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Paul Henderson to seek World Sailing Presidency

Published on September 5th, 2016

Following his ten year term as World Sailing (then ISAF) President in 2004, Paul Henderson has continued to closely watch the governance of the Sport from his home in Toronto, Canada. He has long held strong opinions about Sailing and the Olympics, and has now announced he will seek another term as President. Here he reports …

paul henderson

Paul Henderson

The overview position that I support is that: “World Sailing is a membership organization and not a company! Staff responds to the needs and the wishes of the members (the sailors). Not the other way around!”

Please understand I am not against any new concept sport but what I am against is that a new monopoly concept – Kite-Surfing – uses Sailing as their avenue to Olympic Status which negatively impacts our sport. Kite-Surfing is using Sailing to accomplish their Olympic goals. Convertible Kite-Surfing, Formula Kites and other names used are confusing so I will use Kite-Surfing.

About six years ago Kite-Surfing appeared at ISAF and naively were taken in as a new extreme sport. The ISAF Council was told that they would try and become Olympic but only if the IOC would give to Sailing two additional Medal Events and therefore would have no impact on existing events. All appeared to be acceptable to the usually forthright ISAF Council.

ISAF then went through a revolving door of what are now called CEO’s with three in less than a year. Current CEO Andy Hunt returned from an IOC meeting stating that unless Sailing accepted Kite-Surfing (with their “riders” not sailors), all hell would break loose. Sailing would have its events dramatically cut back or even dropped by the IOC. It was stated that the IOC in their Agenda 2020 were going from a sport focus to an event focus.
Editor’s note: Hunt’s appointment was announced January 11, 2016, replacing Peter Sowrey who held the CEO position for five months in 2015 (July 1- Dec 2) before he resigned. Prior to Sowrey, Jerome Pels held the position for more than 17 years before his resignation was announced on October 23, 2014.
The next move was that “panic” set in and that Kite-Surfing must be made an event of Sailing in TOKYO2020 and that immediately now World Sailing’s policies must be altered negating the previous World Sailing commitment that there would be no changes in events for 2020 after the unfortunate deletion of keelboats which had a ripple effect of Sailing being dropped from the Paralympics. This also resulted in two new monopoly pieces of equipment being inserted for RIO2016 which has caused great problems.

There was then a quickly conceived E-Mail vote to change the policy so that Kite-Surfing could use two of the ten events Sailing now has and not be only for extra events if awarded by the IOC. The World Sailing staff initiated a phone campaign to Council to get the required vote to ensure this change passed. The rumours spread fast that the Finn would be dropped and the 470 made Mixed so that two slots opened up for Kite-Surfing. It should be noted that the Finn and 470 are the only two classes which are now not commercial monopolies.

There was a great reaction from several of the other International Olympic Sports to the IOC focus on events not the sports. The IOC Executive Board issued a clarification of their Agenda 2020 stating that the IOC new direction would not impact the existing 25 Olympic core sports of which Sailing is one. The threat that Sailing is on the way out is not true. The IOC has totally refuted the World Sailing panic.

What the IOC has done is to increase the number events to 310 from 301 and to state that the number of athletes will be 10,500. They have also added 5 new sports to the existing 28, Baseball/Softball (Now 1 Federation), Karate, Skate Boarding, Sports Climbing, and Surfing.

Another issue is the IOC stating they want “Gender Equality”. Baseball will have 25 athletes for the Men’s event of Baseball and 15 athletes for the Women’s Event of Softball. The observation here is that the IOC makes general statements but all are adaptable to the specific needs of the sports which is why “Gender Equity” is more appropriate.

Kite-Surfing with their “riders” and off-the-beach sport fits into the new IOC confirmed sport of “Surfing”. They can develop all their “convertible concepts” free from the constraints of World Sailing which have evolved over decades. “Surfing” is the International Sport Federation which Kite-Surfing must use to get their desire to be Olympic and not totally disrupt Sailing. I trust World Sailing will go to the IOC and ask that this be the direction be followed by Kite-Surfing as everyone wins, but more importantly is that Sailing is not totally disrupted again as happened with the keelboat issue..

Over the last several months I have asked for clarification and answers to several questions posed to the World Sailing staff and been told that I am just a sailor and have no position at World Sailing. The result of this staff position is that I will put forward my name again as President in hopes that I might finally get some answers (CV attached). The next few months are crucial to the future of Sailing and that at least until the November Annual Conference I will have a podium to put forward my concerns.

Editor’s note: Carlo Croce, who was elected President of World Sailing in 2012, is now seeking a second and final term. The Decision to elect the next President will be made at the 2016 World Sailing Annual Conference to be held November 4-13 in Barcelona, Spain.

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