Friday, May 25, 2012

Nevin Sayre's letter to US Sailing

Dear U.S. Sailing,

It seems US Sailing didn’t have all the information before casting three votes for kitesurf course racing at the expense of windsurf racing for the 2016 Olympics. A more careful evaluation questions Dean Brenner’s explanation for the U.S. votes at the ISAF Council.

1. No argument, kiteboarding is an exciting and rapidly growing area of the sport. However, US Sailing and ISAF voted for what is currently practiced by a very small percentage of kiteboarders - kiteboard course racing. That’s like noticing all these skiers at the mountain and then choosing telemark racing as the Olympic discipline. Kite board racing uses very different equipment and skills than what you see at the beach. No doubt kiteboard racing is cutting edge and could one day evolve into an Olympic sport, but we’re just not there yet. That’s the point. There are estimates that at most 200-300 persons world-wide have been on a kite course board. This includes but a handful of juniors.

But let’s look at the facts: 80 women from 37 countries competed in the RS:X World Championships. 12 women from 10 countries competed in the Kite Course Racing World Championships. Only two women were able to complete all the races at the Kite Course Worlds. Does this qualify as Olympic-ready for 2016?

There is currently no known active Youth Kite Course Racing. Compare that to 400 kids (age 16 and younger) who are expected at the Techno Windsurfing World Championships this summer.

2. According to Dean/US Sailing’s justification, 'The infrastructure required will be minimal.' Agreed, infrastructure required for staging events is an important consideration. I wonder if US Sailing is aware that kitesurfing, due to safety concerns, is prohibited from many premier ISAF sailing venues:

In Sydney Harbour, site of the 2000 Olympics, kitesurfing is banned.
In Singapore, site of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, kitesurfing in banned.
In Cyprus, site of the 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds, kitesurfing is banned.
In Lake Garda, Italy, site of the EUROSAF Olympic Regatta, kitesurfing is banned.

In the hospital after kitesurfing - Calling out U.S. Sailing to explain their Olympic vote -  Nevin Sayre  
But even if kitesurfing is allowed at a specific venue, other significant logistics are involved. While race management on the water may be similar to other classes, to safely launch a kite you need very specific conditions. A minimum of 100 ft of open space is required, free of any obstacles that could impale the kiteboarder, or put bystanders at risk. There is no way you can launch and tack out of many yacht harbors (Kiel?).

On top of that, kitesurfers require the ability to change kite sizes if wind conditions change between races. The ISAF Kite Equipment Report glosses over basic logistics and says huge floating platforms could be built to launch from, or competitors can launch from support boats, or be shuttled to launch from outside beaches. That’s minimal infrastructure????? There are very few venues without surrounding hazards where you can safely launch 140 kites to make a 9:00 AM start time in gusty, stormy conditions.

3. Dean’s third reason, 'The potential exists to bring new countries to the sport of Olympic Sailing' is valid. And windsurfing has done exactly that with 54 countries competing in the Olympic Qualifying events, and more MNAs competing in Men’s RS:X at the ISAF World Championships than any other class, including Laser. Does US Sailing/ISAF want to trade this success for a class that is not yet developed?

4. 'Kites can be sailed close to shore, increasing spectator possibilities.' Yes, just as easily as windsurfing. The only difference is, if the wind is on shore, all those ISAF spectators would have to be pushed back from the shoreline to avoid decapitation.

5. Dean goes on to rely on the ISAF Equipment Evaluation Report which barely addresses the critical concerns of safety. While it’s true that kites have improved in safety, and expert kiters will take their own risks, what about the safety of juniors pursing the Olympic dream? You can’t just hook a hot shot Opti sailor up to a kite and push him/her off the dock. There is zero pathway for kiting currently within US Sailing.

In his position as Olympic Sailing Chairman, Dean Brenner may not be concerned with further down the pyramid, but safety in the Olympic pipeline should be of paramount importance to US Sailing. Again I ask, what is US Sailing’s plan to safely incorporate kitesurfing into Junior Sailing Programs, the Olympic Youth Development Team, Youth Worlds Team, the Junior Olympic events, and all the pathways that leads to the Olympics? What is US Sailing’s plan to bring kitesurfing under its umbrella when insurance companies have deemed kitesurfing unsafe?

ISAF’s own specialists in the Events Committee voted 17-2 in favor of trialing kitesurfing at ISAF events until it is proven Olympic-ready, and keeping RS:X as the Olympic Class for Men’s and Women’s in 2016. We call on U.S. Sailing and ISAF to evaluate the readiness of kitesurf racing for 2016 and the Olympic pipeline, question dubious claims in the ISAF Kite Evaluation Report, balance judgement against the world-wide success of windsurfing as an Olympic discipline, and perform a complete fair analysis before their vote in the November ISAF meeting.

