ISAF’s Annual Conference - Multihull 2016 update from Paul Pascoe

Tornados on Lake Garda
International Tornado Class Association
Paul Pascoe reflects on the International Sailing Federation's Annual Conference in Athens, Greece. Pascoe led the multihull representatives as chairman of the Multihull Commission.

'The following is not an official report from the ISAF Multihull Commission, but an unofficial account including a number of personal opinions on the subject of multihulls and the process of getting them back into the 2016 Olympic Games from one of the 'insiders'.

As everyone will be aware, the ISAF Council voted 19 - 16 to support the recommendations of the Events Committee for a slate of 10 events for the 2016 Olympic Games, including a mixed multihull. This slate is a recommendation only with the aim to provide direction and allow people to plan further ahead than in previous Olympic cycles. The final decision on events will be made at the May 2011 Mid-year meeting to be held at St Petersburg in Russia. Unfortunately a 19 - 16 vote is not an overwhelming vote of support and it would only require a re-think by 2 Council members to overturn this decision in May, so there is still a lot of work to do between now and May.

So to recap the events that lead to this decision:

Following the vote to drop the multihull in 2007 ISAF decided that a piecemeal approach to event/class selection for the Olympic Games was not in the best interests of the sport and formed the Olympic Commission to provide an overall strategy not just for event selection, but also for World Cup and World Championship events. This Commission generated a lot of interest and with their report submitted last May, people began dissecting their report in great detail. While everyone felt that it was an excellent piece of work, each particular group found one or another piece that disadvantaged their particular self interest. For the multihull community the recommendation for the re-introduction of a multihull was most welcome, however, one other aspect of the report was the aim to achieve gender equity with equal medals available to men and women. To achieve this, there either needed to be a men's and women's multihull, no multihull, or a mixed multihull with a male/female on each team. With the Commission recommending a single mixed multihull, to achieve gender balance across the ten events there then needed to be another mixed event and the mixed 470 was proposed, effectively pairing it with the multihull.

The Commission also proposed a slate of six core events of men's and women's board/kite, single hander and skiff. Given that everyone was of the opinion that the multihull 'must be returned to the Olympics', one has to ask why the multihull was not part of this set of core events, and this remains an unresolved issue.

At the Multihull Commission meeting, the overwhelming view was that we should pursue a separate men's and women's event, but that a mixed multihull was an acceptable though less preferred alternative.

As part of the Olympic Commission report, they also offered up a voting procedure which was followed by the Events Committee who voted in the slate of six core events, and then proceeded to a vote to narrow the remaining six recommended events for the four remaining slots. The encouraging support of 84% of voting members put the multihull in front of the Finn, Star, 470, Women's keelboat and a second women's single hander. At this vote the last two remaining boats were the Finn vs Star with the Finn coming out comfortably in front and the Star being eliminated.

This recommendation then went to the Council which voted 19 - 16 to support the recommendations. This vote is non-binding and the final decision is to be made at the mid-year meeting in May in St Petersburg, Russia. Given that the vote was close, one can expect a significant amount of lobbying in the ensuing months from those who feel that the recommendations do not meet the needs of the sailing community or that their particular interests are not well represented.

So for multihullers the issues/messages out of the meeting are:

• The issue of mixed gender is still undecided. While no-one has put forward any concrete reasons against mixed gender, it is still an issue with unknown consequences. In sailing outside of the Olympics, mixed sailing by choice is extremely common, but enforced mixed gender is not. And the reverse can be said for men's and women's sailing - it is one of the few places where sailing split by gender is enforced and is not almost unheard of in club sailing.

• With mixed gender brings up the issue of 'who would be driving'. The general consensus was that for a 470, probably the female would drive and the male would be crew, simply based on weight considerations. In the multihull it would be dependent on what boat was chosen.

• With the mixed gender being somewhat divisive, the previous submissions about a 5/5 split of boats has again begun to gain favour in some quarters. This proposal, originally from the US, called for a men's and women's board, single hander, double hander, multihull and keelboat. This has significant advantages with pairings at each level of the sport. However, once you then start looking at specifics, this would mean the removal of either the 470 men and women or the 49er and the women's skiff, as well as pitting the Laser against the Finn. It would also mean changing a lot of classes all in one shot, and changing classes causes major upheavals for sailors, MNAs, etc. In the past, it has been typical to change only one or two classes per cycle.

• The May meeting could see the issue of events again opened up for debate. So for multihullers, the outcomes could be that we end up with a men's and women's multihull, a mixed multihull, or heaven forbid, no multihull.

So while the vote at the Events Committee in Athens is very positive for multihullers, the job is not done yet with 16 Council members effectively saying that they are not happy with the current slate, and we will all have to reconvene again in six months time in St Petersburg to ensure we end up with at least one multihull sailing in the waters off Copacabana beach in 2016.

And finally, a big thank you to all those who attended the meeting and help promote the message of mulithulls.

Members at the Multihull Commission meeting:
Carolijn Brouwer
David Brookes
John Williams

Other multihull supporters at the meetings Darren Bundock, Nahid Gaebler, Olivier Bovyn, Roland Gaebler, Edwin Lodder, Trigonis Konstantinos, Rob White, Mark Pryke, Hugh Styles, Gunnar Larsen, Andrew McPherson, John Ready, Yves Loday, Arnaud Gautier, and Richard Slater.

And to the offsite crew of Nick Dewhirst, Will Sunnucks and Simon Morgan for all their support and with special congratulations to Simon who also managed to have a son during the meeting.'