Sunday, May 13, 2012

The ISAF Board Sport Kerfuffle

 The change game is afoot. There is a rising voice of protest against the ISAF decision, narrowly passed by a 19 to 17 margin, to replace windsurfing with kitesurfing at the 2016 Olympics. The RS:X Class is scheduled for the moth ball fleet, perhaps to be brought back 8 years later, but maybe never again as an Olympic sport. This November, after the 2012 London Games, the ISAF Council will convene again for their Annual Meeting. Rory Ramsden, RS:X Class Secretary, reported: "We need 75% (27 of the 36 Council Members) to vote in favour of accepting a submission to change the decision, then a majority once that has happened." This would require that 10 members of the 19 pro kite side of the votes cast in May would have to vote for reconsideration of the issue. 

The New Zealand Herald reported: "The Spanish Sailing Federation (REFV) yesterday (May 11) admitted its delegate voted incorrectly for kiteboarding at the expense of windsurfing at the International Sailing Federation meeting in Italy last weekend due to confusion at the process used...Without the Spanish blunder the count would have sat deadlocked at 18-all. REFV president Gerard Pombo accepted responsibility and apologised."

James Douglass observed: "Anyway, what seems to have happened is that lobbyists for Olympic kiteboarding miraculously convinced sailing's governing bodies to overlook their usual one-design constraints and wind minimums to consider the current form of kiteboard racing for an Olympic slot. Then, when compared against the RS:X windsurfing class, which is still crippled by the one-design rules and the air-rowing dynamic, kiteboarding looked a lot more spectacular and had the leg up for Olympic selection."

Ever since the decision, a vociferous mob of opinion has been boiling over about this once every 4 year regatta. Make no mistake, having your sport in the Olympics is a big time opportunity for peer legitimacy, promotion and development. It's muy bueno for the sport and the business of that sport. When little Susie shows an interest and maybe even an aptitude for the sport, Mom and Dad are more likely to plunk down the big bucks for her if they think...maybe one day she could go to the Olympics.

They want to use the petition to show the strength of support for windsurfing. If you agree: Sign the Petition. The quotes below are just a few and hopefully touch on most of the far ranging thoughts now circulating in and around the issue. I apologize for snipping these from their larger context and have linked the original source as best I could. Every link in this article leads to more commentary and or reporting. There is a mountainous volume of material to read.

Michael Raper "This decision by ISAF is bittersweet; many of us believe there were many other sailing classes that could have been dropped instead of windsurfing. RSX windsurfing is a dynamic and exciting sport, with a strong base of young aspiring sailors, especially in developing countries that have invested so heavily. The windsurfing culture has been built up over the years and we hope this decision does not dampen any spirits."  Cabrinha Kites

Jim DeSilva "As shortsighted as dropping the cats was last go round, this decision to drop windsurfing is even more egregious. Considering the extremely large numbers of people windsurfing across the globe, that windsurfing is an inexpensive form of sailing competition, and that windsurfing is one of the most exciting forms of competition, the decision to drop it from the games is very curious. Including kiting may be a good move...but why drop windsurfing when you have such a large amount of programs worldwide supporting training, racing and youth development into the Olympics? There are exponentially more people windsurfing racing than kite racing, you cannot even compare the numbers..." Scuttlebutt (Page down to the Guest Commentary)

Barbara Kendall  "I need to know from the people that are out there racing kites - what sort of facilities are required for staging a kiting event. How much space is required for launching? will kiters be able to be incorporated inside the Olympic Marina in Rio or will another site be needed for the kites? I need to know the risks involved in racing in offshore - 6 knots? if the wind dies whether kiters can get bac...k to the shore without being rescued? can these new board float a human so they can paddle? These are the reputational risks involved. Also the risks involved for federations now who will be responsible for water safety of kites. For those that remember windsurfers were banned from many beaches! So please let me know the REAL risks from those that are competing in course race kiting. For those that don't know I am an IOC member so I am representing the IOC so I need to know facts. Keep Windsurfing Olympic FB

Steve Bodner "Obviously - a very happy crowd here in San Francisco with the kite racers ready to take the Olympic spotlight. I for one couldn't be more happy for them (and I've been racing windsurfers competitively since the early 90's- getting on the bus late but nonetheless enjoying the ride.) It's their time to shine so why not embrace it vs fighting it.28 years of Windsurfing as an Olympic sport 1984-2012 is not a bad run."  USA 4 Windsurfing Campaign

Rich Jeffries, ISAF Committee Member "The Chairman of the Events Committee and The Executive of ISAF positioned the issue to consider Kites by asking the sailing world: should we have board and/or kites in the Olympics? Since the ISAF knew that the International Olympic Committee would not grant sailing an additional medal or allow us to have more than the 380 athletes one had to go for one to be added. Should it have been windsurfers? No, but that is the way the ISAF set the stage. Much like catamarans have fought back and are now back in the 2016 Games in Rio, the windsurfers need to stand up and be counted. The RS:X class (the Olympic windsurfer) has started a petition drive. Scuttlebutt (Page down to Guest Commentary)

Ben Remocker "The root cause of all this controversy is the structure of ISAF. The system is set up to produce exactly the type of decisions that it does. Decisions – that are important, dramatic, and of high consequence – are made by the volunteer politicians of ISAF. For all the committees, papers, studies, and rhetoric, the sport is lead by decision making of the ISAF council, who preside and vote on each major decision at conferences twice per year." Port Tack Blog

Bryony Shaw "Old man politics playing with people’s lives! Wreck less in chopping and changing sailing disciplines with no consideration to dedicated athletes. My focus on London now seems heightened! New discipline for challenge" Dorset Echo

