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17 Nov 2013
Sail-World New Zealand: November 17, 2013 - Bold moves from the ISAF
The annual conference of the International Sail Federation has concluded, with some interesting moves being made, which will have impact from junior sailors through to Olympic.
In a series of moves the international body opted to start work reshaping the ISAF World Cup, for the Olympic classes. The series has enjoyed limited success, but has not taken off the way in which it as intended.
The event will be shrunk to just four World Cup Events – venues to be determined by the ISAF. There will be a fifth World Cup event – each Class World Championship – as happens now, and then there will be a Grand Final – again with the venue to be determined by ISAF. The first will be in Valencia, Spain, in 2014.
At this stage the proposal seems to be that the World Cup events will be by invitation only to the top 25 sailors in the World, and competition will be along the lines of a Tour Card, which will be won/awarded and retained for the year.
There are several reason for the change, but the most significant is to lift the profile of sailing, and get more exposure for the Olympic side of the sport outside the Olympic Regatta
As new ISAF President Carlo Croce (ITA) described it - the ISAF's exposure currently consists of a series of four yearly spikes, and accompanying revenue spikes. The new circuit is intended to rectify that imbalance and provide the sport with a solid income source during the period between Olympics.
The issue is not new, and has been long recognized by ISAF. What was interesting from the discussion at the two-day ISAF Council Meeting, was that the world body had tried to cut a deal with sailing promoter, Mark Turner of OC Events, who runs several very successful sailing events and programs.
As Croce put it 'neither of us wanted to risk our wallets' on the deal and it didn't fly. But it was refreshing to hear that the ISAF was prepared to have a crack at this type of deal, rather than take the usual approach of just leveraging off existing regattas and getting nowhere.
The ISAF Council meeting was live-streamed on the interweb, and provided a rare insight into how the world body operates. There wasn't a lot of argument between the Council members – the spade work had obviously been done off camera. Voting was either by a large majority on each of the Submissions, or unanimous.
Throughout the two day session it was clear that the Athletes Commission was having a lot of say, and they were being listened to by the ISAF Council.
Chairman and Double Olympic Gold Medalist, Malcom Page (AUS) spoke very simply and directly to the meeting on many points. He made it very clear the way the sailors felt and he was listened to by the meeting – do did not go against the Athletes Commission's views.
The process of aligning the ISAF Youth World with the Olympic classes continued, and to provide even more certainty the classes for the 2020 Olympics in Japan, were locked on those which will be used in 2016 in Rio.
To further align the classes a second 29er event was added, which will mean that there is now a Boys Skiff event, along with a Girls Skiff event.
Harking to back to the launch of the six RS Fevas, at Wakatere Boating Club last weekend, in the skiff classes, in New Zealand at least, there is now a clear three boat progression from the Feva to the Olympic Youth skiff to the Olympic 49er or FX for Women.
For a parent who knows nothing about sailing, and with a child wanting to get into the sport, it is one thing to have a class progression in a diagram, it is much easier to see it sailing on the water. And the concept is particularly attractive if there is not a major initial capital investment to get that first boat.
The Skiffs now have the simplest three step class progression, whether this is possible to extend to the other Olympic events remains to be seen, but the concept is very compelling in the flesh, and can really only get and retain more sailors into the sport.
There is a lot more water to go under the ISAF bridge on these strategies, not the least of which will be the development of a business plan to make sure the whole gig works as intended. What the ISAF are intending to do is not for the faint-hearted - and the sailing world will watch with interest.
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