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Angst as Sailing misses Paris 2024 Paralympic inclusion

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 14 Sep 15:03 PDT 15 September 2018
Skud 18 start - 2016 Paralympics - Rio de Janeiro © Richard Langdon / British Sailing Team

World Sailing says it is shocked and disappointed to learn that Sailing has not been included by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

The decision is another blow for the beleaguered world organisation, which over the past month has had two key management staff resign, and is facing a litany of other pressing issues.

Concerns have been expressed over the World Sailing's financial situation and sustainability following the head office move from Southampton to London - ranked as the fourth most expensive commercial rental location in the world by London-based estate agency Knight Frank in a study of property values across 40 major cities for the Knight Frank "2018 Global Cities" report.

The world body is said to be in hot water with anti-trust agencies based in Italy over monopoly supply agreements that it has allowed to be negotiated for many of the Olympic classes it controls.

Fixated with achieving gender equality regardless of the distortion caused in the Olympic Sailing lineup, World Sailing also initiated processes to review seven of the ten Olympic events and classes for the 2024 Olympics.

The move, shuffled through Council by the Executive, has caused widespread dismay in the sport, compounded by a shift to have four mixed gender events in the ten events on the 2024 Olympic Regatta. These include combined score events and other novelties for men's and women's fleets - which are not practised as recognised events at world championship level.

The changes in Olympic classes comes at the expense of two classes outside the Italian led anti-trust investigation - the Finn - the heavyweight men's singlehanded dinghy which has been in the Olympic regatta since 1952, and which still attracts a very strong following with 90 entries in the combined Sailing World Championships at Aarhus (DEN), last month. World Sailing has also put the second oldest Olympic class, the two-handed 470 on the skids, with moves to drop the men's and women's two-person dinghy events and replace them with a single mixed gender doublehander, with the class yet to be selected.

World Sailing's Events Committee is loaded with paid employees of class associations and member national authorities, who are considered by many to have a conflict of interest, in that they cannot surely vote against their paymasters. And even with the substitution of alternates it is hard to believe those second fiddles are truly independent and would not just echo the vote of their cronies.

At the November Annual Conference, the Events Committee voted for a slate of Olympic classes and events for 2024 that effectively disenfranchised male Olympic sailors weighing more than 83kg. That slate did get overturned by the Council who voted submission by submission until a combination put up by the Romanian Sailing Federation, was successful in the final run-off by a three vote margin over a second submission also from Romania. Interestingly Romania has never won a medal in Olympic sailing ad indeed did not sail in any class in the last Olympics.

The recent inclusion of e-Sailing and Kiteboarding as part of World Sailing has been widely criticised by the many in the sport who believe the organisation should remain true to its roots - being the administration of the sport of racing yachts.

Frustrations with the governance in the sport have led to moves to pull control away from a Board which seems to lack the will or ability to control the Executive. British Virgin Islands, one of the smaller Member National Authorities, has put forward a Submission to the upcoming Annual Conference to return to a previous structure which gave the Council of the Sport a much greater degree of control over the direction of Sailing. That matter will be voted on at the organisation's Annual Conference in the USA, next month.

Earlier this year World Sailing set up a governance review, saying, after the first interim report had been presented to the Board that "the Board agreed that without improvements to its governance by the end of 2019, World Sailing faces a significant risk of losing credibility and influence, declining interest and membership in sailing federations, and an inability to effectively and efficiently deliver on its strategy, including developing the sport."

The Review intends to present and consult further at next month's Annual Conference, with a final report in mid-2019 and implementation at the end of 2019. However, that leisurely timeline may get overtaken by events.

The disappointment over the dropping of Sailing from the 2020 Paralymics was one of the reasons why the previous World Sailing President Carlo Croce (ITA) was opposed halfway through the usual eight year term, and replaced by Kim Andersen (DEN). With the sport's present contretemps, Andersen may well find that he has the favour returned mid-term in November 2020.

Sailing was one of five sports which were not among the 23 sports selected for the Paris Paralympics. Only one new sport progressed to the next stage before a final decision is announced in January 2019.

The decision followed an IPC Board meeting earlier this week in Madrid, Spain.

A statement issued Friday by World Sailing said that Sailing's application was submitted ahead of the 9 July 2018 deadline and said the IPC had informed them that Sailing is not in compliance with one or more of the core criteria for Games inclusion as stipulated in the IPC Handbook. The International Paralympic Committee gave the same non-specific reasoning to the other five unsuccessful sports.

World Sailing say they will meet with the IPC's leadership as soon as possible to further understand the details of the decision taken and the analysis by the IPC management team.

Para Sailing was removed from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Sports Programme in January 2015 for failing to meet worldwide reach criteria and were one country short. However, there were also issues with its governance, as it was being run by a Committee within World Sailing. Those shortcomings were addressed with Para Sailing coming under a more independent voice and structure but still embraced by World Sailing.

In its statement, World Sailing notes that the IPC Handbook states, "For Paralympic Games, Only individual sports and disciplines widely and regularly practised in a minimum of thirty-two (32) countries and three (3) IPC regions may be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games."

[The 2017 Worlds were sailed as part of Kiel Week with three classes - all singlehanders - being used. 36 countries were represented with 78 parasailors competing in three classes (26 of those countries competed in the 2.4mtr single handed keelboat). The 2018 Worlds start on Sunday and will sail four classes - being the same three used in 2017 plus a new two-person keelboat.]

In their written statement World Sailing claim "Para World Sailing has had a period of accelerated growth through initiatives such as the Paralympic Development Programme (PDP) that culminated in more than 80 sailors from 37 nations and five continents racing across three events at the 2017 Para World Sailing Championships.

"Paralympic Development Programme clinics have ensured continued development of Para World Sailing on all continents and continue to help increase participants' knowledge and understanding of the sport.

"At the 2018 Para World Sailing Championships, which will be held in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA from 16-22 September, a record 101 sailors from 42 nations have registered to race across four events. A PDP clinic is currently being held ahead of the Championships with sailors from China, Indonesia, Latvia, Samoa, Thailand and Chinese Taipei all receiving World Sailing support."

"At the 2017 and 2018 World Championships, World Sailing demonstrated that it met and exceeded the worldwide reach criteria and worked in close partnership with Member National Authorities, Class Associations, Event Organisers and sailors to ensure the best possible application to the IPC."

"Further development of Para World Sailing has included the introduction of a representative in the Athletes' Commission. Jens Kroker was appointed earlier in the year. And at the next Sailing World Championships, set to be held in The Hague, The Netherlands in 2022, the Para World Sailing Championships will be integrated for the first time."

"Despite this enormous setback for the discipline, World Sailing will continue to support the sailors as well as grow and promote Para World Sailing globally," the statement from World Sailing concluded.

The full statement from IPC can be read here

For Inside the Games report click here

US Silver medal winning crew - Rick Doerr, Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund, Sonar Class, 2016 Paralympics. - photo © Will Ricketson / US Sailing Team <a target=home.ussailing.org/" />
US Silver medal winning crew - Rick Doerr, Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund, Sonar Class, 2016 Paralympics. - photo © Will Ricketson / US Sailing Team home.ussailing.org/

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