RYA in push for ISAF Olympic Events change

GBR, the top performing nation at the last two Olympic Games, and host for the 2012 event have requested ISAF to reconsider the Events slate for 2012

The Royal Yachting Association has led the charge to have the Events slate for the 2012 Olympics reconsidered by the International Sailing Federation. In a late breaking story this morning, Great Britain, the world's top Olympic yachting nation and host of the 2012 Olympic regatta, has formally requested that the International Sailing Federation reconsider the Events chosen at the ISAF Annual General Meeting in November.

The Royal Yachting Association is seeking the support of other national authorities for its request, and is thought to need about 20 votes at ISAF Council level to get the issue back on the table.

Sail-World understands from various international sources that there is widespread support for the British move. We have featured the full text of the letter released this morning, by the RYA.

In a letter to the President of ISAF, Goran Petersson (SWE), the RYA ask for the decisions taken at the Annual Meeting in November to be reviewed, at its Mid-Year Meeting in Qingdao.

The Royal Yachting Association is the host National Authority for the 2012 Sailing Olympics and is understood be seeking a showcase for the sport, to build on their already strong competitive base and profile.

Britain has been the most successful nation at the last two Olympics and its thinking in terms of development of the sport and its sailors has become a model for many other nations seeking to improve their Olympic performance.

Tornado European Championship, Palma
The RYA's request is based on three grounds - that the decisions taken in November 2007 both weaken sailing as an Olympic sport and are not in compliance with Olympic guidelines; that the decisions will bring fewer nations and younger sailors into the sport; and that the voting procedure which was agreed at the May 2007 meeting was not followed, and the system adopted on the floor of the Council meeting was flawed.

The sequence of events at the 2007 Annual General Meeting, was that the Womens Committee and then the Events Committee made selections on the events for the 2012 Olympics, given that under the guise of cost reduction, Sailing was required to cut back its athlete quota from 400 to 380 competitors and reduce the events from 11 to 10.

Certain criteria also have to be met to address the gender balance of the Olympic Sailing Events.

The Womens Committee met first and produced two Events cards - being a gender equal card of five events and a four event card - the IOC minimum.

At the Events Committee level, the matter was considered again, taking some input from the Womens Committee decision and the Events Committee produced a six male/open event and four female card, as well as a gender equal card from the longer list of events approved at the Mid Year Meeting.

The matter was then referred to the ISAF Council, which quickly struck out the gender equal events card and proceeded to consider the six/four card put forward from the Events Committee.
Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page (470) competing at the ISAF World Sailing Championship 2007
Joao Ferrand/JFF ©
The Events Committee had taken into account various International Olympic Committee guidelines and reviews, and had rather controversially dropped both keelboat events, preferring to retain both doublehanded dinghy events (470 and 49er) on the Mens and Womens side.

By necessity this placed the future of the Womens keelboat (Yngling) and Mens keelboat (Star) under threat, when the actual classes/equipment were selected at tne November 2008 Meeting.

Between the Events Committee decision being announced, and the ISAF Council meeting there was some frantic lobbying from the veteran Star class (who have survived three attempts to be cut from the Olympic sailing program), and the 470 class who have had to fight harder than most to retain their place at the Olympic table.

Before the ISAF Council considered the Event selection issue, a late decision was made to change the way in which the vote was to be handled.

The previously agreed system was that a slate of six mens events would be chosen from a list of seven events. The top five from that vote would be become the events for the 2012 Olympics, and then there would be a run-off with just two events for the final and sixth place. This was to ensure that all events received majority support, and the non-selected event was also subject to a majority vote. Under this system all chosen events would receive majority support, and the two lowest polling would then be in an effective repechage with one receiving the majority vote and the other the minority vote.

This system is consistent with that which has been used previously and is designed to stop 'wild card' votes affecting selection and forcing those who do vote this way to have to participate in a run-off focussed on two events, along with all others who hold voting rights.

For reasons which are not clear, (but ostensibly for simplicity) the voting system was changed at the last minute, and a single voting run, with no run-off was held. All classes received more than 50% of the votes cast, due to the effect of the various preferences with a group of five events gaining more than 30 of the 36 votes in the total count.

The Mens/Open multihull was the lowest polling event on the mens side, and was dropped. The keelboat came back into the frame for 2012 and a fleetracing event was chosen.

Skandia Go for Gold 2007 - Day 2
On the womens side the High Performance two hander was dropped as an event and the keelboat reinstated. However, the decisoon was made to switch this from a fleetracing to matchracing event.

The announcement of this Event schedule caused great controversy around the sailing world, particularly amongst the Multihull sailors, who started a very vigorous campaign for reinstatement.

The move from the RYA is the first step in this direction, and the support of other National Authorities is being sought to put the matter back on the ISAF table.

There are various means by which this can happen - including the calling of a Special General Meeting, however the preferred means is for the Event card to be delayed in its submission to the IOC, until such time as it has been ratified by a meeting of the ISAF Council - ideally at its Mid Year Meeting.

To achieve this the support of at least 20 countries/areas/votes at the ISAF Council level will be required.

Bryony Shaw competing at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta
For the full text of the letter from the Royal Yachting Association http://www.sail-world.com/files/ADMIN20071205164704.pdf!click_here or read the text which follows:

2012 Olympic Sailing Competition - Decision on Events

I write on behalf of the RYA, and many other organisations, commentators and sailors, who believe that the decisions made by ISAF last month on the 2012 Olympic Events are not in the best interests of the sport of sailing throughout the world and should be reviewed. We believe the decisions could prejudice our future as an Olympic sport, and restrict the global growth of sailing, for the reasons highlighted below.

However, if ISAF takes the opportunity to review the decisions in May 2008, the Executive and Council members will then be able to take into account all the comments and feedback that November’s decision has generated, and as a result sailing will be stronger and our future more secure.

1. The decisions weaken sailing as an Olympic sport, and do not comply with IOC guidelines

The IOC has specified’ that the inclusion of sports within the Olympic Programme should be supported through analysis of each sport against identified criteria, and that to be considered for admission to the Olympic Programme, a sport must show a direct emphasis on youth and development.

IOC’s current evaluation2 is that sailing has a low number of nations taking part, very low hours of television and number of viewers, high television production costs, and that ISAF has a very high reliance on Olympic revenues.