Britain and one of next year’s recently developed Olympic venues are in danger of being snubbed by the world’s governing body as a host for future Sailing World Cup series regattas, of which the UK is currently a leading host.
It would bad news for Britain even though it would be able to continue to stage its own international events. It is also just one part of a major re-think about the way top sailing events are structured and presented.
As the world championships of sailing wind up in Western Australia with four medals in the bag and the possibility at the finale tomorrow of up to three more for Britain from the 10 events, it has emerged that, as part of restructuring the annual world circuit, Britain's Weymouth, Holland's Medemblik, and Germany's Keil will be left out from 2013.
None are happy, including Britain's Royal Yachting Association, which also feels that the bidding process was unfairly altered.
The two European regattas so far agreed are Hyeres in France and Spain's Palma de Mallorca, but none in northern Europe, as the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) responds to International Olympic Committee guidelines wants all its sports to showcase major events all over the world.
That, in the case of sailing, would mean all the continents, including India or China, even though both those countries, especially India, are a long way off being major forces at international and Olympic level.
With the next Olympics being in Rio, many countries would like to see S. America as well as N. America, involved, though all would like to see what effect it would have on budgets to contest six events around the world every year.
Nor is this a case of the National Sailing Centre at Weymouth and Portland losing out on potential income. It costs about $400,000 to $500,000 to put on a world championship event, with entry fees and sponsorship making a contribution that so far leaves the organisers out of pocket. Britain benefits from financial services company Skandia supporting both the team and the event.
The moves come at an awkward transitional stage. There is a Games next year, after which there will be an election at the Dublin agm for a new president to replace Goran Petersson of Sweden. Front runner is Australian treasurer Dave Kellett, who would be left with the responsibility of not only implementing a strategy that has been developed over the last few years but includes the recommendations of the ISAF-sponsored Olympic Commission.
That was chaired by Phil Jones, who has been director of the national federation, Yachting Australia, for 14 years having moved from the UK, where he was both a director of his own sports marketing company and an Olympic sailing coach.
Put simply, it recognised that so-called “stadium sailing”, with the boats close to shore, spectators able to watch and, most importantly as far as the IOC is concerned, television being able to deliver a commercial return to sponsors, is vital if sailing is to remain in the Olympic Games, where it started in 1900 and has been uninterrupted since 1908. ISAF derives half of its revenue from Olympic Games sponsorship and television rights revenue. It wants to maintain sailing’s place.
At the same time, ISAF needs both to keep the integrity of the game instead of allowing it to be turned into some sort of cabaret act, and to recognise that the vast majority of competitive regattas will not switch to stadium sailing.
The Jones Report has been accepted by the ISAF council, which represents all the member countries, but there have been questions over the speed of implementation and the budget to fund it. The answer could be a small executive committee which can act quickly but at the same time protect the interests of the majority.
There has also been the little local difficulty of incidents like a television boat which became the object of heated remonstration by triple gold and silver Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie last weekend in Perth 2011 and which led to him being disqualified from the medal-deciding race when he was heading for a sixth Finn class world championship . There have been loud complaints from Britain’s Olympic manager, Stephen Park, that a world championship was not the time to trial new procedures.
The Ainslie altercation will rumble on with the RYA expected to call its own tribunal hearing when it has received the report of the jury which handed down the sanction, possibly before the end of next month.