As I come to the end of my first year editing the daily news for ISAF, the one question that rings loud in my ears is why is it so hard to find out what is happening in the sailing world?
A strange question you might think for one charged with distributing the news to others. Believe me I try to get all the results from all the major regattas, but all too often it is as easy and as pleasurable as pulling teeth.
During the course of the last year I have had to rely on competitors to supply results and reports in a timely manner from almost exactly half the Olympic classes World and Continental championships. Unbelievable! Despite considerable efforts to promote the need to send results to ISAF, it has become quite clear that the majority of event organisers are simply not up to the task. On the flip side, those who do provide a good results and report service generally do a very good job, proving just what cane be done if people want to. Thank you to the good guys.
I know I am not alone in making these criticisms and many other editors I speak to (in both traditional- and e-media) are equally frustrated. Sailing as a sport will not even hold its own in the world, still less develop, without solid, regular, high quality reporting. It is perhaps no coincidence that the class that lost out in last November's battle for Olympic status was one of those with the worst publicity record.
Here then is a somewhat controversial suggestion on how we might make some progress. The power of ISAF's new and very sophisticated website should be put at the disposal of the international classes as the prime information distribution medium. ISAF rather than the classes should become responsible for ensuring that the information required to promote the major championships is produced. In short, the role of the press officer for major international events
should be the responsibility of ISAF and not the class.
There is no doubt that developments on the ISAF website will make the site once again the number one hub of sailboat racing activity on the web. What International Class would not want to become a bigger part of that? The simple answer of course is one that did not want to pay for it. Putting a press officer on the ground for each and every major international event will not be cheap. In order to do the job properly, somebody is going to have to put up the cash. It seems to me that if ISAF is genuinely offering a significantly enhanced service to the international classes then they can reasonably charge a higher class-affiliation fee.
Even as I write this I can hear the howls of protest from many International classes. The smaller and less well-organised classes will all cry in unison, "We can't afford that". The real question is, can they afford not to? Quite simply, if a class does not have sufficient resources to organise decent media coverage can it really justify maintaining its ISAF Status?