Nevin Sayre - US Sailing Member

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Olga Maslivets explains the truth behind the vote

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A letter from the RS:X women's class leader, Olga Maslivets, explains the statistics behind the decision of ISAF. Olga is the RSX Women's class leader and apparently a fairly organized person.

This was copied from Farah Hall's Blog here

Dear Fiona

Thank you for forwarding your report.

Nevertheless there are serious issues to address as important decisions like this impact the lives of thousands of athletes, coaches, MNAs, their sponsors and companies involved in the whole sport

From my calculations over 30% of the votes cast ~ 6 ~ in favour of kite by council members were either made in error, confusion about the voting process, against the guidance given by their constituencies or after no consultation with those constituencies.

In addition a further 21% of votes cast - this time by ISAF Vice Presidents - were either against the interest of the geographical constituency that was instrumental in first nominating them and then voting for them and/or their MNAs have since distanced themselves from their actions either publicly or privately.

Some may argue that the ISAF VPs do not vote for any particular geographical grouping. To them I would ask whether the fact that there is one VP each from Asia, South America and North America with the Oceania being represented through the treasurer is just a coincidence or whether they are there to represent the geographical area from which they come ?

51% of the voting decisions for Kite were therefore based on the spur-of-the-moment or on personal preference without proper consideration of the impact of the outcomes either for kitesurfing or windsurfing.

Despite the large number of people claimed by the IKA to be engaged in kitesurfing worldwide, this only produced 12 women entries to the 2011 Kitesurfing course racing world championships from 10 nations of which only ONE voted for kite and the rest voted for windsurfing. There must be a message for ISAF in that statistic.

Additionally only 2 - one in the production division - of those women managed to complete all the races without letters in their scoreline

This compares to 80 women registered for the 2012 RS:X World Championships from 37 nations  and 5 continents with 16 of them competing for the last 7 qualification spots for London 2012.

In the meantime, please enjoy this video showing 1111 windsurfers taking part in the 2011 Defi-Wind at Le Gruissan in France.

This is just a small illustration of the shear size of the sport of windsurfing and the numbers taking part in racing in one form or another

Whilst kite obviously has potential, it is as yet unproven against the obvious success of the RS:X Women's Class who are second only to the Laser Radial in terms of numbers of athletes and country participation - 39 nations in the Olympic Q Series  -

It seems odd that you did not take this into account

ISAF liability
Whilst you seem happy to accept the bland assurances of the sport of kitesurfing becoming safer and dismiss any misgivings in one line of your report. National, Regional, City and local governments around the world have seen fit to either ban kitesurfing altogether or severely limit the geographical locations where it can be enjoyed

In Sydney Harbour, the venue for the 2000 Olympic Regatta kitesurfing is banned

In Singapore, the venue for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, kitesurfing in banned

In Cyprus, the venue for the 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds, kitesurfing is banned

On Lake Garda, Italy, the venue for the Italian leg of the EUROSAF Olympic Classes Regatta Circuit kitesurfing is banned

There are a lot more examples but these serve to illustrate my point

These restrictions are to protect other users of these waters from the risk of injury. In fact 122 kite surfers have been killed in the last 10 years. Other casualties are hard to verify but here are a few examples

Dangerous situations can occur despite proper training and safety precautions due to unpredictable conditions and difficulties with equipment.

Whilst I appreciate that you thought that you were acting in everyone's best interest, I would urge you and all our friends on the ISAF Women's Forum to do their own due diligence. The three points I have made should be enough to give you all proper reasons to reflect.

Meanwhile, here's what Paul Henderson has to say " Just an observation from a has-been ISAF President and IOC Member who first went to then IYRU in 1970 as a smart-ass Canuck. Never in all that time has a Council changed 40% of the classes in an Olympiad. This totally disrupts the sailors, which is the reason for the Games, not some unobtainable TV exposure. No other sport has ever done this. One event maybe, but 40%? I trust that the IOC Program Commission will ask ISAF to review all its decisions... including the keelboat exclusion"

Has ISAF made a balanced well thought through decision?

Warm Regards

PS. ISAF selected women's match racing then booted it out before its first Olympic Regatta. ISAF booted the multi-hull out and was subject to major criticism. Now it has done the same for windsurfing with a spur of the moment decision. Do you feel that the decision making process is producing consistently good decisions?

