As ISAF looks forward into a New Year there appear major challenges which lay ahead.
Similar issues are faced during every four year cycle.
This will be a year of major ISAF delegate change. 2004 will see many of the familiar faces retire, including the President, and new sailors will be nominated to fill their places.
It is essential that that the leadership of ISAF have adequate representation from sailors who are in their 40s and 50s. The challenge to MNAs is to nominate dedicated sailors who are willing to serve and who will bring with them modern and relevant new viewpoints and who are closely associated with the needs of today's international sailors.
This is especially true for those who will be elected to the Executive Committee as several Vice-presidents have chosen to retire. ISAF has made a major step forward by ensuring that at least 2 women will be elected to the Executive and that 25% of the Council will also be women.
The latest debates have shown how important the Olympic Regatta is to the World of Sailing.
The decisions made on how the Olympic Regatta is run has a ripple effect into many areas of sailing. The Olympic Regatta is much more than just an event held every four years effecting only a few elite sailors.
There are two areas where ISAF must act this year. They are the technical aspects of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the selection of the equipment to be used in 2008.
ISAF has 114 MNA's of which over 100 are sailing nations who do not have the resources to meet the intensity and technology available to the sophisticated MNAs and the "win at all cost" mentality.
Olympic Classes are said to be for the most part "One-design". One-design should be interpreted as follows: "If it is not in the rules it is illegal". Needless to say this could be taken to ridiculous extremes but should be judicially enforced to ensure a "level playing field" for all competitors.
1. Athens 2004
ISAF has addressed many issues so as to endeavor to ensure an equal and fair playing field for all competitors:
- Intense measurement procedures never before enacted to ensure "One-Design" rules are met.
- Impounding of sails so as to ensure they can not been altered after measurement.
- Two high level independent Race Officers on each course.
- Limitation of electronic and other equipment on coach boats.
- Limitation of race course areas that coaches can access.
- Class familiar Int. Judges to adjudicate Rule 42 compliance.
- Addressing OCS procedures.
- Time Limit Scoring system.
ISAF will send measurement personnel to many of the last Olympic Qualifiers so as to indicate to the competitors and coaches what standards they can expect at the Olympic Games.
2. Future Olympic Equipment
ISAF Council at the November 2004 ISAF AGM must make a selection of the equipment which will be used in the 11 events for 2008 in Qingdao. This is always a very controversial and agonizing decision.
The Olympic Games equipment and regulations should err on the side of "talent" not "technology".
ISAF Council should consider that 5 of the 11 events have supplied equipment as ISAF now does for the Laser. It is not just the cost at the Olympic Games that this suggestion impacts but training events and Regional Games.
It is discouraging to see the escalation of cost of the Olympic equipment and the need for special, customized boats which makes it difficult and expensive to charter boats for even training regattas. Supplied, standard equipment should be considered for at least 5 events of the Games. Some of the costs may have to be the responsibility of ISAF.
The Laser concept has served the sport of sailing well and it epitomizes the true Olympic Spirit.
To select 5 of the 11 events where the equipment is not a major factor would be a major step forward in ensuring the health of competitive Sailing worldwide. It was the Finn which originally was the supplied equipment and the Europe in Savannah which could also be reintroduced if even for hulls only.
The 5 Events where the equipment could be supplied are as follows:
- Men and Women Windsurfing: (Provided acceptable equipment is proposed at the evaluation trials.)
- Men and Women Single-Handed: (ISAF has several classes which could be suitable for women.)
- Off-the-Beach Cat:
The Off-the-Beach Cat, like the Hobie 16 with spinnaker, is the most basic, well distributed, two person boat available and must be sailed as Kinetics are minimal. It could be Mixed Doubles which would send a message to all of sailing that men and women can and should be encouraged to sail together.
(In 1970 I alone voted for the Snipe as it had an excellent class organization and can be sailed by sailors of all sizes and shapes. I still believe that men and Women sailing together is very healthy for the promotion of sailing.)
2004 will be a challenging year and the above are the major issues and along with the usual other debates should keep the sailors and media active. It is only by putting the issues on the table for all to discuss that ISAF can meet the needs of what must be the sport with the broadest spectrum of activities which therefore produces diverse and passionate reactions.
Looking Forward to 2004!