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10 July 2007, 05:00 pm
Man At The Top
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ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

With over 1,300 sailors from 76 nations competing in Cascais, Portugal, the ISAF Sailing World Championships is ISAF's biggest-ever event. The success of the Championship is the result of years of preparation and a massive team effort - one man overseas it all… but just who is he?
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Cascais Photo Galleries

As well as the sheer volume of sailors and boats, there are also hundreds of volunteers, race officials, sponsors and media as well as the organizing committee, who themselves number over one hundred members. Of course, each area of the Championships has a dedicated team and the organizing committee in Cascais have been working to realize their vision of the Championships ever since their winning bid was announced in August 2004. However, even before then, countless hours have been put in behind the scenes to ensure the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships is remembered as a highlight of ISAF Centenary year.

The man tasked with overseeing the entire Championships is the ISAF Technical Delegate in Cascais, Jerome PELS. Ultimately it is his job to ensure the success and integrity of the Championships. He explains, 'My main task is that the competition is fair and that the competition is according to the targets and the goals and the way the ISAF Committees and Council has decided how to run the event.'

For PELS, the actual 11 days when the racing takes place are in fact a tiny fraction of the time he has dedicated to the event, 'Most of the work towards the event actually happens before the event,' he says.

Men's 470
Women's 470
Laser Radial
Men's RS:X
Women's RS:X

First Step

His first step is to prepare the bid document to outline the scale of the event and ISAF's expectations to the cities bidding to host the Championships. He is then involved in the bidding process, and the final selection, which is made by the ISAF Executive Committee.

At the Opening Ceremony
© PTVela2007/JFF

From that point on, the focus is fully on making sure everything is in place for the smooth running of the Championships.

'When the bid is finally accepted, I talk to the organizing committee and make a contract on how we want to stage the event,' he explains. 'Then basically for three years in advance I work with the organizers to give them advice and approve the various stages of the development of the preparations, until you finally get to the event.'

Once the Championships finally gets underway, PELS plays more off a hands off role. If the preparations are all in place, then, barring anything out of the ordinary, his role is much more in the background, 'At the event itself, basically everybody has there own job,' he says. 'From my point of view, everything that ISAF needs to approve or ISAF needs to have control over goes through me.' This essentially equates to rule changes or changes to the sailing instructions, on which he must sign off.

Day In The Life

A typical day for the technical delegate starts with a meeting with all the sectors of the race organization where any issues or potential problems are discussed. This is followed by the team leaders meeting, in which any changes to the sailing instructions or rules are explained, and teams have the opportunity to give feedback, voice concerns etc.

The focus then moves to the racing itself. He works with the team in the race office to manage what is going on out on the racing areas. Dealing with such a capricious partner as the weather, this becomes a complex system of scheduling, especially with such a large event as Cascais.

As a consultant to the Race Committee, Henri VAN DER AAT works closely with the Technical Delegate to manage the race schedule. VAN DER AAT stresses the need to be working together as a unit, 'I think the most important thing is with an event like this is that you need to form a team,' he said.

This is an area where PELS also has plenty of praise for the people behind the event, 'The organization is professional,' he says. 'It's such a good team, there's a good atmosphere and I think there's a very close co-operation between ISAF and the race organizers.'

Team Spirit

Discussing the issues with Henri VAN DER AAT
This team spirit is the result of years of hard work to ensure the channels of communication remain open at all times. As the Technical Delegate, PELS has to ensure the whole team is working well, something he manages with a hands-off approach. As VAN DER AAT explains, 'One of his strengths is he's very good at delegating.'

For PELS, the Championships so far have been a great success, sentiment echoed around the marina. He believes a major reason for this success is the venue, and that everything takes place in a single location. Not only does this make things easier from an organizational point of view, but it also provides maximum impact for the Championships and the sport itself. 'It all works from the same office and the same direction,' he says. 'The look and feel of the championship is much bigger because everything is in one place and everybody really realises this is a massive event.'

And the job does not stop with the 2007 Worlds. PELS is already starting to think ahead to 2011, with the eight bidding cities for the next Championships all in Cascais. 'They are asked not to campaign for their championship, but to take the opportunity to look around and collect information in order for them to prepare their bids as best as possible,' PELS explains. 'You can make a paper on what is expected from them, but it is nothing like seeing the real thing. They can really understand the scale of the event and take in the details of what is needed.'

And the details are what it is all about. As a Technical Delegate at the last two Olympic Sailing Competitions, as well as the ISAF Worlds in Cadiz in 2003 and every Youth Worlds from 1997 to 2006, PELS knows them inside-out. He will also be Technical Delegate at the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition along with ISAF Vice-President David KELLETT. Whilst the role he occupies might not be in spotlight, it is PELS who is the key figure in piecing together the puzzle of the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships.

About The 2007 ISAF Worlds

Over 1,300 sailors from 76 nations are competing at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships, from 28 June-13 July in Cascais, Portugal. 'The Wind Is Calling' is the official motto for the 2007 Worlds. The Championships are the principal qualification regatta for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, with 75% of all national places to be decided.

Watch the Medal Races live on Sail.TV

Read our fleet by fleet reports by clicking on the links below:

Finn - Tornado - Yngling - Star - 49er - 470s - Lasers - RS:Xs

For all the news on the ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007 CLICK HERE.

ISAF. Image, Jerome PELS at the team leaders meeting:© ISAF
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