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22 December 2004, 10:11 am
New Man At The Top - Part Two
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Göran Petersson

This interview with New ISAF President Göran Petterson reproduced with kind permission from follows on from part one yesterday. To read part one please follow the link below.

thedailysail: What would you like to achieve during your tenure?

Goran Petersson: We have to start looking more at developing sailing and to increase participation in areas where sailing is not that well known yet like South America, certain parts of Asia, etc. If you compare it to England, there the RYA has an excellent program of marketing and contact with young people to get them into sailing.

The other area is to increase the profile of sailing, so that it is more interesting to media, the average public and young people again. Get them attacted to sailing. We will have to look at the format of sailing. What happens if you had a 100m if you could have a drop-off result. You could say 'no, I'm not running in the finals because I ran so fast in the semi-finals'. That type of thing. So we have to look at the format and the scoring system. I don't think we could have five different scoring systems. But things which will make life easier for people like yourself, more attractive - the last race is the winning race that is an example of what we must look at.

tds: Are we talking about the Olympics or racing generally?

GP: No we are talking about racing generally. What is being done in the Olympics and the Olympic qualifications is a kind of an example. I don't intend to tell other classes how they should race in their world championships, but whatever we may come up with - we are working on that - will be tried in our own events - the ISAF World Championships, the Sailing Games and the Olympics and the qualifications

tds: Are you planning to have more of the multiple-class world championships like Cadiz?

GP: That is one of the things we have to look at. I think it is a clear possibility that we should do that more often. We can't do that right now. The next is 2007. But we are looking into all our events. If you have 250 World Championships in sailing, you have to have pinnacle events and we have Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup, and we need some of these events too. So perhaps a circuit of Olympic classes.

tds: Are there any specific issues you would like to see addressed in your four years?

GP: We have different areas. We will have to look into the qualifications for the Olympic Games. As that is done mostly at the ISAF World Championships we will have to look at the qualifications for those championships. The idea has come up that the Asians and South Americans especially have said 'it must be easier for us to come to the qualifications'. It is much easier to be European as most of the qualifications are done in Europe. If you are Chinese or Japanese or Brazilian you have to travel to Europe with your boat which is most expensive. So we have to do something about that. And at the same time we will have to increase the exchange of judges and umpires and technicians and all race officials to help the nations.

tds: Would that be financial assistance?

GP: We will have to do that too. Over the next four years we will have to train up more judges and umpires and make sure we have the right number and the right spread over the world and the right quality. That is on-going investment, that is our core business - rules and the judicial system - and that will take a big effort and financial support too.

tds: At the recent meetings there were two changes made to the Olympic classes. Are you happy with those?

GP: This is a difficult question because I think the Laser Radial went in instead of the Europe because of the spread and the cost for nations in South America and Asia to take part. The boat is less technically sophisticated than the Europe no doubt, but I think it had to do with support for areas where cost is very important and it will widen the participation in these areas.

tds: Is that important for all the classes or should there still be development classes?

GP: I think there should still be development classes. The IOC says very clearly that we should have the best sailors in the world. At the same time they say we must have a spread around the world as well and that is not necessarily the same thing. I don't think we can get away from development classes at all.

tds: So are we looking at the best sailors in the best boats or the best sailors in the most common boats?

GP: Talent should have priority before technical superiority. The Brits won't like that at all! They have been very successful two games in a row now. But I think that is fair to say we need to have the best sailors. If you look at Robert Scheidt, he is really a talented guy. And that's what we like. So the best sailors, but sailors from many nations.

tds: ISAF has this great association with the Olympics and the rules side is used across the board but your reach seems to not be as strong in offshore racing and inshore events like the America's Cup. Is that something you would like to address?

GP: I have been involved with America's Cup not so little. I haven't been involved in the last two America's Cups, but I was part of the Swedish team in 1977 and 1980 and I was working on the jury in 1983, 1987 and 1988 and 1992. I was the chairman of the jury when they first had umpiring in the America's Cup in 1992 in San Diego. So I have great interest and I have quite some experience in the America's Cup and I follow it closely. And the America's Cup is a very important event for us.

Offshore racing for me is a little bit more distant than those things, but people like David Kellett , George Andreadis, David Irish, they have a lot of experience and knowledge and they are responsible for offshore sailing. So we have to develop offshore sailing because it is a big part of the sailing community. If you think about all the cruising sailors...if we can make it simpler for them to take part in racing too, we can have a lot of people who can race without high cost. So we will have a look into that too.

tds: You say you want to help these things - how would that take place?

GP: In offshore sailing it is a lot about measurement. We can try and development not systems or rules but methods, machines so that the measurement process will be quick and cheap and fair. We have already strengthened the technical department within ISAF to do this as a first step. We will have to do development work as well - electronic measurement for instance

tds: What about the America's Cup - will there be more involvement from ISAF?

