Yachting Australia has expressed both disappointment and concern over the decision taken last week by the ISAF Council to drop the Multihull from the list of events for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Yachting Australia delegates supported the retention of the multihull event throughout the ISAF Annual Meetings which took place in Estoril, Portugal from 3-11 November.
ISAF was challenged with reducing the number of Olympic events from 11 in 2008 to 10 for 2012 in Weymouth. "To not include the multihull in 2012 is to disenfranchise a large part of the sport of sailing," says Phil Jones, CEO of Yachting Australia and member of the ISAF Events Committee, which recommended that the multihull should be retained. "The speed and excitement of catamarans is a real draw to young people. They are the speed machines of sailboat racing. Whilst there is only a limited number of countries involved in the Tornado Olympic Class, multihull sailing is an attractive and truly global part of the sport."
ISAF has been heeding the clear message from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over recent years that for the sport to maintain its place on the Olympic Program it must take steps to become more attractive to the media and the public. Changes to the format of the competition have been made and a World Cup Series has been agreed in effort to ensure more regular exposure for Olympic sailing.
"Catamaran racing is fast and comes across as really exciting," says Phil Jones. "The Tornado is one of the most telegenic boats in the Olympic Regatta. The boats are big enough to carry on board cameras and tracking devices that can really bring the contest to life for the viewer. To not have a place for it, or another multihull, is a real step backwards for a sport that has the challenge of building its profile. For us, there was just no focus on the bigger, long-term picture."
Yachting Australia is also concerned over the process by which the multihull was excluded. The ISAF Council voted to change the process recommended for the selection of the events. This meant that there was no "run-off" vote between the Multihull and the Keelboat.
"There was no real discussion over the implications of the change. It altered the fundamental principles of the recommended system." says Phil Jones. "Some consider that the change, which was taken on a motion from the floor, was taken with undue haste. Certainly many around the Council did not seem to appreciate the full implications of the change. Those that used their first vote to support other events may well have backed the multihull over the keelboat had they had the opportunity. This change denied them this opportunity. I am sure that having had time consider the implications, many will recognise that the change, put forward as a mere simplification, was much more than this."
Yachting Australia is concerned over the reaction to the ISAF Council decision. "We understand that some will be very disappointed but the personal and vitriolic attacks that we have seen do nothing to help the cause of those making them. In fact, they only do damage. Yachting Australia does not consider this type of reaction appropriate in any way."
Yachting Australia is considering what further action, if any, can be taken to revisit the decision. "However much we might disagree, if we felt the decision had been properly considered and made with those around the table fully understanding the implications, we would accept it. Obviously we don't consider that this is the case. We shall be discussing the issue with colleagues from other countries and IOC representatives over the next few days before deciding how we proceed."