Yesterday, the man who oversaw the failed bid to have sailing included on the Paralympic program for 2020 using numbers that misrepresented the total number of disability sailors, Bernard Destrube, claimed that he had temporarily taken the helm of the ISAF Disabled Sailing Committee as its president.
He said in an editorial on Sailing Scuttlebutt, “I have accepted to temporarily take the helm of the Disabled Sailing Committee (IFDS), fully conscious of the monumental challenges lying ahead. The merger with ISAF will create new dynamics, transfers of responsibilities, modified communication, and hopefully a number of changes that will promote what is certainly one of the greatest sports for persons with a disability!”
Since the announcement was made that sailing was cut, Bernard Destrubé has been the most visible spokesperson inside ISAF’s disability sport community in terms of explaining the role of the IFDS. Among the things he has done since the announcement is to blame the media for not making sailing more attractive to disability sailors, and failed to take any responsibility for IFDS’s role in making the sport more appealing to the broader media outside the immediate sailing committee. Destrube has also falsely given hope to the disability sailing community that there was hope for sailing to be included on the Paralympic program if sailors and their supports would just send petitions to the IPC. The IPC had publicly stated that in February that the decision was final, and would not be revisited. Destrube also misrepresented the IPC rules regarding sailing, most recently in Yachts and Yachting on April 9, where he said the minimum number of participating countries was 14 and that sailing had met this. He also acknowledged in that interview that he tried to make the case to the IPC that sailing should be treated as a team sport because multiple people competed in the same boat. In the IPC application, which Destrube was in charge of, he counted non-disability sailors competing in open events as having disabilities and being national Paralympic teams. Someone familiar with the internal documents that IFDS sent the IPC as part of their bid to have sailing included told ParaSport News that the application looked “like it had been written by a 5-year-old”. Destrube also took repeated potshots at concerned members of the disability sailing community, who expressed concerns over actions of IFDS and ISAF leadership.
Destrube’s leadership in terms of the the Paralympic application was nothing short of disastrous for Paralympic sailing. The immediate consequences of his actions involved huge losses of funding for disability sailing around the globe. Destrube’s subsequent actions in creating false hope where none should have existed were equally problematic as many MNAs spent resources trying to get sailing back on the Paralympic program, instead of doing short, medium and long term planning in response to the exclusion of sailing from the Paralympic program.