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6 November 2009, 11:30 am
From Busan: Ben Barger On The Athletes' Commission
Ben Barger
Ben Barger, chairman of ISAF's Athletes' Commission

ISAF Annual Conference 2009
Busan, Korea

Ben Barger, chairman of the Athletes' Commission, gives us his views from Busan.
The ISAF Athletes' Commission is made up of and elected by active sailors. The 10 members represent each of the Olympic sailing events and serve a four-year term. After elections held earlier this year, the new Commission members for 2009-2013 were decided in June, with RS:X windsurfer Ben Barger (USA) chosen as new chairman. Today in Busan, we caught up with Barger, who as Athletes' Commission chair, is also a member of the Olympic Commission.

Can you bring us up to speed with the work of the Athletes' Commission this year and your time in Korea so far.

The Olympic Commission is really just getting started with some of its analysis but it's bringing up some really good points with what the IOC is looking for with its requirements and its interests as an Olympic sport. We're trying to fit those things with a strategy that can change the sailing sport to fit in with a long term benefit there. I think Phil Jones has done a great job in making a strategic Commission which really focuses on the long term. That fits along with what the Athletes' Commission wants; it's something that benefits the sport and our investment in the future of it.

My report to the Executive today I think went well. They were very receptive with World Cup interests, they were very interested in what we thought of the importance of a World Championships compared to a World Cup event and how to get more participation overall.

The ISAF Athletes' Commission members
The ISAF Athletes' Commission members...
Back row (l-r): Rasmus Myrgren (SWE), Dan Slater (NZL), Peter Kruger Andersen (DEN), Ben Barger (USA), Malcolm Page (AUS)
Front row (l-r): Claire Leroy (FRA), Marcelien De Koning (NED), Laura Baldwin (AUS), Mark Reynolds (USA)

The Athletes' Commission has been very warmly welcomed so far at this meeting and hopefully we'll be able to bridge more of those athlete/ISAF gaps in the future.

As a sailor how does it feel coming to this kind of Conference?

It's definitely different. As an athlete you're used to doing things quickly and fast and being in control of most of your business. When it comes to politics and the management of things it's obviously at a different pace and a different way of looking at things. I think, and I said this to the Executive earlier, the athletes are the ones that are still salty, we're still racing actively. Most of these [Committee] members and management teams have been competitors just like myself, but they're a few days more into their management side compared to me. It's fun bridging that gap, but it does take time to relax and realise it takes time for things to change, but some changes are being made so that's good.

You mentioned the World Cup. What other areas have the Athletes' Commission been focussing on this year?

A lot of the things are like congruency and making sure that each event has consistency between race management, between wind minimums and maximums, formats, location of courses... Then there's some of branding as well, trying to get a marketing message that's consistent, that caters well to media and the aspects that we're looking for for more profitability.

On the ISAF Meetings microsite at 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.

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