The World Sailing 2020 Annual Conference will be held from 15 October to 1 November, with the focus on the ballot results for the election of a new President and seven Vice-Presidents.
The 120 recognised (paid-up) MNA delegates will vote for the new President and VPs, with the first round of voting taking place from Friday 9 to Friday 16 October.
The election results will be announced at the end of the Annual Conference at the General Assembly (AGM) on Sunday 1 November.
In the lead up to this election much dirty laundry was been washed in the media, with President Kim Andersen and former CEO Andy Hunt taken to task for the perilous state of the finances of the International Sailing organisation.
This, together with several internal rows that have spilled out . . . Including the move of the HQ from Southampton to London, the case of the ‘forged’ signatures, the regular row on the make-up of the Olympic Games sailing classes.
And now, in the last couple of days, the spat with the International Olympic Committee who they have accused of ‘interfering in the internal elections and politics of World Sailing’ have formed a perfect storm ahead of this months Presidential ballot.
It is important to remember that World Sailing (WS) membership is only open to a countries Member National Authority (MNA).
If you want something to change at World Sailing, you first have to get your MNA to agree to it. In the UK that means the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).
Considering that the 120 recognised MNA appoint their delegate and committee members to World Sailing to carry out the wishes of their members, it would be thought that there would have more feedback to the members of the NMAs informing them of just what was going on and to gather their opinion.
But, apparently the WS members are happy with the what Mr Andersen and World Sailing have achieved over the past four years, because I do not remember the RYA (for example) raising any of the matters featured in the media with their UK members or 1,500 affiliated sailing clubs.
Nor has there been any open discussion of selection of a new President. The RYA has a six strong RYA International Group to decide that, and they are due to meet.
To those whose sailing focuses on their local sailing club and class association, the shenanigans of ‘the world authority’ do not have a lot of relevance to their day to day sailing, and for the vast majority of ‘ordinary’ sailors are simply ignored as background noise.
So, what will this Presidential election change?
On the face of it, very little as none of the four Presidential Candidates seem to be proposing any major change to the course that World Sailing has followed over recent years.
They have all produced presentations for the MNAs who will vote them in, with all the right soothing buzz words, but no game changing ideas, just more of the same . . . only in their safe hands of course!
An interesting snap-shot – When the four Presidential nominees were asked . . .
‘If you were limited to only one new policy or change within World Sailing, what would it be, and why would it be the most important?’
The Presidential nominees replied . . .
Kim Andersen (DEN): I would work on getting the MNA`s agreeing on a new Governance Reform focusing and rooting decisions and activities within development and participation!
Gerardo Seeliger (ESP): There will be many changes needed to bring WS back to its robust financial position.
Quanhai Li (CHN): It would be a policy to fully cover and actively promote the formulation of a new financial security operation model within World Sailing.
Scott Perry (URU): I would increase the official languages of World Sailing from the present English language (Article 2.3 of the World Sailing Constitution) to 3 official languages English, French and Spanish for all communication.
The main impression that World Sailing projects to the outside world is one on a labyrinth of committees, who indulge in much investigation and discussion only to have their decisions overturned or ignored by another WS body.
Most likely by the all-powerful Council, where a small number of MNA nominated delegates (up to 30), combine with the vice presidents to act as a form of end-stop to anything they deem controversial.
So without any real new agenda that tackles the problems of a sport with an increasing number of variations of participation, many of which do not match the traditional forms of sailing that WS was originally formed to represent.
Then it looks as if World Sailing will continue down its ‘road to nowhere’.
The lopsided dominance on maintaining sailing as an Olympic sport – World Sailing’s main task is to keep sailing in the Olympics – which also seems to be the main reason for the involvement of many members in the WS organisation, is in contradiction to the number of active Olympic sailors, and to the interests of the majority of active club-level sailors.
The tenure of President Kim Andersen and CEO Andy Hunt highlighted this Olympic task, with the drive for a professional world racing circuit, based on the Olympic classes.
But as they quickly discovered, it is difficult to monetise sailing when the one event with any global recognition only takes place every four years and features such a small number of participants.
That ill-thought-out attempt to join other major sport federations, with their multi-million media deals, despite lacking their multi-million audience bargaining power . . . Relied on hijacking and riding roughshod over the long-established International regatta circuit organisations and their hundreds of volunteers.
Unfortunately, that attitude also seems present in many of the MNAs, who see their national authoritative position and financial well being based on Olympic performance.
They seem willing to let World Sailing have its head as long as the Olympic money fountain is maintained.
Following the ejection of sailing from the Paralympics, WS and the MNAs are now desperate to remain in the main Olympics. Ejection would be a disaster for WS as without the Games their raison d’etre is much reduced – and their main income removed!
And that is the crux of the problem for World Sailing . . . how to remain relevant in a sport that increasingly sees them as an embarrassment, while being reliant on the Olympics as their paymaster.
Following the down-sizing of Olympic yachting from rich man’s ‘amateur’ sport, to quasi professional dinghy sailing, World Sailing continues to struggle to find its place.
The time is ripe for a major re-think to take the many new forms of the sport away from the dead hand of the ‘Gentlemen’s Club‘ demeanour, but it does not look as if this election slate will produce anything but more of the same.