Sunday, May 20, 2012

Update on ISAF Decision

Over the last week, more and more issues have been brought to light about the way ISAF delegates voted in their historic decision to remove windsurfing from the 2016 Olympic Games in favor of kiteboarding.  More countries have challenged the way their delegates voted, and it shows that in fact, ISAF delegates did not thoroughly research their decisions.

Most notably, Canadian delegate Fiona Kidd voted for kiteboarding after listening to an impassioned speech by a kiteboarding representative shortly before the voting.  Ms. Kidd is a member of the ISAF Women's Forum.  The RS:X women have been communicating with her, and it is clear that she voted for kiteboarding based on "an opportunity to bring new women to the sport of sailing."  However, the reality for women in kiteboarding is currently very different.  Only 12 women competed in the 2011 World Championships in kiteboard course racing, a vast comparison to the 80 entries and 39 nations in the 2012 RS:X World Championships in Cadiz, Spain- and dozens more youth women not competing in the event, training there.  A letter from the RS:X women's class leader, Olga Maslivets, explains the statistics (apologies for the length):

"Dear Fiona

Thank you for forwarding your report.

Nevertheless there are serious issues to address as important decisions like this impact the lives of thousands of athletes, coaches, MNAs, their sponsors and companies involved in the whole sport


From my calculations over 30% of the votes cast ~ 6 ~ in favour of kite by council members were either made in error, confusion about the voting process, against the guidance given by their constituencies or after no consultation with those constituencies.

In addition a further 21% of votes cast - this time by ISAF Vice Presidents - were either against the interest of the geographical constituency that was instrumental in first nominating them and then voting for them and/or their MNAs have since distanced themselves from their actions either publicly or privately.

Some may argue that the ISAF VPs do not vote for any particular geographical grouping. To them I would ask whether the fact that there is one VP each from Asia, South America and North America with the Oceania being represented through the treasurer is just a coincidence or whether they are there to represent the geographical area from which they come ?

51% of the voting decisions for Kite were therefore based on the spur-of-the-moment or on personal preference without proper consideration of the impact of the outcomes either for kitesurfing or windsurfing.

Despite the large number of people claimed by the IKA to be engaged in kitesurfing worldwide, this only produced 12 women entries to the 2011 Kitesurfing course racing world championships from 10 nations of which only ONE voted for kite and the rest voted for windsurfing. There must be a message for ISAF in that statistic.

Additionally only 2 - one in the production division - of those women managed to complete all the races without letters in their scoreline

This compares to 80 women registered for the 2012 RS:X World Championships from 37 nations  and 5 continents with 16 of them competing for the last 7 qualification spots for London 2012.

In the meantime, please enjoy this video showing 1111 windsurfers taking part in the 2011 Defi-Wind at Le Gruissan in France.

This is just a small illustration of the shear size of the sport of windsurfing and the numbers taking part in racing in one form or another

Whilst kite obviously has potential, it is as yet unproven against the obvious success of the RS:X Women's Class who are second only to the Laser Radial in terms of numbers of athletes and country participation - 39 nations in the Olympic Q Series  -

It seems odd that you did not take this into account

ISAF liability
Whilst you seem happy to accept the bland assurances of the sport of kitesurfing becoming safer and dismiss any misgivings in one line of your report. National, Regional, City and local governments around the world have seen fit to either ban kitesurfing altogether or severely limit the geographical locations where it can be enjoyed

In Sydney Harbour, the venue for the 2000 Olympic Regatta kitesurfing is banned

In Singapore, the venue for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, kitesurfing in banned

In Cyprus, the venue for the 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds, kitesurfing is banned

On Lake Garda, Italy, the venue for the Italian leg of the EUROSAF Olympic Classes Regatta Circuit kitesurfing is banned

There are a lot more examples but these serve to illustrate my point

These restrictions are to protect other users of these waters from the risk of injury. In fact 122 kite surfers have been killed in the last 10 years. Other casualties are hard to verify but here are a few examples

Dangerous situations can occur despite proper training and safety precautions due to unpredictable conditions and difficulties with equipment.

Whilst I appreciate that you thought that you were acting in everyone's best interest, I would urge you and all our friends on the ISAF Women's Forum to do their own due diligence. The three points I have made should be enough to give you all proper reasons to reflect.

Meanwhile, here's what Paul Henderson has to say " Just an observation from a has-been ISAF President and IOC Member who first went to then IYRU in 1970 as a smart-ass Canuck. Never in all that time has a Council changed 40% of the classes in an Olympiad. This totally disrupts the sailors, which is the reason for the Games, not some unobtainable TV exposure. No other sport has ever done this. One event maybe, but 40%? I trust that the IOC Program Commission will ask ISAF to review all its decisions... including the keelboat exclusion"

Has ISAF made a balanced well thought through decision?

Warm Regards

PS. ISAF selected women's match racing then booted it out before its first Olympic Regatta. ISAF booted the multi-hull out and was subject to major criticism. Now it has done the same for windsurfing with a spur of the moment decision. Do you feel that the decision making process is producing consistently good decisions?

As the Canadian voting process is exposed, Americans are also starting to question the decisions of their own delegates, which account for three of the votes for kiteboarding.  Americans in ISAF have been voting against windsurfing for many, many years - since before I started campaigning.  However, since their votes have always gone unnoticed in the majority of nations' support of windsurfing, they have gone unchallenged.  Perhaps now is the best time to once again spotlight the questionable practices of US Sailing and the decision-making process that goes into their votes.   Nevin Sayre, promoter of the Bic Techno youth one-design windsurfer, writes in a letter to US Sailing:  "In a year when U.S. Sailing has expressed deep concern over the sudden uptick in tragic sailing deaths from Annapolis to San Francisco, what is U.S. Sailing’s safety plan here? Is U.S. Sailing aware that insurance companies, citing grave safety concerns, have refused to cover sailing programs which include kitesurfing......when instructional and competitive programs are developing young kitesurf racers, and safely channeling them toward their Olympic dreams, let’s go. We are clearly not there yet for 2016 Olympic Games."

On the North American front, it's clear that more thought needs to go into major decisions such as these.  It is a major step forward for Canada that their delegate is willing to do the research necessary to make an informed decision at the next vote.  However, it's not certain that our American politicians are willing to take into consideration the viewpoints of the actual sailors affected by their decisions.  We can only act to repair the flaws in the process of ISAF's voting.

Nevin's letter

NZ Herald article about Canadian voting

Another NZ Herald article interviewing Bruce Kendall

Jerusalem Post article

1 comment:

  1. ISAF and US Sailing are political organizations. As a result, for windsurfers to be heard, more windsurfers should organize themselves into clubs and become members of their national organizations. Period.
    Historically, windsurfing has offered this romantic ideal of freedom (launching from wherever your ground vehicle allows you to carry your gear). However, a push toward planing vs. subplaning gear has eliminated the larger group of windsurfers (the ones that were not ashamed to sail in light to no wind as you would do on a Laser).

    Windsurfing has maintained the initial attractiveness, but the industry has shifted away from it (it is cheaper to ship and store smaller size kites and kiteboards).

    Create clubs with on-the-water storage facilities and you will achieve three objectives: (a) create a network of fixed locations for learning how to windsurf, (b) expand the number of windsurfing population beyond the small adrenaline-addicted crowd (that is willing to drive 50-100 miles to follow the wind), and (c) create a mechanism for an organized social network that will have more weight in political decision (including Olympic sailing).