ParaSport News has been given a letter from IFDS President John Towney tp the IPC Governing Board that sheds new light on efforts to keep sailing on the 2020 Paralympic program, specifically in regards to participation numbers. This includes the fact that IFDS was counting ineligible sailors in order to get to their minimum participation numbers, lacked regularly sanctioned IFDS events, and that ISAF was conducting its own survey on disability sailing rates among its 140 MNAs.
Towney’s letter supports the IPC’s contention that IFDS was over counting boats as the letter explicitly states that the Hansa Two-Person Keelboat used for Regional and Continental Championships and Challenger Trimaran Single-Person Multi Hull Boat were counted in order to get to the total number of 38 that IFDS presented to the IPC. The letter goes on to support this by stating the Blind Sailing World Championship which includes Blind Match racing and Blind Fleet racing were counted, along with the Hansa and Challenger Trimaran World Championship despite neither being Paralympic class boats. This leaves the IFDS with, by their own admission, only 1 IFDS licensed event each year for competition at the elite level. This level of sanctioned activity is well below the number events by all other sports on the Paralympic program, and that of 7-a-side football who were also cut from the Games.
The letter also has IFDS President John Towney referring to ISAF conducting a survey of member nations. No such survey results have ever been made public, and it was not until February, after sailing had been removed from the Paralympic program, that IFDS announced their own member survey to gauge international participation in the sport. It remains unclear if ISAF’s unpublished member survey results support claims by Dr. Bernard Destrubé that IFDS had made their case to the IPC and they actually had the numbers. Neither ISAF nor IFDS have ever publicly published the sport’s participation numbers. No development plan has been public about how to improve these numbers for 2024 reinclusion efforts.
The letter also highlights that prior to the IPC decision, ISAF was actively working on getting MNAs on board after the November 2014 formal merge of IFDS into ISAF as the Disability Sailing Committee. According to Towney, “ISAF President Carlo Croce at the ISAF Annual General Meeting help in Palma Mallorca in November 2014 pointed out to all 140 MNA’s in attendance that they were now responsible for the promotion and organization of Disabled/Paralympic Sailing which will take effect November 2014. This has resulted in numerous approaches to the ISAF Disabled Sailing Committee for advice and guidance on setting up programs in Countries where none currently exist.” Little has been announced since then, with no major initiatives planned, countries listed as coming on board with disability sailing, or increases in funding for disability sailing inside MNAs. The only news following the merger has been cuts to disability sailing in light of funding related to sailing being on the Paralympic program drying up.