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Spanish Windsurfing Star Blanca tells it straight

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As it was expected, it didn’t take long for Spain’s top windsurfers to express their anger, frustration and bitterness with their country’s vote against their discipline and in favor of kiteboarding in the recent ISAF Mid-Year Meeting. The first one to publicly express her feelings was Blanca Manchón in a letter to the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee where she asks for his intervention in order to rectify what was, according to the official line, an “error”.

Dear Mr. President,
I am Blanca Manchón, a 25-year old sportswoman from Seville, member of the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation in the Olympic windsurf discipline (currently the RS: X Class), where I won two golds, one silver and one bronze at the World Championships, three absolute titles in the World Cup, an Olympic diploma at the 2004 Athens Olympics, four medals at the European Championships. I was named best female sailor of the world in 2010 by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), in addition to being ADO [Spain's Olympic preparation program] athlete at its top level in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
The reason I’m sending you this letter is to inform you about the events that took place in relation to windsurf’s Olympic status and the serious consequences its exclusion from the Olympic program could have to our country’s sports. In fact, it is a discipline where large amounts of money have been invested by the state and in which we are strong contenders for medals at the Olympic Games, not just in London 2012, but in 2016 and 2020, given the potential of Spain’s windsurfers.
In May of this year, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) submitted to vote a proposal to all national federations to change three of the existing Olympic disciplines for the 2016 Olympics. Inexplicably, and for pure profit and economic interests of the ISAF, windsurfing was eliminated from the Olympic disciplines in favor of kiteboarding.
The behind-the-scenes politics and lobbying by the ISAF managers in favor of kiteboarding on countries that usually cast a blank vote, not having representatives in any of the two disciplines, and the absence in that vote of the Asian countries, a driving force behind windsurf’s Olympic presence, produced an unexpected result in that vote with 19 ballots against 17 in favor of kiteboarding, to the detriment of windsurfing.

When the result of the vote was published, and not believing what had happened, I asked for the list of countries that had voted. That is when I got shocked and confused to see that my own country, Spain, had voted for the kite, which in turn influenced the Latin American vote to switch from windsurfing to kiteboarding.
Spain also votes on behalf of Portugal and Andorra, in the so-called Group E. Its vote was for windsurfing, according to a previous agreement between the three countries, although Spain, at the very last moment and with a close vote, changed its decision …
What should we call that? What interests drove Spain to change its vote, a vote that was previously agreed, at least in theory, with the athletes, the technical directors and the regional sailing federations?
This decision has destroyed all the work accomplished over the past 12 years by the main regional federations of Spain and put an end to the realistic possibility that Marina Alabau, Blanca Manchón or Pastor Ivan, those that will represent the country because of their sports qualification, become strong contenders for medals in the Olympic Games of 2016 and 2020.
SPAIN IS A WORLD POWER in Olympic windsurfing, thanks to the support we had from the Sports Council and the ADO Plan. However, the RFEV voted for the unknown discipline of kiteboarding… So much effort, sacrifice and money invested in us for what? I do not understand anything at all.
The entire sailing world is at war through the social networks, mainly through Facebook and Twitter, trying to change ISAF’s controversial decision at its next meeting to be held in November. However, they also ask Spain to explain its vote for TREASON.
I have personally requested an explanation from the president of the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation, Gerardo Pombo, who hours before the publication of the list of countries of the aforementioned voting was defending tooth and nail that Spain had voted in favor of windsurf. Once the list was made public he rectified and issued a statement on RFEV’s website, recognizing the mistake: “It was just a mistake, a simple voting mistake.” As if to tick a box was so difficult so that one would err in something so transcendental, in this case for the Olympic discipline of windsurfing and all the infrastructure that was put in place throughout all those years.
However, this rectification was only sent to the presidents of Spain’s regional sailing federations and was published solely on RFEV’s website. It wasn’t sent to all the media that usually received the sailing federation’s press releases. In addition, this rectification is useless if it’s not accompanied by the intention to cancel Spain’s vote in ISAF. The vote was against Spain’s sporting interests, it was disloyal to Portugal and Andorra, to all windsurfers and completely ignored the recommendations of all technical directors.
With this letter I kindly ask you, in accordance with your responsibility as the leader of the country’s sport, to ask for the pertinent explanations from the president of the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation in relation to what took place and give him the necessary orders so that Spain invalidates its vote in ISAF, in order for us, the athletes, technicians and technical directors of the sport of sailing, not to feel embarrassed by this situation.
Gerardo Pombo, president of the RFEV, knows exactly what buttons he has to press in order for the ISAF to rectify this unjust decision at its next meeting, scheduled for November.
Thanking you in advance for all the support I received during my career to date,
Blanca Manchon Dominguez (ESP-1) 
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Bruce Kendall calls FOUL on Dean Brenner

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From Sailing Anarchy
calling bs

US Sailing sent out a lengthy article in support of the decision to replace Windsurfing with Kiteboards in the Olympics. 
Kiwi Bruce Kendall (won the Olympic windsurfing Gold medal in 1988, Bronze medal in 1984) is calling BS on it, and Bruce's comments are inserted normally in the italicized US Sailing piece below. Here is a link to the original US Sailing piece.

