Yesterday, ISAF announced 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 in Amsterdam Zuid Hotel, Amsterdam held from May 7 to 10 of this year.
ISAF’s promise for delivering of this aim is stated in their press release as largely relying on 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. All participating countries will need to send in a self-assessment to ISAF regarding their readiness to create a sustainable national program as a condition of getting funding.
Historically, when sailing MNAs have gotten together at IFDS and ISAF to discuss sailing issues and how easy it is to create a disability sailing program, there has been little to no impact. Following a well received presentation about disability sailing programs at one ISAF development conference attended by a number of countries with no current disability sailing, there was no news of any success as an outcome. There were no reports of a single country without a disability sailing program creating or supporting a program inside their MNA. The current success rate for ISAF and IFDS presentations and training sessions at major international gatherings appears to be zero, or close to it.
The announcement contains no news on developing blind sailing, intellectual disability sailing, or different classes of boats. The plan also does not include any announcements regarding MOUs with major disability sport organizations like IWAS, IBSA, CPISRA, INAS or Special Olympics to help them achieve their goals. Such partnerships exist with a number of newer sports, including badminton and Taekwondo, the two new sports on the Paralympic program for 2020.
It also contains no information about how ISAF will assess their own success in delivering on their goals, with a complete absent of any announced benchmarks to track where they currently are and where they aim to be. The complete and total of absence of benchmarks may be problematic, as disability sailing has no published extant numbers on national team participation in ISAF and IFDS competitive disability sailing events.
The numbers provided by IFDS’s John Towney and current ISAF Disability Sailing Committee member in charge of the Paralympic inclusion efforts Bernard Destrubé are inaccurate according to the IPC, who have said that IFDS counted able-bodied sailors competing in Paralympic class boats as part of their numbers. ISAF and IFDS both conducted surveys of their MNAs about participation rates in disability sailing in the past year, but neither organization has publicly published their results despite calls for them to do so. Participation numbers are a criteria for inclusion on the Paralympic program and are something the IPC will want to see.