Sailing: Windsurfing fury won't change vote

By David Leggat

Kiteboarding. Photo / APN
Kiteboarding. Photo / APN

The row over how kiteboarding came to usurp windsurfing for the 2016 Olympic Games is fast descending into a shambles.

However, the bosses of both Yachting New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee remain convinced that no matter the fury emanating from the windsurfing community, the decision won't be changed.

After the Spanish federation admitted last week that its representative on the International Sailing Federation voted erroneously for kiteboarding because of confusion over the process, two other countries have come out swinging over the way the decision was reached.

Venezuela are unhappy that one of the ISAF vice-presidents, Theresa Lara, a Venezuelan, voted for kiteboarding.

The Venezuelan federation has written of its "total and absolute disagreement" with Lara's vote. It claims talks were held before the key meeting and voting for kiteboarding "was never an option under any circumstances".

Clouding the issue is the understanding that the seven vice-presidents are not subject to riding instructions from their own national bodies. Five of them voted to boot windsurfing out for Rio de Janeiro.

And Israel, who boast four sailors, including three-time world champion Lee Korzits among the top 10 men and women, have also slammed the process.

The ISAF vote at its council meeting in Italy last week in favour of kiteboarding was 19-17. Yehuda Maayan, chairman of the Israel Sailing Association, believes delegates didn't realise what they were voting for and suggested some "may have been napping" in the lead-up to the vote being taken.

According to Maayan, the ISAF windsurfing and kiteboarding sub-committee voted to retain the RS:X 17-2. However, the broader council came up with the 19-17 vote for kiteboarders.

That sounds as if those with intimate knowledge of the two disciplines had an almost unanimous view; the wider group lacking specialist information went against that advice.

YNZ chief executive David Abercrombie remains convinced the ISAF won't budge from its decision.

"One reason is if they do they set a precedent for the future," he said last night. "Every meeting you go to that's a close vote, someone steps up afterwards when they get back to their [national association] and are given grief about the fact they've actually voted against the way their country wanted them to vote.

"And you roll it over? You're never going to do that."

NZOC secretary-general Kerryn Smith adopted a wait-and-see approach, while disappointed over one of New Zealand's most successful Olympic events being rubbed out. She shared Abercrombie's scepticism over a change of heart from the ISAF.

"That would be my experience of international federations," she said. "It would not be the first time people have gone off and voted for something that's not what their country wanted."

Compounding the situation, the ISAF evaluation group, appointed in November, supported kiteboarding being included in international sailing events such as world championships, but no more at that point.

However, the council went a step further, installing it on the Rio Olympic card.

Forty-two members are on the ISAF council, including New Zealand's Ralph Roberts, representing 17 regions.

There has been a deafening silence from the ISAF since the result of the vote was made public and in the resulting swirl of criticism of its procedures.

Among curiosities of the voting was that the two Italians split their votes, as did the two Canadian delegates.

HOW THEY VOTED

Kiteboarding 19: United States (3 votes), Canada, Qatar, India, Finland, Norway, Spain, Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands, Bulgaria, South Africa, Ireland, Venezuela, Singapore, Italy, Puerto Rico, Australia.

Windsurfing 17: France (2), Poland (2), Argentina, Britain, Turkey, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, New Zealand, Russia, Japan.

- NZ Herald

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