 470, Star and Finn. The are all not interesting to watch either live or on TV.

Tom Siders:I can see that the ISAF, USSailing and the RYA all believe that having dinghies filling six of the ten open spots is a great representation of the sailing community at large. I must state that after years of supporting Tornados in the Olympic games, I am shocked at the outright contempt shown towards this discipline and to know that "back room" deals were cut with the 470 class. Shame on these MNA attendees and voters. I have been a continual member of both the ISAF and USSailing, but question what reason any of us who sail multihulls now have in supporting either of these organizations. The RYA should be added to this list.

Mark Cole: This decision demonstrates pure elitism and a crying shame for the sport, and the for the future youth of today with a sincere passion for the multihull discipline.

Jeremy Evans: like a lot of people i'm lost for words, apart from wondering why cat classes should continue to pay homage to ISAF who have followed up their unbelievable mess of youth cat selection by Olympic cat class rejection

Pim Nieuwenhuis: banning the fastest class from the olympics is possibly the worst choice they could make. Well done boys! but maybe we will see the AC in giant multi's?

Mark Bulkeley: to be a fair representation of sailing there needs to be a catamaran class. ISAF have once again thrown a completely random decision up in the air. It feels like politics and deals have decided the fate of the 2012 olympic classes not what the people want or a fair represenation of the sailing world.

Tony Laurent:All the years of efforts by multihull enthusiasts, the world over, in helping to popularise this exciting level of sailing have been dashed a serious blow. Send the elitists a message. Fast is Fun. Isn't that what we all love the most about sailing. Fun! One wonders if the term 'apparent wind' exists in the vocabulary of these boring traditionalist who are no doubt behind this crazy decision.

rod waterhouse:Multihulls are one of the major sailing criteria today.Millions of saiors and non sailors have sailed on multihulls.The worlds largest 2 handed class is the Hobie 16.A multihull.I see no option if this proceeds than to form our own international federation.It is unfair,corrupt and poorly conceived

Nils Bunkenburg:Unbelievable decision.

James Wharram:A sad decision, for Britain's catamaran design skills (the Tornado) and pioneering multihull sailing/racing tradition.

Roland Gaebler:We do not understand. The ISAF has no idea about media and spectators. The Tornado is one of the best classes to promote modern olympic sailing. Multihull sailing is a major part of sailing and brings also good income for tourist business. I hope the IOC will see this and push back one of the most spectacular sports. The ISAF lost the Formula One of Sailing.

Johannes Polgar:Taking the multihulls out of the olympics is a shot in the neck for the whole olympic sailing sport. ISAF needs to reconcider the decision and find an effective, clear and public supported strategy to maintain the olympic status of sailing !

Carolijn Brouwer:Back in 1986 Paul Elvstrom once said in an interview: "The Tornado is the only class worthy of being Olympic. We are also not going to watch Formula 1 when they drive 30km/h". Paul was the first sailor to be introduced in the ISAF Hall of Fame last week at the ISAF Annual Conference in Portugal. 4 out the 6 recipients of Sailing's most prestigious Award are/were Multihull sailors.

nigel lovett:This decision continues to prove that back door poloitics still corrupts the olympics and the RYA. Totally despicable.

huub lambriex:why remove one of the most spectacular classes? catamarans are very attractive for spectators to watch

Guido Schulte:The sailing olympics suffered from being boring and slow. The only exemptions were the Tornado and the 49er. Now, since only the 49er is left inside, it will become mainly similar to the windsurfing community where Olympics are not considered as champions league, but Uefa Cup, meaning loosers cup. Thus the sailing will be classified as classic yachting event with maybe some trophies for best looking crew or paint finnish or similar..., but in no case associated to real athletic sports

Pieterjan Dwarshuis: How the F*** is it possible that cat sailing losing it's Olympic status, and there are 10 (!) 'half-boat ' classes still in the games ????? bloody politics .... Catsailing is at least 25 % of all dinghy sailing In Holland it is probably even 50 % ........or more........