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ISAF credibility at stake in crucial Olympic vote

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ on 11 May 2008
Niko Mittelmeier (bow) (GER) was one of the the four Tornado sailors at the Council Meeting in Qingdao. None were allowed to speak at the meeting. Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz

Although the outcome was not what the multihull fraternity had wanted, six times world Tornado champion, Darren Bundock believes some gains were made at the ISAF Council Meeting, yesterday in Qingdao, China.

'It was really positive that Council supported us', he told Sail-World. 'We got a lot of support from Council members that we didn’t really have before.'

'The Events Committee decided not to reaffirm and that they would like to see the Mens Events reopened. And the Women’s well.

'They weren’t happy with the Events selected and they weren’t happy with the voting process used last November. That was very positive and they made a recommendation to Council that it should all be re-opened.

'Yesterday at the Council Meeting, there were a lot of people who didn’t want to go back on the decision that had already been made.

'They had the attitude that there had been a decision made. Might not have been the best decision but they should stick to it. They believed that ISAF needs the credibility that they can’t be seen to be going back on tough decisions that have been made.

'There was another group that said that ISAF had made a strategic decision about Olympic Events, which was that they should be more media friendly, and spectacular. Having fast boats and high tech boats, having a range of boats, some with easy access spread around the world. They were of the attitude that the decision wasn’t the best decision and now they have the chance to go back and make it right.

'It was very positive. There were a lot of people who stood up and made some very good arguments, but at the end of the day we didn’t get the numbers.'

In the build up to the crucial ISAF Council meeting, there were three groups said Bundock. 'There were those who were very supporting and encouraging. Those who were against, and those would not give any indication of where they were standing. They had heard the arguments for both cases, but wouldn’t comment. In the end the only argument we heard against the Multihull Event was that 'we shouldn’t go back on our decision, we should stand firm, and not lose credibility within the sport.' That was the only argument against us.'


Several of the sources Sail-World has spoken to at the Council meeting have commented on the role of ISAF President Goran Petersson (SWE) who opened the discussion on the 2012 Events with remarks on the negative comments made about ISAF since the decision in November, adding that he took these comments quite personally. Many felt that this speech coloured the subsequent discussion, and influenced a lot of people at the meeting. Petersson also moved that the vote be held in secret, as he is permitted to do so under the ISAF Constitution.

This effectively prevents disclosure of how Councillors voted, which caused a furore after the November 2007 vote was publicly disclosed. Petersson said that he was going to vote to reaffirm the November decisions, so that everyone knew where he stood on the matter.

At that point Petersson handed over to Vice President David Kellet (AUS) to present the submission and the floor was opened up for comment.

Although there were a number of current Olympic class sailors present, with the status of Observers, Petersson only allowed Councillors to speak.

Ten speak for the Multihull Event

Those who supported the incusion of the Multihull event were: Chris Atkins, Bjorn Unger (Guest speaker and Chairman of the ISAF Events Committee), Bernard Bonneau (FRA), Carin Hilderband (SWE), Helmut Jacobowitz (AUT), Fiona Kidd (CAN), Phil Jones (AUS), Kim Andersen (DEN), Jeff Martin (GBR), and Ross Robson (RSA).

'Chris Atkins (GBR) spoke giving very good arguments in favour of the Multihull Event. Fiona Kidd (CAN) also spoke. Phil Jones (AUS) spoke extremely well,' said Bundock. 'I was very impressed with his comments. They all spoke very clearly, with very good arguments, and they gave us hope.'

King Constantine gave a balanced view emphasising the need for ISAF to keep their credibility, but also that ISAF needed to take account of the views of young sailors and keep them in the sport.

Others who spoke were: John Crebbin (IRL) who was strongly against; Theresa Zabell (alternate for ESP) who did not agree with the November decision but did not agree with changing a decision; Harry Adler (BRA) also strongly against, and TP Low (SIN).

None of the three USA members did not speak, neither did Joe Butterfield (NZL).

'We knew the vote was going to be very close, and not a one sided event', said Bundock.'

'The biggest hurdle we had the whole was through was that ISAF had made a decision, we should stick to it and move on' was Bundock’s summation of the 20 minute debate.


The outcome was that the meeting refused to reaffirm the November 2007 decision on the Olympic Events by a vote of 17 for and 20 against. However to reach the required two thirds majority to reopen the Mens Events only 21 voted for – five short of the required 26. And the motion failed. Seventeen Councillors voted against the reopening.

'In not reaffirming, the Council agreed it had not made the correct decision, but they weren’t prepared to do anything about it' said Bundock. 'I don’t know where their credibility stands, now', he added.

What future?

Looking ahead, Bundock commented that the Multihulls had made a lot of friends within ISAF. The Tornado class administration has changed a lot within the last few months. The Tornado class had four people – all current sailors at the meeting, however except for Class President Carolijn Brouwer (BEL) none were allowed to speak at the Meetings, and Brouwer was only permitted to speak at the Events Committee meeting, whose recommendations were again not accepted by Council.

Of the 15 submissions that were put into ISAF before the Meeting and were declared by the Executive Committee to be 'Not Urgent', they lie upon the table unless they are withdrawn by the submitting party.

Sail-World understands that ISAF President Goran Petersson has asked that they be withdrawn and that discussion on the subject of Events at the 2012 Olympic, cease.

Whether that position is accepted by the stakeholders in the sport remains to be seen.

'As we walked out of the meeting there seemed to be a lot of support for the Five Disciplines strategy' says Bundock. 'They were all saying that the Multihull will be back in 2016. Our view is 'that’s all very well, but who is going to sail it, because if it goes now, how are you going to get them back in four years time?’'

'We will back in November, pushing the Five Disciplines strategy, and that all Disciplines in the sport should be represented at the Olympics.'


Bundock did not believe that the outcome of the 2012 Olympic decision would be that the class and group would break away from ISAF and form a new independent body. 'I would hope that wouldn’t happen, but we can’t stop people doing that', he said. He agreed that multihull sailors now face an uncertain future. 'We are like a child that has just been orphaned, and left to fend for ourselves. It will be interesting to see what happens', he added.

'Multihull sailors are a unique breed, and if they want to sail at Olympic level, now they can’t. There is no class for them to move into. A couple of the top guys may cross over into the 49er, but most of the Tornado fleet won’t move into another Olympic class. We’ll go and do other things, that’s for sure.'

'I don’t think anyone is going to sit around for four years twiddling their thumbs hoping the Multihull might get in for 2016.'

At the end, everyone was disappointed. They said, 'where does ISAF stand now? They haven’t reaffirmed, but they aren’t going to do anything'

'I don’t think one person in that room thought that decisio

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