Yesterday Dutch Tornado sailor Mitch Booth (who won two Olympic medals for Australia in the 1990s, but that's another story) submitted for measurement for the 2008 Olympic Regatta a spinnaker that is significantly smaller and flatter than the ones traditionally used on the Olympic catamaran, which of course is most likely enjoying it's last Olympic regatta as it's been removed from the docket for 2012. The big advantage of this spinnaker is that in under 8 or 9 knots of breeze it can be used upwind as well as downwind. Winds for this time of year in Qingdao are predominantly under 10 knots and often very light. The American team of John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree worked with Booth and crew Pim Nieuwenhuis to develop the sail and may measure in one as well. The Australian team of Darren Bundock and Glenn Ashby have created one on their own at the last minute.
Because the class doesn't have any minimum measurements for the spinnaker, it should be declared legal for class competition. However, it's could well mean the Tornado medals are awarded based on breeze strength. A light-air regatta and the boats sailing with this Code 0, for lack of a better term, will dominate. In more moderate conditions, the traditionally rigged boats will dominate. Not surprisingly, class favorite Roman Hagara of Austria is steamed about the development and has said he is considering boycotting the event if the Code 0s are used.
So what do you think? Should the sail be legal? Should the teams use it? Is a medal won because of a technological advancement the same as one won in true one-design competition?
Quick update. With just a day remaining until the Tornados take to the water for what will likely be the class' final Olympic regatta, John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree have decided to use the Code 0 upwind spinnaker. According to a press release from Ogletree, so have Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis of the Netherlands. We'll see what sort of wind we get for the regatta. The forecast for Friday is for light winds, 4 to 8 knots, with 8 to 14 coming on Saturday. While reports have varied, the prime windspeed for this sail seems to be less than 9 knots, preferably less than 7.