CNN)The winds of change are blowing across sailing, and some prospective Olympians will have to adjust their course or miss out on the 2024 Paris Games.
Three of the 10 events to be contested in Tokyo in 2020 will be replaced for the following Olympics in a drive for gender equity in the sport.
The new medal events to be introduced are a mixed one-person dinghy, a team event where men and women compete in separate gender-specific boats, a mixed two-person dinghy and mixed kitesurfing — marking a first appearance for kitesurfing at the Games after it was adopted and then dropped for Rio 2016.
Men’s and women’s windsurfing is retained but the existing RS:X class will be discussed in a wide-ranging equipment review — alongside a forum on event formats — in November.
The five classes to remain are the men’s one-person dinghy (Laser), the women’s one-person dinghy (Laser Radial), men’s skiff (49er), women’s skiff (49erFX) and mixed two-person multihull (Nacra 17).
That means the men’s and women’s 470 and men’s heavyweight Finn dinghy as events in their own right will drop out of the Olympics.
However, the Finn is likely to be retained for the men’s boat in the mixed one-person event, and the 470 will be used for the mixed two-person dinghy event. The women’s single-handed dinghy for the mixed event and the two existing Laser classes will also undergo further evaluation.
The changes were voted on by the council of World Sailing, the sport’s governing body, at Chelsea Football Club in London Monday.
“The IOC doesn’t go too much into our equipment selection, they’re very much focusing on the gender equity, then they leave it up to World Sailing to choose the right equipment,” World Sailing president Kim Andersen told CNN Sport a head of the decision.
World Sailing’s review of the sport was launched to offer the “best possible value to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and to the Olympic Games and strengthen the position of sailing within the Olympic Games.”
Among the IOC’s criteria, as set out in the Agenda 2020, are the need to appeal to a young audience, gender equity, mixed events, media appeal and the move from a sports-based to an events-based program. No change to the existing 10 events was deemed not an option.
“Personally, I’m very much focused on the issue of gender equity throughout the sport, not just in Olympic events, but also making sure we’re getting more women into out sport,” added Andersen.
“This is why I’m in favor of four mixed events at the Olympics going forward.”
World Sailing had 56 different proposals to sift through before the council voted on the final version, submitted by the Romanian Sailing Federation. The proposal, it says, seeks to balance continuity “whilst encouraging evolution,” caters for all physiques and skillsets, and allows a wide range of different race formats.
However, the threat of wholesale changes caused ructions throughout the sport before the decision was announced.
Rio Olympic Finn champion Giles Scott was one of a number of high-profile sailors who wrote an open letter to World Sailing ahead of the decision — fearing the loss of as many as eight of the 10 existing classes — to voice concerns that sailing’s traditional grassroots classes were being forced out and that “the very future of our sport is being put at risk.”
The Finn — sailed to three of his four gold medals by Briton Ben Ainslie — has featured in 17 consecutive Games since its introduction in 1952.
Foiling has become the new frontier for sailing, but the Nacra 17 remains the only foiling class in the Olympics.
“We have now one foiling event and that’s excellent,” said Andersen.
“After the 2020 Games there will probably be more foiling events, but the part of our sport that is sailing and making tactical manoeuvers and harnessing the equipment and doing it in an efficient way — that’s not a big difference if you’re foiling or not.”
Denmark’s Andersen was sympathetic to those sailors whose classes were being discarded, but insists the sport must evolve.
The last change to the 10 Olympic events was for Rio 2016 when the Nacra and 49erFX replaced the Elliott 6m keelboat, used for women’s match-racing, and the men’s Star keelboat.
“It hurts, but as sailors we stand up and find new challenges,” added Andersen.