GP: America's Cup is very important for us from several points of view. One is of course the media attraction, it is a pinnacle event. We are very keen to see this is looked upon as a very fair event and that the judges and umpires are being fair and impartial without question. So we are very happy to co-operate with the organisers of the America's Cup especially on these things

tds: Your involvement with these events is with the rules and jury - will your involvement increase. At one point ISAF was looking at the rights of sailing events?

GP: The general thing you have to be careful about in terms of media rights for sports events is that we have learned from other international federations is that the media rights should come for protection from the international federation to the organisers. Of course sometimes the organisers mis-understand that and think we have taken it away first and then given it gracefully to them. We do this because we want to protect their rights. We don't have an aim to take any rights. We will develop our rights with our own events.

tds: there is a team at ISAF to do this?

GP: We will try to improve our services in this field. I have already started this work. It is our legal arm that will deal with these rights and risk management and these will be more important in the future. We can help the classes and organisers with general solutions about this.

tds: What about the full calendar - is there anything you can do to rationalise that? There are too many events, conflicts and there is no central body to say who can do what.

GP: This is a very important issue. We have started discussions with the organisers of the big events about this, but it is a difficult issue because there are no precidents at all that we can tell them when or when not to have events. But we will put big effort into trying to make it good for them and good for the sailors. Overlaps are not very good at all for media and sponsors. But I can't tell you now what we are going to do about it, because I don't know yet.

tds: Do you still sail yourself?

GP: I am a Dragon sailor. I have had a Dragon for 30 years. I sail that on the west coast of Sweden. And I am also a cruising sailor. I have always had a cruising boat. I have a Hallberg Rassy 36 at the moment. I have been a 505 sailor for 12 years in the 1960s and 70s. I am a dinghy sailor. I will keep sailing. I love it.

tds: Do you have a chance to race your Dragon

GP: I didn't last summer. But I plan to last summer. I missed the 75th anniversary, but that was the worst time if you look at my programme.

tds: Why did you want to become president?

GP: I have seen a lot of sailing and ISAF work for a long time and it is a very interesting challenge for a sailor and a fantastic opportunity to do something for sailing and to have your own interesting experiences to meet new people. You need a challenge now and then. I thought it was an outstanding challenge so when the opportunity came I thought I would take it, because it would not come later.

tds: ISAF is a large and complex organsation. Would you like to see any changes in its structure?

GP: I can't change it because it is set for four years. Along the lines we have to be thinking is that if you look at the world it is more and more difficult to get qualified volunteers. So we must take more work across to the professional staff, especially technical and other service things and help with advice. What I want to achieve is that there is a lot of first class top knowledge within ISAF, within the professional staff. There should be top knowledge in all areas where we are operating. There are areas we must strengthen because it is more and more difficult to get people to do it for nothing. I am always asking myself why I am doing this for nothing! But the pay is meeting interesting people and the experiences and challenge.

tds: Are you looking for other revenue from ISAF?

GP: Of course we have to look into that. One of the interesting areas is the professional market area. We will deal with that as a priority area too, but as you can see there are a lot of priority areas. This is an important aspect to get other revenue sources, so that we have a good spread.

tds: What sources?

GP: You can imagine... If ISAF is the world organisation you have to approach people or companies with a worldwide trademark. It is always a competition. If you organise an event in some countries you can have a clash with local companies. But ISAF would be very happy to have a few good worldwide sponsors.

tds: Is there any precedent for this?

GP: We had Land Rover 12 years ago for the Nations Cup which was worldwide. We have sponsors right now for certain products. But we can take a few more.

tds: How can you help professional sailors?

GP: We have to be as professional [as they are] for two reasons - to match them and to service them. We must help them develop. We can't say we don't want them. We must have them under our wing and we have to make it more interesting for them. We can increase the number of events and the profile of the events. There are not enough profile events that will interest the professionals so that they can make a good living. That is more difficult and will take longer. That is another type of knowledge and experience than developing sailing itself.

tds: There have been a few instances where ISAF have endorsed events. Would that be a good system. Volvo for example gets upset when someone else comes along with another round the world race

GP: That is one of the difficult issues. We are aware of this. How do you say 'no' to someone else. That has to be looked into very carefully. But we are fully aware of the situation. And the reasons why they have that opinion. They must protect their investment.

tds: Are there any other points you'd like to make?

GP: I think it is important that we get more sailors and more attention and more co-operation with everybody. I welcome suggestions ideas whatever that could improve sailing. One way would be to read your site…I read all the important magazines. We should strive for a good service-minded relation to the media.

tds: Thank you

James Boyd
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