Barcelona

Last Tuesday I jumped on a flight and headed to Barcelona to see what was really happening behind the scenes of Para World Sailing…

As you may have heard in January 2015, sailing was suddenly dropped from the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020 due to the lack of countries competing on a regular basis, as well as general concerns about the management of the sport.

An open forum was to be held during World Sailings Annual conference, and I was keen to see what movement had been made towards the Reinstatement of Paralypmic Sailing into the Games for 2024.

I’ve written previously about my discontent as a sailor at the lack of transparency and the wall that had been put up by IFDS and ISAF at the time, and I had hoped that with the rebrand of World Sailing and Para World Sailing, and with the new management things might have been different…

“Action needed to be taken and through the collaborative work within the Para World Sailing Committee and the wider sailing community the strategic goals set out a clear vision for Paralympic sailing.

– via Carlo Croce

The first thing that struck me on arriving at the forum was how few sailors had bothered to make the trip… granted the entire thing was being streamed live, but still I’d expected a few more vocal sailors to be present. All in all I counted 4 current sailors present, and 2 of them were myself and John Robertson from GBR!!

The presentation started with an inspiring video piece from Geoff Holt outlining the importance of renistatement, as well as the opportunities that sailing provides to a great range of disabilities. It was nice to see that he didn’t mix his words when it came to the fromer bad management of IFDS!

Following the video came Massimo Dighe, the Para World Sailing Manager outlining the new Strategic plan and our one hope for reinstantement. The Strategic plan at first glance seems to be well written, but that in itself is concerning- is it just words?
What really counts in the coming months is the actions that follow these words…
-How do we increase participation to gain the magic 32 countries required by the IPC?
-How do we make Paralympic sailing more media friendly and engaging?
-How do we stop the current sailors from all rushing to the emergency exits?

You can find the Stategic plan here, and perhaps draw your own conclusions:
http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/ParaWorldSailingStrategicPlan-%5B21530%5D.pdf

I’ve made no bones about the fact that until the old muppets that ran the former IFDS have been thrown out on their backsides where they belong, we as a sport have no hope at moving forward. What strikes me now is that there seem to be a good few of them still lurking around and enjoying the ride…

 

On the positive side, two people really stood out for me at the forum, the first was Sarah Tresider, CEO of the RYA, and also a huge supporter of the Reinstate movement. She used her time to go into the RYA’s plans and how they plan to D.R.I.V.E (delivery partners, racing and regattas, information, volunteers and equipment) paralympic sailing forward, as well as encouranging the sharing of information, something that is clearly important if we are ever to move forward!
Secondly Dan Jaspers of Aquarius Sport stole the floor during a discussion with an idea of “stadium” style racing that can be packaged and moved to different venues costing very little and creating a media and spectator friendly setup.
Leaving the forum, I was filled with mixed emotions, some hope but also a sense of deja vu… We have after all been here before; isn’t the lack of information sharing and most crucially asking the sailors for ideas and opinions what got us here in the first place?

On arriving back into the UK, it became clear however that a few things weren’t mentioned… Even with the question about equipment being asked directly at the forum, it seems the Committee have taken it upon themselves to already recommend the “new” boats… Today alone my phone has rung from 3 different countries with people asking “had they missed the part where that was mentioned at the forum” or more plainly put “what the actual F**K is going on?”.

Para World Sailing Committee Chairman Betsy Alison presented the Committee’s decision on the equipment that will be adopted for Paralympic sailing as the sport aims for reinstatement into the Paralympic Games.

The Para World Sailing Committee completed its equipment evaluation and proposed the 2.4 Norlin OD (Keelboat), Hansa 303 (Dinghy) and WETA (Trimaran). World Sailing will now enter class contractual discussions with the classes.
– via sailing.org

Frustration, anger, shock, and just plain rage are some of the emotions I’ve been dealing with over the last few days since getting back from Barcelona and reading the news…
I might not be planning to ever attend another Paralympics as a sailor, but I will fight for those development sailors that were chasing hard behind me- they deserve to get the opportunity to race at the Paralympics, and sailing as a sport deserves to be reinstated.

There really is no other sport like sailing, there is no other sport that is as inclusive.

Here are a few useful links…
The Youtube video of the forum:

The World sailing write up on the forum:
http://www.sailing.org/news/41209.php#.WCzkyqKLTow

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