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6 November 2005, 08:27 am
Focus On The Future
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ISAF Annual Conference 2005

The ISAF Annual Conference is in full swing in Singapore with much of the focus today on new developments and a focus on attracting youth and greater participation, an appropriate theme given that 35 years ago to the day the first Laser was launched. The Laser has gone on to become the most widely sailed class in the world, and the theme echoing around the meeting rooms in Singapore was how to replicate and expand upon that success.
No ALT tag specifiedWith the ISAF Windsurfing Committee looking at the RS:X, the ISAF Youth and Development Committee debating ways to increase participation in sailing in the future and the ISAF Women's Forum discussing means to increase Olympic representation, the focus was firmly on new developments in the sailing world. The Laser provides a great example of sailing's life long appeal, as the massive turnout at the recent Laser Masters Worlds in Brazil proves. However, the spirit of today's meetings was to focus more on the sport's Achilles heel, the falling level of participation which is seeing fewer and fewer youth people come to the sport. To affect an about turn in the trend, there was plenty of discussion on the past, but also positive messages moving forwards. The women challenged the sailing industry to produce more 'funky' and attractive sailing clothing.

Women In Sailing

The ISAF Women's Forum got the meetings off to an early start this morning. The meeting drew together a large cross section of women in sailing, including all the women ISAF Committee members. There was particular interest in the 'Women in the Olympics' panel, who conducted a question and answer session with the Forum's members about their experiences and the methods of strengthening the future participation of women at the Olympic Games.

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ISAF Vice-President Fiona
BARRON gives her opinion
at the Women's Forum
Olympic gold medallists Sofia BEKATOROU (GRE) and Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) were well placed to give an inside view, whilst voices from the match racing world, the MNA's and ISAF came from ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year nominee Claire LEROY (FRA), Chako TOBARI (JPN), US SAILING President Janet BAXTER and Nina CASTRO (BRA). In an interesting presentation, the Forum looked at the presentation of women sailors at the Olympics, how sailing contrasts with other sports and what changes could be made to improve the exposure of women at the Olympics, including clothing and a renewed relationship with the media. Alessandra, who will be hosting the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards on Tuesday night spoke on the need to provide support and guidance to athletes post-Olympic victory and how to maximise the promotional effects of medal achievements.

A Fresh Approach

Across the meetings today much of the focus has been on the future of sailing, investing in and invigorating youth programmes, with many of the Committees taking a new and open approach to discussions. The ISAF Youth and Development Committee features a host of new members led by chair Ross ROBSON (RSA). He took an original approach to the meeting, moving straight to the final Agenda item, Any Other Business, to throw open the field of discussion, not only to Committee members but also to the observers in the meeting. Rather than following the traditional structure ROBSON was looking to discover the general mood in the Committee taking contributions on a range of issues across the board.

Tim COVENTRY (GBR) gave a short talk and answered questions about the ISAF Connect To Sailing initiative in prelude to seminar's tomorrow and on Tuesday. Albert LEE from the Conference hosts, the Singapore Sailing Federation, stressed the importance of taking sailing into the school curriculum, an approach that received broad support in the room. He was also upbeat about the future of sailing in Asia, citing the example of his own country, Singapore where participation in sailing is developing at a rapid rate as witnessed by their first gold medal success at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship this year in Korea thanks to Wee Chin TEO and Terence KOH's brilliant performance in the 420.

Amongst the talk of programmes, schools and initiative's Zofia TRUCHANOWICZ, who last year became the youngest ever ISAF Race Official, then made a popular appeal to put the ethic of a 'passion for sailing' at the centre of any drives to increase participation within youth sailing, arguing that this was crucial to ensure a sustained commitment to sailing.

Working Together

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The busy goings on in
A report on the Athlete Participation Programme (APP) followed focussing on some of the athletes from developing nations who participated at this year's ISAF Youth Worlds in Korea. The Committee also looked at the prospects for 2006, when ISAF will be partnering will the RYA and the Austrian Sailing Federation to help athletes from developing sailing nations compete at the ISAF Youth Worlds in Great Britain and the ISAF World Sailing Games in Austria. The Committee went on to discuss the possible introduction of Youth Continental Championships, giving young sailors a staggered approach to the top level competition they encounter at the ISAF Youth Worlds.

The focus in the afternoon switched from the theoretical to the practical, with a search for actual measures that can be taken to address the issues identified. Again the observers were welcome to contribute and again there were several accounts from the floor of successful schools, with two different examples coming from China and Australia.

Further discussion centred on communication in the future, creating an 'MNA of the Year' for nations which excel in growing the sport, the role of the International Sailing Schools Association and expanding the presence of the Youth and Development side of ISAF on

Commenting on the meeting, chairman ROBSON explained his unusual back-to-front approach, 'I wanted to concentrate on the important thing first, the future of our sport.'

ISAF Strategic Plan

With Council set to consider the ISAF Strategic Plan at their first meeting on Thursday, the ISAF Committees have been receiving presentations from the ISAF Executive Committee on the respective Committee's roles in contributing to and implementing the plan. This strategic plan sets out ISAF's vision for worldwide sailing and its approach to meet and develop the envisioned future. The plan identifies nine high level objectives with particular focus areas that determine the direction that ISAF believes that the sport should take:

  • Sailors
  • Participation
  • Media
  • Race Officials
  • Governance
  • Accessibility and Equipment
  • Events
  • Finance
  • Environment

Also In Singapore

Amongst the other meetings taking place today the Class Rules Sub-Committee, the International Measurers Sub-Committee and the Empirical Handicap Sub-Committee all met as did the ISAF Youth World Championship Sub-Committee. The ISAF Youth World Championship Sub-Committee supported the bid from Brazil to host the 2009 ISAF Youth Worlds, and subject to Council approval and final contract arrangements, Buzios, two hours north of Rio de Janeiro, is set to host the first ever ISAF Youth Worlds in South America.

There was plenty of lively debate at the ISAF Match Racing Committee, which included presentations on both the 2005 ISAF Match Racing World Championship in Calpe, Spain and the 2005 Virtual Spectator ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Tomorrow in Singapore the first Connect to Sailing seminar gets underway in the morning at 0800 hours local time, whilst the ISAF Race Officials Committee will focus on one of ISAF's key delivery areas.

For all the news on the ISAF Annual Conference CLICK HERE.
ISAF. Image, Singapore's Wee Chin TEO and Terence KOH won their nation's first ever ISAF Youth Worlds gold medal in Korea this year:© Peter Bentley
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