ISAF is again in dispute with those managing the elite section of the discipline of Match Racing, and I would like to refresh everyone's memory of the history of this issue and ISAF's involvement in match racing.
I would like to emphasize that the areas of contention between ISAF and match racing, do not include the professional sailors as ISAF considers all sailors as ISAF's constituents and provides services to all areas of the broad Sailing Spectrum.
Sailing was a sport sailed in advertising clean boats up until the late '80's. The America's Cup (AC) was also free of boat sponsorship. Led by the Aussies, Kiwis and Scandinavians, ISAF was petitioned to allow the boats to be used as billboards for the AC. Their proposal was that not only would the professional sailors benefit but they would pay a Cat "C" fee to pay for the cost of ISAF's direct services to Match Racing and also for the broad administration and promotion of Sailing.
After two years of debate and opposition by the USA traditionalists, the ISAF Advertising Code was passed and visible sponsorship on boats became a reality. The fee to be paid for the right to visibly show sponsorship on boats and sails was to be negotiated based on 10% of the prize money for non-AC events. Never was this to be taken from the sailors winnings, but was meant to be the figure included as a budget item by the event organizer. The spin now being put on this by the marketing agent exciting the sailors against ISAF is unfortunate.
The America's Cup, over the years, has demanded many services from ISAF:
- The Advertising Code has been explained above and was an America's Cup initiative. It continues to be enhanced to the benefit of all.
- After an appeal, which delayed the final result of an America's Cup race in the late 70's, ISAF developed the No Appeals Jury system training and certifying International Judges.
- In the '80's the media demanded that there be instantaneous decisions and ISAF responded by developing the ISAF Umpire System which requires training and evaluation.
It should be noted that the America's Cup takes up to 30 of ISAF's most qualified umpires for 4 months. What other sport could do this and still function in other events? ISAF does!!
- ISAF allocates and monitors Umpires for all Match Racing Events, so as to ensure there is a sufficient pool of adequate Umpires and Judges developing worldwide.
- Now the America's Cup is asking for on-the-boat Umpires which will require another unique group of Umpires.
- Match Racing requires a special set of Racing Rules which ISAF is constantly adjusting as the Professional Sailors find more and more unique situations and manoeuvres
- To ensure consistent calls ISAF has produced a Call Book Manual which is circulated to the over 100 Umpires and is used for training.
- Peter Gilmour initiated the Match Racing Ranking List concept in 1990 to have a system of invites to the events and to promote the sailors. ISAF has provided and paid for this service for over a decade and inputs data from almost 300 events plus accepting constant calls from sailors questioning why they are not higher on the list. Recently, after feedback from sailors, ISAF initiated the "ranking holiday", which enables sailors who are involved in a non-match racing campaign or who need to take a break from competing, to retain a "holiday" position on the rankings. Thus, when they return to competition after a break they will find it easier to be invited to events and thus resume a match racing career.
At the 1988 Perth America's Cup, a concept evolved to develop a Professional League called the World Match Racing Conference (WMRC). WMRC was able to get IMG, a premier sports marketing company, to finance their project contributing over US$1 million a year for 5 years. WMRC immediately decided to run the structure outside of ISAF, but using all ISAF services and declared a World Championship. ISAF had to confront the situation and the lack of understanding of what ISAF does for Match Racing has now continued for years. ISAF, after negotiation, formed an in-house Match Racing Committee.
In the early 90's, ISAF introduced the ability to charge an approval fee for event where prize money could be won. However, ISAF has always waived the fee for all events where the prize money is under $20,000 and for all Women's events, which effectively eliminates all but a few of the events. In addition, over the last decade, so as to subsidize the fragile Match Racing scene, ISAF has either waived or forgiven most approval fees for even the high-profile events.
The WMRC disbanded after IMG pulled out in 1994. The same people regrouped in 1996 and formed a new association called the WMRA.
ISAF was asked to waive the approval fee so as to give the WMRA a two year hiatus, as well as waiving the previous years of arrears, in order to help the new professional circuit get off the ground.
As usual ISAF did so and again subsidized this discipline. One ISAF stipulation was that they drop the word "World" as the circuit only represented a few events and ISAF and their MNA's control the use of the "World" within the sport of sailing. The organization then became the MRA.
In 1999 Swedish Match appeared and there was formed a business partnership Called the Swedish Match Tour (SMT) whose partners include the MRA, Scott MacLeod, Octagon and Swedish Match. The marketing budget for the SMT is over $1 million USA plus whatever sponsorship each event obtains. SMT does pay the direct expenses of the ISAF Umpires.
Each ISAF Grade 1 Match Racing event individually pays a small ISAF grading fee, although this is waived for the Women's Grade 1 events. However, to this date no "approval fee" has been paid to ISAF by SMT, or for that fact since 1994 even though ISAF has continued to provide all their services to Match Racing.
It is unreasonable to think that those who market the SMT and benefit from the services provided by ISAF would incite the professional sailors against
ISAF has no desire to be in the sports marketing business and therefore would prefer to deal and provide their services which ensure the "Fair Play" and integrity of Sailing directly to their constituency, the sailors and the event organizers, without having to negotiate through a third party who represent only 7 of the over 40 Grade 1 events, out of a total of 282 graded match racing events.
ISAF will be meeting with the ISAF Grade 1 and 2 Event Organizers in early September to discuss some of the most important features and issues surrounding this discipline of the sport. Among items under discussion will be:
· Top level Match Racing Events and the Americas Cup
· The ISAF Umpire program
· Umpire Appointments to Graded Events
· The ISAF Match Race Ranking System
· The Match Racing Rules
The ISAF Executive has asked Vice Presidents James Schoonmaker, Fernando Bolin and Ken Ryan to endeavor to finally come to an amicable solution to this matter, ensuring that the SMT meets their outstanding and future obligations.
With regard to the America's Cup, I am sure it will be a great success and Vice President David Kellett will again be responsible for this portfolio and ISAF's contribution of services to the first ever European based America's Cup.