Presidential Election, Second Act
Published on November 9th, 2016
by Rob Kothe
Here in Spain, far removed from the U.S. Presidential election drama and shock, World Sailing’s Annual Conference closed door meetings and lobbying continues unabated at Barcelona’s Hotel Renaissance ahead of Sunday’s Presidential and Board elections.
In the history of sailings peak body no incumbent President has ever been defeated in the quadrennial ballet, but now in 2016, that is becoming an increasingly likely happening.
By any measure, President Carlo Croce, has had a rocky four years, with some historic lows, the CEO replacement issue, the Youth World Sailing Championship fiasco in Dubai, the awful scheduling clashes between World Championships and World Cups and the overall failure of the Sailing World Cup.
One well known World Sailing player likened the last four years to watching a car doing a burn out, lots of noise and smoke and the smell of burning rubber, but after the smoke cleared, the car had not moved.
On top of this there has been a recurring theme is lack of transparency within the organisation under Croce, who has refused to subject himself to any robust media scrutiny. This scribe is aware of at least a dozen media interview requests which have been ignored. (Many of them during this Presidential campaign, including ones from this scribe).
In the last few years Croce has been leaving communications to others. Vice President Gary Jobson fronted the Yacht Racing Forum after the messes in Malaysia (2015 Youth Worlds) and Peter Sowrey (failed five month CEO term) while most observers believed it was Croce’s responsibility.
Interestingly it’s not just the media that are puzzled by this.
One of the oft asked questions that has been asked by delegates in Barcelona is, if you are not comfortable explaining and defending your plans and decisions, are you the right person to be President?
Added to that is the increasing criticism of the fact that World Sailing’s President appears to be conflicted, still retaining Presidency of the Italian Federation and a major yacht club, well outside acceptable governance guidelines for most MNA’s.
While former President Paul Henderson, now 81, has entered the Presidential battle to register a protest vote on some key issues, it’s clear he has no winning expectations.
But that is not the case with the Danish candidate 59-year-old Kim Andersen, active Dragon sailor, the 2011 European Dragon champion and the current World Sailing Equipment Committee Chairman.
Andersen has had a distinguished business career, working in Denmark, Germany and Australia he has been travelling the world setting up companies in Asia and the USA.
He was part of the Danish Olympic Team Management from 1992 to 2002, Team Manager in Sydney 2000 when Danish sailor Crown Prince Frederick met his future Princess Mary, heavily involved with ISAF on the Council and on the Events and Equipment committees.
I interviewed Andersen in Barcelona today (Nov 9). He was quick to the point:
“We need leadership…. when it comes to the IOC and Olympic sailing for example, we should be going to them telling them how we want to develop the sport, how we want to reach gender equality and how we want to present our sport to a greater audience through new media.
“Instead of being proactive, it has always been the other way around and that needs to change because we must avoid decisions which drive up the cost of sailing participation.
“A decision was made to keep the same equipment for 2016 and 2020. Now reopening the equipment decision for 2020 is crippling our World Cup and the chances of sailors leading into Tokyo.
“If you are going to Melbourne or even planning on going to Miami now I think a lot of new teams are building up they would like to know before that which classes are actually going to the Olympics.
“An equipment decision in May 2017 will give just 15 months of preparation before the first 2020 qualifier (in Denmark in 2018) and I think that is a major mistake from the current leadership.
“If I succeed in this upcoming election, the priority is managing the organisation, so that means working closely with Andy Hunt and the team in Southampton to make sure that decisions the Board makes can be efficiently executed.
“That done we can liaise with the IOC getting Olympic equipment resolved. The faster we can confirm equipment the faster that we can work on the real 2020 issues, that is bringing the sport to a bigger audience and the best format to lift the interest in our sport.
“I have promised that if I am getting elected, we will ask the MNAs to put forward their top five priorities, so that by the mid-year meeting in May we can set priorities and direction for all the World Sailing committees, so that everyone is sailing in the same direction.”
So, Council members, sailors and media alike are seeing from Kim Andersen a straightforward and transparent approach, with a refreshing sense of urgency, that seems to be gaining support across Asia, the Pacific, the America’s, Africa and in much of Europe.
We shall find out with the Sunday (Nov 13) vote…but before then we will provide an explanation on the voting procedure and who looks like they have their sails set for the Board of Sailing peak body.
Rob Kothe was the Founder of the Sail-World.com network
About World Sailing’s Annual Conference
World Sailing’s Annual Conference brings together international delegates every first full week of November. It is the central meeting point where the strategy of sailing is reviewed, discussed and celebrated. Over the Annual Conference, participants plan for the future, make key decisions to drive the sport forward, share best practice and generate new ideas. The 2016 Annual Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain at the Hotel Renaissance Barcelona Fira on November 5-13.