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Editorial- America's Cup date and ISAF Credibility

by nzeditor@sail-world.com on 12 May 2008
In around 100 days the funding grants for Tornado sailors will stop. Is a new professional Multihull circuit the replacement answer? © Richard Gladwell www.richardgladwell.com

From the Monday edition of Sail-World.Com/NZ's newsletter

The ISAF Mid year Meeting has concluded in Qingdao, with a lot of fences to be repaired.

As reported in this issue the ISAF Council choose not to revisit the Mens' Events for the 2012 Olympics, and as matters stand there will be no Multihull Event in the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth.

The decision was not made by a majority, but by a minority using ISAF Regulations to prevent further debate and shut the issue down.

The first vote to reaffirm the decision on the Events was carried by a majority of three. One would have thought that those in the minority might have given way to allow the required two thirds majority to be reached and for the necessary debate to take place. However with many on instruction from their national authorities, this did not take place.

The ordering of the voting to take place in secret prevented the disclosure of whether Councilors had followed these strictures, or if they had fallen prey to the lobbyists.

At the core of the matter was whether ISAF was better able to maintain its credibility by refusing to revisit a decision that had been legitimately made, even if it was not the best one that could have been. Or, if it was better for ISAF to put its hand up, admit that a wrong had been done in November, and fix it.

In the end the whole process was doomed before it started. Attaining a 66% majority was always going to be a high bar for ISAF. Getting over the first mark of a simple majority was quite achievable.

That put ISAF in a no-win situation. By being seen to be run by a minority, the body rather than preserving credibility, lost it big time. By not allowing the athletes to address the Council, the credibility fallout was compounded.

Getting out of this mess, will be a big challenge for the ISAF leadership. Now the organisation appears to it membership (the sailors) to be inflexible, long on process and without a real strategy in terms of Olympic Events.

To date the approach of ISAF has been to embrace new disciplines within the sport, and make a place for them at the Olympic table. We have seen this done with the new sports of windsurfing, skiff sailing and with multihulls. The decision on 2012 Events is the first time that ISAF has practised the exclusion of a discipline over a class. And many in the sport, are very uncomfortable with that development.


Quite where this leaves the Multihull sailors is very unclear. There are a large number of professional teams operating within catamaran sailing - but a significant component of their income/defraying of costs comes from national sports funders. As of August 2008 - 100 days time - those lines will be cut.

Normally when a class is dropped, as was the case with the Soling and Flying Dutchman, sailors gravitate to the next nearest boat and rebuild for the next Games. However for the Tornado sailors there is no similar boat - 49er maybe - but the indications from the top crews are that this is not an option.

In this issue we feature the reaction of the multihull sailors who were at the Council Meeting, who make a number of good points.

The following day, ISAF created a Multihull Council, the intentions for this body are unclear. Maybe it will give the the multihulls a better voice within ISAF. Maybe it will head off a breakout movement from the multihulls. That ball is now very much in ISAF's court - and they must answer the fundamental question 'what's in it for the multihull?'

One of the frustrating and rather unique things about the administration of yachting is that it does not own a major event - like FIFA owns the World Cup for football/soccer; or the IRB's Rugby World Cup and so on. The premier single focus event for yachting is the America's Cup - which is run without the level of ISAF control (and financial gain) enjoyed by other sports for their shop window event.

The risk to ISAF is that the Multihull group take a leaf out of the America's Cupper's book, set up their own World Cup, in a single venue which is bid, and sponsored. Certainly the Multihulls have the numbers to be able to do this in terms of the sailors involved, they have it in the spectacle of the sailing festival that they can create, and they have the range of boats in which to do it from America's Cuppers, to ORMA 60's, to Int C-class to Hobie 16's and 14's. It is just a matter of whether they have the inclination to get organised, and start a full-on professional circuit.


America's Cup dates Ordered

On the topic of the America's Cup, Justice Herman Cahn has just issued a Decision in the New York Supreme Court on the dates for the 33rd America's Cup. Cahn has come down on the side of Alinghi, ordering that the America's Cup be sailed in 10 months time from the date of the Order, which by our calculations puts the date at 12th March 2009.

making his Order, Cahn also specified that the venue for the Defence be Valencia, or some other place named by the Defender. This raises the issue that the Deed of Gift specifies that the earliest a Match may be held in a Northern Hemisphere venue is 2 May (2009).

This is an issue that can either be resolved by Mutual Consent (with Alinghi probably looking for a date in July 2009) or Golden Gate YC insisting that 12 March 2009 be the operative date in which case a southern hemisphere venue must be used.

In this issue we have featured the text from the decision and Order issued this morning, New Zealand time.

Stayed tuned to www.sail-world.com/nz!Sail-World for the latest developments in this story, and reaction from the parties

Good sailling!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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