The second day of the ISAF Annual Conference in Busan, Korea brought together the Commissions of the International Sailing Federation to report on their activities for the past year and advise on their particular areas of expertise.
As opposed to the ISAF Committees, who deal principally with policy and strategy over a particular area of the sport, the Commissions have a far narrower focus, providing the ISAF Executive with recommendations relating to the specific areas of their expertise.
There are currently eight Commissions, five of which met in Busan today: the Coaches Commission, International Regulations Commission, Medical Commission, Multihull Commission and Olympic Commission. The Athletes' Commission, Sailor Classification Commission and Training Commission all held their meetings earlier this year at the ISAF Secretariat and have sent representatives to report to the Executive this week.
The Commissions directly advise the Executive Committee, and over the course of this afternoon and tomorrow morning each of the Commissions will make their report to the Executive. These reports then inform the recommendations the Executive will pass on to the other ISAF Committees and ultimately to the ISAF Council itself.
The ISAF Multihull Commission is one of the newest ISAF Commissions. It was formed last year after the Multihull event was dropped from the Olympic programme for London 2012, to ensure the multihull community continue to have a clear voice in ISAF. There are eight members of the Commission, including two-time Olympic bronze medallist Santiago Lange (ARG) and 1998 ISAF World Sailor of the Year Award winner Carolijn Brouwer (BEL).
Commission chairman Paul Pascoe gave an overview of today's meeting: "There were three main areas of strategy we looked at: how to get [the multihull event] back in the Olympic Games for 2016; making sure the multihull stays in the ISAF Youth Worlds; and alternative pinnacle events for multihulls if we don't have the Olympic Games."
The International Regulations Commission is a good example of a Commission which carries out very specialized work in the background. The Commission advises the Executive on governmental regulation which affects the sport, and plays a key role in ensuring the sport's and sailor's interests are represented when all sorts of national and international issues are addressed.
"What we're always trying to do is keep a look out for possible legislation or regulation and if it's possible to steer that regulation into a user-friendly position," explains Commission chairman Alan Green. "Or if we can persuades the proposers of it to make it [the proposed Regulation] into guidelines and therefore make it voluntary rather than mandatory."
The work of the Commission is diverse; over the past 12 months areas covered have included piracy, the environment and collision regulations. Green gives an example from this year: "With the environment, which is an increasingly important part of the work of the International Martine Organization, we have already negotiated a special waiver regarding the regulation they produced on ballast water. So for boats like the Volvos etc, which use ballast water, albeit in minute quantities compared to that used by ships, we've got a voluntary set of guidelines which counts as an equivalent compliance.
"We're always trying to remove the leisure sailor from the hassle of having to comply with lots of bureaucracy but at the same time we have to encourage a responsible attitude. We're not saying let us off, let us do what we like. What we're saying is we're responsible and we will behave responsibly, you don't have to make it a rule and send the police round every time."
Following the Commission meetings today, this year's Annual Conference will get into full swing tomorrow with the first of the major Committee meetings bringing together the ISAF Classes Committee (the Olympic Classes Sub-committee met today). Over the following four days the other 12 ISAF Committees will meet leading up to the culmination of the Conference, three days of ISAF Council meetings from 12-14 November.
The main source of debate will be the 130+ Submissions for this year's Conference: nine deferred from last year and 126 new ones received in 2009 (although 57 of these relate specifically to The Racing Rules of Sailing). A key Submission affecting many sailors worldwide is Submission 019-09, a proposal to eliminate Group 2 from the ISAF Sailor Classification Code. This proposal follows a consultation process with user classes and events carried out by the Classification Commission, and aims to make the Code easier to understand for sailors and implement for classes and events.
Submission 037-09 on the ISAF Regulations is another proposal which could have a significant impact for sailors. The proposal of this Submission is to re-arrange the current ISAF Regulations, separating out the areas relating to ISAF's management, from those relating to sailors, events and rules, race officials. Philip Tolhurst (GBR), chairman of the Constitution Committee, says this is a key step in making the Regulations more accessible and more user-friendly, "Over the years, a lot of Regulations have been changed and we finished up with two things happening. One is that the logical order of them is no longer right and the second is that when one Regulation gets changed as a result of that it's much harder to pick up a necessary consequential change elsewhere," he explains.
"By re-ordering things and getting everything in a more logical order, so that for example, everything to do with membership is in one place, it will make it much easier for someone to read the Regulations and understand what they mean without having to cross reference to several other areas of the Regulations.
"Moving forwards, some parts of the Regulations have very little relevance to the sailor, so why would they want to read through all that to find the bit they do need to read. So hopefully, where we've grouped things that are particularly relevant to the sailor, like the Advertising Code and the Anti-Doping Code, for the sailor they know they need go to one place in the Regs to find all the information they need to know about."
On Olympic event and equipment selection, Submission 084-09 proposes the early selection of the Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser and Women's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial events for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Outside of the Submissions process other issues up for debate and ultimately decision are the venue for the 2013 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship (Cyprus, Portugal and Sweden are all bidding) and the 2011 ISAF Nations Cup (China, Korea, Spain, the USA and India are all bidding for the Grand Final).
On the ISAF Meetings microsite at www.sailing.org/meetings you can find more details on the 2009 Annual Conference. There's also a simple guide to ISAF's decision-making process and a full database of past meeting papers.