World Sailing and the winds of change

While the changes for the 2024 Paris Olympics made the headlines - in the sailing media anyway - What may have a more lasting effect on World Sailing was the presentation of the Governance Commission Report.

The recent Annual Conference of World Sailing in Sarasota was an exercise in dysfunctional decision making and remaking, that we have become so used to, and something that was criticized by World Sailing's own Governance Commission as it was taking place.

Just two days before, Maria Clarke the Independent Chair of World Sailing's Governance Commission, had presented the findings of the Commission following the commencement of their work in May 2018.

One of the headline initial findings was that that 94% of those polled said that WS Governance needed changing, with two thirds not bothering to respond. With the Council coming in for particular criticism.

The findings highlighted the very points that have been experienced throughout the recent process, with Inefficient and Lack of Transparency in decision making and with important decisions (e.g. Olympic equipment) being too political.

Maria Clarke's comments on the WS Decision making process were damning - with the process used in May and again here in Sarasota for deciding the 2024 Olympic Events and Equipment being held up as an example of the poor/inefficient decision-making process.

Initial Governance Commission proposals are to change Council into an Olympic Council, to reflect the amount of time that the Council presently spends on Olympic related matters.

This Olympic Council to make recommendations on all matters Olympic to the Board and the AGM, with matters regarding the Olympic Programme going direct to the AGM, not via the Board.

A dramatic streamlining of the permanent committees to six commissions (the new committee name) plus four sub commissions and as many working groups as required.

That is just a taster of the suggestions that Maria Clarke presented, and we will have to wait until this time next year to see how they survive.

Meanwhile under the present regime President of World Sailing Kim Andersen had merely to sit and watch as the urgent proposal submitted by the Board sailed into the record books with barely a ripple.

The slate of events that had come from the May meeting and was recommended by the Equipment Committee was desperately weak, with events and recommended formats that were confused if not outright unworkable.

An offshore keelboat option had been turned-down in May, but only by a small amount, and mainly criticised as being too radical and expensive for a Sailing Games that had really come to represent one area of competitive sailing - Dinghies.

A widening of that scene was desperately needed to showcase new types of on water sailing activity and show the International Olympic Committee (IOS) that WS was moving forward. Just as other sports had widened their remit with new variations and completely new sports (snowboarding, mountain biking etc).

World Sailing were between a rock and a hard place after they were apparently knocked back by the IOS regarding any expansion of the number of events that could be offered. Reductions in competitor numbers also restricting their room to manoeuvre.

Step forward the WS Board with the last-minute Proposal 058-18 building on 037-18, which replaced the derided "Mixed One-Person Dinghy" event for a "Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore" event.

Interesting that an RYA submission M44-18 which almost made it through at the May meeting - would have kept all events as 2020 except for the men's 470 changing to an offshore event.

Described in the RYA submission as a . . . New, mixed, offshore keelboat to be selected to cater for a range of physiques, to be high performance for TV viewing, to best accommodate onboard media systems, to be made available to MNA’s free of charge at the Olympic Games and all Continental qualifying events.

The Boards urgent submission 058-18 pointed out the impracticability of the Mixed One Person Dinghy Event and emphasised that 'with an Olympic events slate which includes offshore keelboat, World Sailing is definitely showing the diversity of our sport'.

The minimum 75% of the Council agreeing to allow a vote on any change to the recommended slate was easily achieved (29 to 9) and the following vote by the members of the AGM (43 to 17) swept the new Olympic Event List into being.

Thus, President Andersen and his Board had staved off what was looking like a disaster, with a possible workaround solution for Paris 2024.

The result falls well short of being set in stone, as the proposals have a lot of detail to be decided and confirmed, but it does move Olympic sailing forward.

World Sailing and the MNAs are faced with mutiple event and equipment changes - A completely new offshore keelboat, a new mixed kiteboard event, possible equipment revisions/changes in the single handers, the RS:X and the remaining 470 event.

World Sailing's existing system of multi-votes going over the same ground by different committees, lends itself well to such upsets, maybe for the last time if Maria Clarke and the Governance Commission get their way.

Related articles:
World Sailing pulls it off!
The clock is ticking for World Sailing

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