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26 January 2004, 11:02 am
Women in Sailing
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The President Speaks

Let us address the history of Women in Sailing especially in the ISAF domain, which makes the case why ISAF must decree the involvement of women and not wait for the `Old Buoys' to get around to it!
ISAF (IYRU) was founded in 1907 and was part of the 1908 Olympics with the 12, 8, 7 and 6 Metre Classes. 76 years later at the 1984 LA Olympics there were still no women's events. There were two or three women sailing in Los Angeles, such as Cathy FOSTER (GBR), who won a 470 race and Inge Trine ELVSTROM (DEN). ISAF also got a demonstration event for Women's Windsurfing.

The same arguments were put up then as now against decreeing (using a blunt instrument and making mandatory) for separate Women's participation: "If they are good enough, let them win on merit against the men!" rang through the halls of ISAF. ISAF did not listen to the traditionalists and showing international leadership worked with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for separate Women's Events plus continuing the so-called Open Events.

The number of Women in the Open Events has been only one or two per Olympics in total. None in the Open Classes, Star, 49er, Tornado and Laser, in Cadiz. The Finn is a men's event

By the 1996 Olympic Games in Savannah, the women's sailing entries were the lowest of any dual gender sport at the Games having only got to 19%. ISAF has shown great leadership and ensured a minimum of 140 women athletes or 35% of the 400 by introducing a fourth event for women, the women's keelboat Event in Athens, giving women four events out of the eleven.

For a decade the French tried to get an ISAF Women's Committee but it was turned down until the mid 1980's. As far as the ISAF Council was concerned no nation sent any women to the ISAF Council including the USA (US Sailing) and GBR (Royal Yachting Association) who had two delegates plus a Vice-President, who were all men. This was until Bobby SYMONETTE from the Bahamas appointed Teresa LARA from Venezuela in the early 1990's as his alternate on Council, representing Group O (North South America, Central America and the Caribbean). It took over 80 years to get just 1 alternate.

There had not been one women elected or even nominated to the ISAF Executive Committee. In 2000 ISAF decreed that one of the 7 ISAF Vice-Presidents must be a woman. ISAF Council has 40 delegates (43 including the treasurer and Presidents of Honour). In 1996 ISAF demanded that there be a position on Council allotted to a women to make sure they were represented and that position stands until women are 25% of ISAF Council. There are now 4 women or 10% after almost 100 years, only 3 of 39 appointed by national authorities. ISAF has decreed starting in 2004 that two of the 7 ISAF Vice-Presidents must be women and 20% of the Council or 8 of 40.

I was elected President in 1994, leaving this November (about time do I hear), and if I have accomplished nothing else I am most proud of promoting the participation of women in sailing and as active and respected members of ISAF. I trust that it will be not be remembered how or who or even why it was done but that the result was what was required for the promotion and health of Sailing.

I trust it was accomplished without losing my sense of humour.

Paul Henderson
President ISAF

Note: For other `The President Speaks' articles, and articles with specific reference to Paul Henderson CLICK HERE
Paul Henderson
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