ISAF saved from chaos, when it all came down to a single vote

Leaderless - what ISAF would have looked like today with most of the VP’s on the helm
Extracts from Andy Rice’s latest Sailjuice expose. ' It all came down to one vote. In a tense face-off around the ISAF Council table, the 37 members voted in favour of keeping skiffs on the Olympic sailing roster, at the expense of the keelboats.'

It is alleged that the seven vice-presidents of ISAF Executive Committee had agreed to block vote in favour of the keelboats. But I’ve been told that Teresa Lara, the Venezuelan VP, broke ranks with her colleagues and voted in line with the recommendations of the Events Committee, ie the skiffs.

If this is the case, then praise be to Teresa Lara for having the political courage to go with her own convictions, and not be swayed by the last-minute ‘volte face’ of her VP colleagues.

The past four years - the fallout from the multihull’s exclusion, the subsequent formation of the Olympic Commission, the proposal tabled at last November’s ISAF meeting - have all been about a forging a new direction for Olympic sailing. Keelboats - or more specifically the Star - were struggling to justify their place in that new vision.

So, while today’s announcement offers plenty of reasons to be cheerful, we also know that the leadership of ISAF have learned absolutely nothing from the debacle of Cascais 2007. The past four years of hard work by the sub-committees of ISAF came perilously close to being unravelled by three crazy days in St Petersburg.

If the top table of ISAF had succeeded in pushing through their regressive agenda, they would have been looking at a re-run of the kind of vitriol and abuse that they suffered at the hands of the multihull enthusiasts after Cascais. At least they have been spared that fate, thanks to Teresa Lara’s intervention.

However, their 11th-hour decision to try to de-rail the process of modernising the Olympic regatta has left most observers absolutely baffled, and wondering just how much more out of touch with modern thinking an ISAF Executive Committee could be. The vice presidents depart St Petersburg with their credibility damaged, with any hopes of succeeding Goran Petersson as the president considerably diminished.

As the treasurer, David Kellett was present in St Petersburg but not permitted to vote. Perhaps the Australian was thanking his lucky stars he didn’t have to embroil himself directly in the political fighting. That said, I heard he spoke eloquently and strengthened his position as the frontrunner to take over the top job when Petersson leaves. Kellett is generally thought to be a safe pair of hands, but let’s hope he doesn’t confuse that term with the idea that a president can sit on his hands and not participate in the debate. After today’s high drama, perhaps Teresa Lara has shown that she has the strength of character for the presidency.

ISAF has suffered from a lack of strong leadership these past years, and it’s up to the next president to put that right. At least with today’s decision, there is a mandate for continued progress and modernisation of the Olympic sailing format. Today was a good result, yet there is so much more that can be done.

You can read Andy’s complete article here