ISAF under fire

Tornado - Carolijn Brouwer and Sebastien Godefroid. (BEL 7)
Richard de Jonge ©

While the subject of Code Zero sails in the Tornado class continues to cause unrest at the Olympic regatta, the international body for the sport should be carefully considering the open letter to President Goran Petersson from the UK Catamaran Racing Association’s president, Nick Dewhirst.

Dewhirst pulls no punches in his plea for reconsideration of the decision to eliminate multihulls from the Olympics, sending the letter to a magazine in the form of an advertisement because he points out that: 'you have previously responded to our earlier research and suggestions only through the media.'

That original decision-making at Cascais in November last year was severely criticized throughout the sailing community and among members of the ISAF Council but despite Petersson ‘s recommendation that it should be re-affirmed at the mid-year meeting in May, the Councillors voted to review the decision.

There followed what can only be described as a constitutionally correct but undemocratic decision based on an arcane edict that requires a two-thirds majority to make an alteration to an already made decision, even though that decision was based on a simple majority vote.

No one who was at the Cascais annual meeting can forget the manipulative manner in which the Council was coerced into the dismissal of a multihull category from the Olympic programme of events, and the subsequent admission by many that their voting had been swayed by the preference of their national Olympic committees based on where they thought they would have the best chances of winning medals rather than for the good of the sport in the 2012 and subsequent Olympic Games.

That some of those who voted that way have subsequently seen the light and were prepared to declare their change of mind sufficiently that there was a simple majority to change the decision, it was not enough to satisfy the quaintly conservative principles of the federation and, against the will of the majority, there is no multihull slated to race at Weymouth.

Nick Dewhirst prompts the federation: 'Therefore we now ask you to do something at the Annual Meeting in November this year which would enhance ISAF’s reputation for inclusiveness, sportsmanship and the Olympic spirit. As permitted in Regulation 1.1, please take the lead as President by placing the following two submissions on the agenda.

'Submission 1
That Regulation 16.1.5 (a) (iv) be replaced as follows: 'must include separate Men and Women Events for each of the five disciplines (1 Person Dinghy, 2 Person Dinghy, Multihull, Keelboat, Windsurfer).'

Dewhirst suggests: 'This would bring sailing into line with the convention among a majority of other Olympic sports for equal numbers of events for both genders in all their major disciplines. It would place differing athletic skills ahead of equipment considerations, so better meet IOC objectives and also provide a clear strategy to the choice of events.

And that it would also ensure that the Sailing Regatta presents the wide range and diversity of sailing, within the practical constraints of the Olympic Regatta.'

'Submission 2
That ISAF formally request IOC to include an 11th Event for the Sailing Regatta in the agenda for its next Meeting.'

The reason Dewhirst gives for this is that multihull sailing is one of the five core sailing disciplines with global representation in both developed countries and emerging markets. It would otherwise be unrepresented at the Games. And that multihulls are the most media-friendly sailing boats because they are the fastest craft in the regatta, highly athletic and exceptionally suited to be camera platforms.

Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. The tallest 'building art' in Qingdao.
Petersson cannot be unaware of the massive posters for the sailing events at the Beijing Olympic Games that decorate many of the skyscrapers in Qingdao, but he may not be aware that of 29, there are 16 showing the Tornado and a large majority of the rest features the 49er. They are the most media attractive of the Olympic classes, the Tornado by a substantial margin.