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14 November 2008, 11:44 am
ISAF President Development Award Presented To Helen-Mary WILKES and Robert WILKES
From left to right, Robert WILKES and Helen-Mary WILKES are presented with the ISAF President Development Award by ISAF President Göran PETERSSON
From left to right, Robert WILKES and Helen-Mary WILKES are presented with the ISAF President Development Award by ISAF President Göran PETERSSON

ISAF Annual Conference 2008
Madrid, Spain

At the ISAF Council meeting in Madrid, Spain, Göran Petersson, President of the International Sailing Federation, presented the ISAF President Development Award to Helen-Mary WILKES and Robert WILKES for their services to junior sailing.
The ISAF President Development Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the development of sailing. Helen-Mary WILKES (IRL) and Robert WILKES (IRL) were presented with the Award in recognition of their role in leading and managing the International Optimist Dinghy Class (IODA), the most successful junior dinghy.

Presenting the Award, the ISAF President Göran PETERSSON (SWE) said, "Helen-Mary and Robert WILKES have been the driving force of Under-16 sailing, which now has over 80 nations competing internationally, 71 of them with female sailors. Their contribution to the global development of junior sailing has been immense."

Initially specializing in event organization, Helen-Mary WILKES became Vice-president of IODA in 1985, President from 1989-1998, Vice-President of Honour from 1998-2005 and President of Honour in 2005. Robert WILKES has been involved with the Optimist class for over 30 years and the Secretary of IODA from 1996 to 2008.

The dedication, work and expertise of Helen-Mary and Robert WILKES has been a huge factor in the massive growth of the Optimist class worldwide. At the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, 23 out of 27 skippers of the medal-winning boats were former Optimist sailors.

Since Helen-Mary became President of IODA in 1989, the number of countries which are members of the class has increased from 49 to 105. Continental championships have been established in Asia, Africa and Oceania, and enlarged on the other continents. The cost of equipment has, as a result of re-specification in 1992-1995, remained unchanged in cash terms, a reduction in real terms of at least 25%. Another key initiative was the development of a training programme which included subsidies to enable 20 developing sailing nations to acquire over 180 boats.

Helen-Mary and Robert WILKES have been a principal driving-force behind the major impact of the class on the development and perception of women's junior sailing. At the 1985 IODA World Championship only five girls (3.5%) participated, the best of them placing 31st. By 1995, 15 girls (8%) participated with a best place of 18th: in 2005 42 (17%) participated and a girl won the World Championship title. The effect has been universal acceptance that girls can compete at the highest level. Thirty-five of the 52 nations participating in the 2005 World Championship included a girl on their five-person national teams - a big change from the five in 1985.

In addition to her work with the Optimist class, Helen-Mary has had a long-time involvement with other areas of development of the sport and within ISAF.

In 1996 she was a key figure in the organization of the relatively new discipline of Women's Match Racing, being president of the Women's International Match Racing Association from 1996-2000. The growth in that discipline led it to be chosen as one of the events for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.

She sat on various ISAF Committees for 17 years including the International Classes Committee, Events Committee and Match Racing Committee. At the Irish Sailing Association she was a member of the Council from 1990-98 and of the Olympic Committee from 1992-2000.

The ISAF President Development Award was launched in 2007, the Centenary year of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). The Award is made on the decision of the ISAF President. In November 2007, the ISAF President Development Award was presented to Mohammed AZZOUG (ALG). Helen-Mary WILKES and Robert WILKES are the second recipients of the Award.

ISAF Development microsite - www.sailing.org/development

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