US Sailing Statement on Kiteboarding vs. Windsurfing
Prepared by Dean Brenner, US Sailing Board Member and Chairman, Olympic Sailing Committee

Every four years, difficult decisions are made about Olympic sailing events. The choices made always leave some part of the sailing community frustrated and feeling, at least on some level, disenfranchised. I say this as a former Soling sailor who was quite upset with decisions made in November 2000, and a long-time keelboat sailor who did not agree with the recent decisions to exclude keelboats from the Games entirely. I know, first hand, how it feels to have the part of the sport I care most about excluded.

Most will agree that fleet to match racing in keel boats being dropped from the Olympics after 2000 was a backwards step, especially considering the retention of the Star for a further 12 years. A keel boat should be in the Olympics. It is well represented placed in the para Olympics & able bodied sailors should have more opportunity to race against those handicapped sailors.
Possibly a mixed keel boat class would have been more sensible than mixed multi hull? No disrespect intended. Now that the America's Cup is on multi hull, possibly this should be the Olympic Fleet to Match racing class? All food for thought. Previous dubious decisions do not make following dubious discussions OK.
There is no right and wrong here, or good and bad. On behalf of US Sailing, I would like to raise my hand and explain the reasoning behind the votes.

History has proven there are always right & wrong decisions & some times both sides weigh equally. Wrong decisions are more likely to be made when the subject has not been thoroughly been researched or there is a vested interest. Weighing up all the facts of this decision, at this time it appears the May 5th decision to replace windsurfing with Kite racing is a wrong decision.
While the Board of US Sailing makes final decisions on all recommendations to our ISAF delegation, much of the thinking on Olympic events and equipment originates in the Olympic Sailing Committee, which I lead. The OSC believes, and I continue to support this 100%, that kites will be good for the sport of sailing, worldwide. The reasons are simple:
1. Kiteboarding is an exciting and rapidly growing area of the sport.

Kite racing is currently a small & undeveloped sport compared to windsurfing was back to the mid 1970's. It is still too early to judge if kite racing is a narrow niche sport with a low ceiling of participants & if the numbers would naturally continue to increase without the Olympic ticket.
Currently the majority of Kite retailers have not stocked kite racing boards as the evolution of design has been too fast & superseded designs have to be sold at below cost.

Most of the Kite board brands have not invested in building kite racing board molds & are waiting for the evolution to slow down as it has been too hard to sell racing boards to retailers.
The major Kite board manufacturers have not been making many racing boards for some time due to the above reasons. As a consequence, Kite racing boards are not widely available & kite racing has not been enjoying the same growth the rest of the Kite boarding market has.
2. The infrastructure required will be minimal.

This is a non argument to replace windsurfing, but is an argument to replace some of the other Olympic Sailing Classes. Infrastructure for windsurfing is less than required for kite racing as the boards are the same size & Kite rigging and launching areas require more space than to rig & launch windsurfers. Windsurfing certainly requires less infrastructure than all other sailing classes. The infrastructure in terms of developing kite surfing compared to windsurfing may in fact be more in some locations where a higher ratio of support boats to sailors may be required.

3. The potential exists to bring in new countries to the sport of Olympic Sailing, and at Council, there was support from every continent and region: Europe, Caribbean, South America, North America, Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Mid-East.

Potential also exists also for windsurfing to continue to bring new countries more than other Olympic sailing classes. This is proven with RSX's track record of the growing number of nations trying to qualify for the OLympic Games in Windsurfing at the last RSX class world champs in Cadiz in 2012.

The only thing that has stopped Olympic windsurfing's continued advance is ISAF changing the class every 8 years. The laser class is larger than the RSX, but how long has it been intact?
Many new countries just as before, will not be able to compete in Kite racing due to a lack of ability to :
1. Keep pace with design evolution
2. lack of ability to competitive equipment
3. Compete against established nations with good programs.,
4. Kites can be sailed close to shore, increasing spectator possibilities.

