Earlier this week, International Sailing Federation (ISAF) announced a renewed campaign to try to get sailing back on the Paralympic program following the decision by the IPC on March 1 despite the IPC having repeatedly reaffirming it was not going to happen, and there being no process in place to allow for the sport’s reinclusion.
The new ISAF pitch is that for the first time, disability sailing is being professionally governed and the IPC should take this into consideration. ISAF Pesident Carlo Croce is quoted in an organization press release as saying, “Following the merger of IFDS into ISAF at the end of last year, Disabled Sailing is now under new professional management. This is a new era for Disabled Sailing with ISAF now able to fully utilise its technical, financial, promotional and strategic resources to bring significant benefits to Disabled Sailing. For example, we are now working hard to put in place a much enhanced, professional and aligned four-year competition programme for Disabled Sailing, as well as generate greater media, broadcast and promotional opportunities for the sport following integration into ISAF’s wider communications planning and activities.
“These are all new developments since the merger of IFDS into ISAF and it is important that we now effectively communicate this new era for Disabled Sailing to the IPC. I’m delighted that we have the proven expertise of VERO Communications to support us in this cause. Our focus now is to build the case for Disabled Sailing’s inclusion in Tokyo 2020, much of which will be centred around new evidence, as well as stressing some of the unique attributes of Disabled Sailing, including the fact that it is the only sport where athletes with the highest level of disability can compete equally against athletes with other disabilities. I very much hope, upon receipt of this new evidence, that the IPC will look favourably on our case.”
This announcement comes on the heels of an ISAF announcement regarding the creation of a Paralympic Development Program, which has four stated goals:
• Support the development of national disabled / Paralympic development programs within ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs);
• Increase attendance by nations at events using Paralympic classes of equipment i.e Sailing World Cup / Disabled Sailing World Championships / Paralympic Games qualification events;
• Increase the number of classified sailors registered within ISAF member nations;
• Enable ISAF member nations involved in the program to develop sustainable grass roots ‘participation’ oriented disabled sailing activity to feed ‘performance’ programs.
The program was approved by the ISAF Executive Committee at their 2015 Mid-Year Meeting.
The program largely involves subsidizing training programs at a clinic in Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in August, and a second clinic in August in Melbourne, Australia. Sailors attending the events will be given access to Paralympic sailing equipment to use for the event.
A condition of participation involves the MNA doing self assessment about their ability to deliver a sustainable disability sailing program on the national level, with the implication that growing the sport will be done by MNAs who are already in strong positions and will require little support from ISAF after the course to continue internal development.
The announced program includes zero benchmarks for success, what timeline they have to increase regular and consistent national team participation in events, nor how this will increase participation outside the sport’s current home. The ISAF announce includes nothing concrete in the public details for they will accomplish these aims. It also does not explain any changes related to classification, or better integration of blind sailing and intellectual disability sailing. It provides no new details on any strategic partnerships with other disability sport organizations with a track record of success in doing this like the IWAS, IBSA, INAS and Special Olympics.
This stands in stark contrast to other sports who are successfully on the Paralympic Program and have produced development plans. These sports include wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, goalball, blind sport, intellectual disability sport, badminton, Taewkondo, and wheelchair tennis. Their development plans are more public, contain benchmarks for success, and allow members to hold the organization’s accountable. Sailing does not do that, nor does it offer any concrete plans for how they plan to meet these aims beyond the two sessions. It just says they aim to do these things.