by Nevin Sayre
Dear U.S. Sailing,
in the hospital after kitesurfing - Calling out U.S. Sailing to explain their Olympic vote
Every class chosen for the Olympics has a pathway from young kid to Olympic champion. As yet, Kitesurf racing has no such pipeline. As an avid kitesurfer, windsurfer, sailor, U.S. Sailing member, and also someone who has been very involved in youth sailing development, I would like U.S. Sailing to explain their actions.
The ISAF General Council voted 19-17 to overrule the recommendation of their own 'experts' on the Events Committee, and include kitesurf course racing in the 2016 Olympic Games. This decision comes at the expense of windsurfing, which is easily one of the two most popular classes at the Games, and has a huge junior pipeline. ISAF’s own Events Committee and Windsurfing/kitesurfing Committee, which held an ISAF sponsored equipment evaluation, did not recommend kiteboarding over windsurfing for the 2016 Olympic Games. Why did U.S. Sailing place their 3 votes (more than any other country) in favor of kitesurf racing?
What is U.S. Sailing’s plan to safely include kitesurfing into Junior Sailing Programs, the Olympic Youth Development Team, Youth Worlds Team, the Junior Olympic events, and all the pathways that leads to the Olympics? There are over 110 reported kitesurfing deaths in the last 10 years. That should be compared with an excellent safety record in windsurfing’s 40 year history. I am personally very lucky not to be on the fatality list, and suffered a head wound with 150 stitches from kitesurfing. And I consider myself a decent kiter, and knowledgeable about the wind. There is no way I would allow my kids to kitesurf.
In a year when U.S. Sailing has expressed deep concern over the sudden uptick in tragic sailing deaths from Annapolis to San Francisco, what is U.S. Sailing’s safety plan here? Is U.S. Sailing aware that insurance companies, citing grave safety concerns, have refused to cover sailing programs which include kitesurfing?
Can you see kitesurfing at your junior program and/or sailing club?
Kitesurfing is evolving, and the very small percentage of kitesurfers who race, are clearly on the cutting edge. I welcome inclusion in the Olympics when the safety, equipment, logistics, and formats are ready. When instructional and competitive programs are developing young kitesurf racers, and safely channeling them toward their Olympic dreams, let's go. We are clearly not there yet for 2016 Olympic Games.
Meanwhile the ISAF vote itself is a sham. The President of the Royal Spanish Federation (RFEV) has issued a formal apology that their ISAF vote was wrongly placed for kitesurfing over windsurfing, and the RFEV supports the process to overturn the vote. The President of the Venezuelan Federation has informed ISAF that their Venezuelan countryman (who voted for kitesurfing) did not represent the judgement of their Federation. The Chairman of the Israeli Federation is quoted in Reuters: 'The delegates were probably confused or didn't understand the motion fully because of language difficulties, or some may have been napping at the presentations and then cast their votes without realizing the implications.' Whatever conditions enabled kitesurfing to prevail in the first round of balloting, there are compelling reasons for the issue to be put to a proper vote.
I’m concerned as a U.S. Sailing menber that USA also doesn’t understand the implications. Will U.S. Sailing please publicly explain why they cast their three votes against ISAF’s own Events Committee recommendation, and in favor of choosing kitesurfing over windsurfing for 2016?
two days after personal kitesurfing accident - Calling out U.S. Sailing to explain their Olympic vote
PS. The photos are of myself two days after a kitesurfing accident. Does U.S. Sailing really want to endorse kitesurfing for the Olympics and youth development before the sport is ready?