Gladwell's Line- The enemy of my sailing enemy

by . 
Fuerteventura Windsurfing & Kiteboarding World Cup 2008

When you are a yachting administrator, you need to always be aware of how decisions and strategies look.

The simple rule is that if a decision isn't a good look, then have a rethink, because it's probably wrong.

Bad decisions usually have a common genesis in some interminable meeting where process took over early in the piece, and any semblance of strategy and direction had long been forgotten.

The International Sailing Federation's Council decision to not recognise Outright Speed Records set by kite-boards is a good example, and sits comfortably on the same shelf as the non-selection of the Multihull as an Olympic discipline the year before.

While there may have been some incredibly good reason of process as to why kite-boards were ineligible for the Outright Speed Record, In the cold hard light of day it didn't just look right.

Didn't the Council know that two records set by kite-boards had already been recognised as Outright records? Didn't they know that the 50knot mark had been broken by a twice kite-boarder? Didn’t they know that 25 years previously a record was set by a platform towed by a rack of kites?

How could they embrace kite-boarders into the ISAF, and then tell them they weren’t eligible for sailing speed records?

Local Natural Blues 18' Skiff and a kite boarder fly past The City - 18' Skiff International Regatta Day 4 San Francisco 2008

Didn't they think of the outcome of their decision? That someone would have tell the kite-boarders that 'sorry the record we recognised last week, isn't on the books anymore?'

The logic behind decisions isn't always clear. When it is isn't, the trick is to explain - and fast. ISAF did neither.

However the world body's administrators did have the intelligence to right a wrong, and push system reset on the Council decision.

Whether they can do that is another matter, however at least it is done - even if they have done the wrong thing for all the right reasons.

Out of both the multihull debacle and the kite-boarding faux pas, the International Sailing Federation has done great things to unite slightly-dysfunctional appendages of the same branch of the sport.

After the multihull decision, all the catamaran classes realised it was in no-one's best interest for the multihull to be dropped from the Olympics. It wasn't a Tornado problem, it was a multihull problem.

Mittlemeir brothers (GER) start of Race 3 2008 Tornado Worlds

Accepting this they all had a common enemy – ISAF. And on the basis of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the various multihull classes very quickly began working together to overcome the common foe.

Same song second verse with the kite-boarders – get handed another disagreeable decision from ISAF, and suddenly the groups are working together to turn it around.

With a just a couple of daft decisions ISAF has achieved more for sailing unity than many hours of discussion, emails and negotiation. Then they fixed one and the other is a work in progress.

Maybe there is a method in their occasional madness.

Good Sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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