Nikola Girke "Kiteboarding should be a demonstration sport alongside windsurfing but not in lieu of windsurfing. Windsurfing has such a following, a great youth program worldwide … terrible mistake." CTV Olympics

Mike Gebhardt "‎3 kites to race...Rista fin set is 600 to 750 US dollar. Top riders do not change fins, use one set in 5 knots and 30 knots. Super double secret refers to the world record Speedsailor Rob Douglas I coach on a speed sailing project: We use kites...; we ride speed boards, they look like a waterski and are 10 inches wide, it is not a kite course racing board. still super double secret. You guys are sadly misinformed. You might want to read the reports written for ISAf by kiters for kitesurfing. Not for windsurf. No mention of windsurf. Was our job not to mention windsurf. it was out job to show ISAF we race in 5 to 25 knots. We did not recommend kite against windsurf, not one kiter. I helped run ISAF Kite evaluation. It was not a contest between windsurf and kite. It was only to show how and what kinds of racing we can do on kite. We rode in 5 knots in front of ISAF Prez Goran Peterson for 2 hours, He knows sailing. He now knows kiting. He was super impressed. Sorry, it's the truth.. In this same wind RSX not planing. Truth. Pumping. This had nothing to do with windsurfing. Kite report was about kite. Never mentioned windsurfing. Was pro/olympic windsurfer before most of you were born..did 5 Olympics, won 2 windsurf Olympic medals. I choose RSX board/ran trials for windsurf for ISAF. Many happy, few unhappy about that I picked and recommended RSX. It was best choice at the time.  Evolution needed. Might be time for windsurf to evolve again. I still windsurf and love windsurfing. Love kiting more. Sad windsurf out. kite lobby did not ask to vote kite against windsurf ever. You guys need to speak to Rory, if your pissed...all the best.....keep the sport you love." ISAF Atheletes Comission...Facebook

Ben Barger, Chairmen of the ISAF Atheletes' Commission "Many positives have been accomplished in this selection, with strong movement towards gender equality introducing an Olympic dream for many women worldwide. Tremendous progress. Also more one design, cheaper, faster and more diverse equipment will showcase a wider variety of types of sailing than ever before. Kiteboarding will now also have its time in the Olympic spotlight. But will it save the sport of sailing as so many counsel members debated yesterday?

The medal race didn't save the sport. Nor did (GPS) tracking. Nor has changing any equipment in the past. Only saving we need is from the indifference of ourselves. While I competed as a windsurfer I always felt as a second class citizen to sailing, most federation's don't even think it's sailing. Those same sailors voted to replace windsurfing with kiting. It was disturbing for me to watch. But also sadly understandable. Kiting is more popular in recreation.

Solving our inequalities is hopeful advice to my kiter friends that just joined the Olympic program. If we want our sport to work we must celebrate all our events equally and understand them fully. And to this we are improving slowly, but not fast enough. Sharing knowledge, asking questions and giving constructive criticism all while being transparent is the recipe. But without changing leadership we won't ever get good answers to pressing questions. 40 years ago when many counsel members were racing, there were 4 keel boats on the program, now there are none. Huge error was ISAF putting these sports against each other. It's like the IOC making a vote between swimming and gymnastics, its an utter idiotic vote and a blood bath.

Development for windsurfing is a completely different track than traditional sailing. That's thousands of youths now displaced. I truly feel for those federations and athletes that lived their life in the discipline. Its like you woke up and all of a sudden your life career is over.. The windsurfing petition group already has 9000 members in one day and I encourage you to listen to key press releases released from the class on their actions.. I'll be curious to see how ISAF handles this one. They were burned hard for the multi hulls exclusion. Now they've got Keelboat and windsurfing as a newly removed.

Counsel just made a gut decision.. But their enthusiasm was something I've never seen them have for anything before. The King spoke for the first time since he recommended the Europe class, and everyone there believed they did the right thing to add kiteboarding, like myself. BUT removing windsurfing was one of the worst things ISAF has ever done. It clearly shows the weakness in how the organization makes key decisions.

Kiting and windsurfing is less similar than a Finn and Laser. Same with 470 and 49er. Its hard to understand how that unique skill set was so carelessly discarded, it's what made windsurfing such a challenge.

Diversity in the sailing program should be celebrated to the fullest. Equipment and changes should always be phased in with good reviews, tons of feedback and transition plans. Yet I leave Stresa, Italy knowing what I spent my younger years fully devoted to culminating in my racing at the 2008 Olympics is now a lost art. Defunct. It stings to be there first hand and see the Counsel move on without any windsurfing debate. Without any idea what kiting will really do. And now it's the day after. What will the thousands of windsurfer's dreaming of the Olympics do now?

If you were on the Council what would you have said?

But we must stay positive. Nothing I hate more than a sleazy competitor. Let these moments define the windsurfer's struggle. And let's congratulate kiting. And help bring your skills to a new challenge." ISAF Atheletes Commission...Facebook


  1. I think there are a few things missing:
    - The technical reports done by the kiting crowd are wildly inaccurate and either dishonestly play down or gloss over the big issues of safety, the practicality of youth development, the huge cost of competitive racing vs. windsurfing, and the need for special launching sites.
    - The trial regatta was a one-off and the report was ok. The council will be in a shock when kites have to race in real world conditions. For example, last week's racing 47% of the (very small) fleet DNF'd.

  2. Agree. The kiting evaluation report is almost fraud.

  3. Nice Blog! Thanks for sharing nice information with us.

    Scott Robarge

  4. Thanks for information., and nice blog....
    Kia Kendall