The length of the size of the fin is almost the same as the RSX so in fact there is no difference about being close to the shore. It is only ISAF that have restricted the RSX class's ability to compete close to the beach. In off shore gusty conditions windsurfing can in fact compete closer to the beach than Kites. Little has been said about the limitations of kite racing due to unsuitable weather, launching & landing conditions.
5. There have been major advancements in safety, and the evaluation report said exactly that.

Those interested in this debate, really should read that report, linked here. The report was widely circulated & before the May 5th meeting. An official letter was sent by Ben Barger the ISAF Athletes rep asking for more detail & solid evidence to back the claims. It has never been replied to. Evidence to refute some of the statements in the report were already common knowledge. The Safety issues have never been fully answered. Kites are banned in many more places than all other windsurfing & sailing often due to actual historical safety reasons in that area.
Kite surfing has possibly had more serious accidents in the last 5 years than the whole of sailing combined. Safety concerns are a factor in any sport & for many parents, safety & liability is a reason some choose not to do a sport.
Is there work to be done? Every time events or equipment are changed, work is required. There will ALWAYS be more work to get a new event established vs. the continuation of an existing one.

When something is not broken & already established, there is a lot less work to do than with an unknown quantity.

By 2015 everyone would have seen kite racing naturally evolve without as much "panicked action to get up to speed" and risk as it will be experienced now. Environmental costs and the carbon foot print of Olympic Sailing should be more of a consideration at this time.

It appears that ISAF & US Sailing has thrown a good toy out of the pram on impulse for some thing new that may not be an improvement. What is the environmental cost to this action?
Does US Sailing have work to do in supporting the industry’s pipeline development? Of course. For kiteboarding to flourish, the kiteboarding community will need to commit to increased support in this area. US Sailing will work on developing pathways for kite sailors to make the Olympics, just as it has done in other classes.
It appears US Sailing has done very little if anything to support the windsurfing industries' "pipe line development." This has been clearly reflected by USA's Olympic windsurfing & sailing results since 1992. US Sailing may not realize that their inadequate approach to developing & promoting all kinds of Olympic Sailing in the US & close developing nations has partially jeopardized sailings position as an Olympic sport .I hope for those in the US, & the rest of the world, US Sailing will be more mind full of all sailing sports & their development & promotion than it has been.
The decisions on Olympic events and equipment are never easy. But I stand behind ISAF’s decision 100%. Kiteboarding will be good for the sport of sailing, in the USA and worldwide.
If well researched & considered logical steps are taken in a timely fashion, correct decisions are much more easily & likely to be reached.

Kite racing is good for the sport of sailing.

It is too early to know if it will be good for and compatible with the Olympic Sailing Classes. Another 4 years would have proved this.

Certainly the loss of Windsurfing is a great loss for Olympic Sailing as it is proven to be the most affordable to campaign & largely focuses on the difference between the sailors efforts & ability & not on the check book. The very large numbers and range of nations currently competing on a large range of windsurfers around the globe dwarfs the numbers kite racing. Why drop the 2nd strongest Olympic sailing class in the world for a sport not fully proven? This makes no sense.
I am extremely disappointed that US Sailing has not supported windsurfing in the US or globally.
US sailing have a disproportional influence compared to Asian countries [the main area to develop sailing next] Asian nations are big losers in this decision as they are by far more successful in windsurfing than any other form of sailing

ISAF & US sailing may not have considered that dropping windsurfing from the Olympics may actually further erode Sailing's already current tenuous position as an Olympic sport.
There are already comments in the IOC from those that have influence & a vote regarding which sports remain Olympic and consider dropping windsurfing to be a backwards step for sailing. I hope ISAF & US sailing reconsider their decisions in a timely fashion.
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New York bans kitesurfing

If you are a New York kiter you must be bumming.
This was picked up from KiteForum and is a reply that was sent to an interested kiter

Mr. (his name),

Along with other groups interested in activities in their state parks, we have met twice with people who are interested in engaging in kite boarding. After discussing all the locations we he have available in state parks on bays, the Long Island Sound, and the Ocean, we agreed that there is not a place with proximate parking where there is not usually a heavily populated beach. Our judgment is that the length of beach needed to lay out the gear used by kite boarders and the potential impact on bystanders precluded us from opening beaches with parking nearby to kite boarding. While those we met with were adamant that they wanted to launch from remote, unpopulated beaches we don’t have beaches that fit that description and that have legal parking.

We could meet again with you and others interested in kite boarding. However, nothing has changed since out meetings of two years ago.

If you would like such a meeting, please call me.

Ron Foley
Regional Director
Long Island Region
NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation