2016 Olympics: ISAF Council rebuff Executive on Olympic class choice

The Star will make its last appearance in the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth - ending an Olympic involvement which started in 1932

The International Sailing Federation Council has started the Final Day of its Mid-Year Meeting in St Petersburg, Russia.

While temperatures outside the venue, the salubriously named Winter Garden and Ballroom of the Hotel Astoria, was a modest 13 degrees, inside the temperatures and stress levels were a lot higher.

The opening business was a debate and vote on the Events to be sailed in the 2016 Olympic Regatta.

After the ISAF's Events Committee had pitched a schedule of Events for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which dropped both Keelboat events, the ISAF's Executive Committee's retort was to reject that slate and instead support one that did have both Keelboats in it, but amazingly dropped both the HP Skiff events.

In the end despite having an initial list of seven submissions to consider, the voting was expected to drop down to a choice between just two - http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/M10112016OlympicSailingCompetitionEventsandEquipment-%5B10409%5D.pdf!Submission_10 and http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/M39112016OlympicSailingEventsandEquipment-%5B10351%5D.pdf!Submission_39

The former was a joint submission led by Japan Sailing Federation which was close to the Events Committee thinking. Others named in the submission were: Romanian Yachting Federation, Chinese Yachting Association, Yachting Association of India, Russian Yachting Federation, Portuguese Sailing Federation, Sailing Federation of Ukraine, Hungarian Yachting Association, and the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation. Several other countries had similar submissions in for consideration, and in the end those countries put their voting weight behind Submission 10 - as being the closest to their objectives.

The latter was the Five Discipline proposition - where each of the five major sailing disciplines should be equally represented - a proposal that has been rattling around for a couple of years and originally proposed by FFV (France). That was put forward, this time, by the Royal Dutch Sailing Federation.

There seemed to be little support from the floor of the the Executive Committee's favourite of the previous day - and they were clearly out of tune with their membership.

A long line of speakers restated many long held and predictable views, before the voting began.

2010 Hyeres World Cup winners Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith (49er). - Semaine Olympique Française
© Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR

The system followed was that any submission which didn't attract any votes, plus the lowest placed one is dropped, and the first submission to reach 50% of the votes carries the day.

In the end it was all over in just one vote with the Submission 10 carrying the day, just getting the required 50% (19 votes) on the first round - a very unusual occurrence, maybe reflecting the strength of the disaffection with the ISAF Executive Committee.

The Events will be:

Kiteboard/Windsurfer - Men and Women (subject to Evaluation)
One Person Dinghy - Men and Women (Laser and Laser Radial)
Second One Person Dinghy - Men (Finn)
Skiff - Men and Women (49er and an Evaluation Trial for the Women's boat)
Two person dinghy (spinnaker) - Men and Women (470)
Two-person Multihull (Mixed - to be selected from and Evaluation Trial)

Both Keelboat events for Men and Women have been dropped.

The http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/M10112016OlympicSailingCompetitionEventsandEquipment-%5B10409%5D.pdf!Submission_10 gained 19 of the 38 votes in the first round and squeaked over the 50% bar. Second most popular was the option favoured by the Executive Committee, http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/M29112016OlympicSailingCompetitionEventsandEquipment-%5B10374%5D.pdf!Submission_29 which attracted just nine votes, and the http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/M39112016OlympicSailingEventsandEquipment-%5B10351%5D.pdf!Five_Discipline option put forward by the Netherlands, received five votes.

The other submissions received at most two votes each. One could argue that the voting was close by totaling all the votes that submissions with Keelboats received. But there were other differences in the Events slates, and had the voting gone for two or more rounds, the Submission 10 had a big head start on the others - and the Councillors as individuals love to be seen to have voted for a 'winning' submission. That being so, many would have jumped on the Submission 10 bandwagon in a second and subsequent votes. So it wasn't even close.

Details of who voted for what, were kept confidential by the ISAF after the November 2007 vote details were released, and several Councillors were seen to have voted against the best interests of their national authority.

The outcome of the vote was both a big defeat for the Executive Committee who showed themselves to be out of tune with the ISAF Council, who aren't noted, on the basis of past performance, for being the most rational thinkers.

Although the Olympic Commission, although disbanded, still had sterling work done by its members during the meeting. In the end the Executive Committee had misread the mood for change, and its move against the work done over two years by its Olympic Commission had many aghast.

The outcome of this power struggle could have an impact on the election of the next President of the world body. The credibility of individual members of the Executive Committee will have taken a hit, making the way easier for an outsider, committed to a process of reforming the sport, that much easier to garner electoral support. In time, the Mid Year Meeting conducted in the City which saw the start of the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace, could be seen as a similar political landmark in the history of the ISAF.

Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page at 2010 470 World Championships.
© Victor Kovalenko

Several post-Olympic reviews from the International Olympic Committee have called for the dropping of keelboats from the Olympics, and the outcome is in some ways not surprising. What is significant is that the ISAF's own Executive Committee would effectively come out against its own Olympic Commission, when the time came to ram homes its recommendations. The Executive Committee also put itself at odds with IOC recommendations.

The Star class has twice before been dropped from the Olympics. On the first occasion, its replacement, the Tempest lasted just two Olympics before the class, which dates back 1911, made it back into the Olympic regatta.

On the second occasion, its demise was only temporary as the class old boy network was able to obtain an 11th medal for itself, as a temporary measure, and then survived the cut to 10 Olympic events.

Few would discount this happening again with Brazil hosting the 2016 Olympics and also being the most successful nation in Star class competition in recent years.

In the end, this vote also determined a major change in the Olympic regatta, and sport. The day will be remembered as the moment when the self-interest and old-boy politics took a body blow in the ISAF, and the Council revolt will extend beyond the 7th day of May 2011.