Henderson seeks reforms if elected World Sailing boss

SAN DIEGO (AP) " Paul Henderson, a former president of sailing's world governing body who also once served on the International Olympic Committee, is running for president of World Sailing.

The 81-year-old Henderson said the governing body is too focused on making money and not enough on protecting the interest of sailors.

If elected, he says he would streamline the number of foundations and bank accounts at World Sailing. He said he hired a forensic accountant who found that World Sailing has at least six accounts in various jurisdictions. He said it should have two at the most.

Henderson, of Toronto, doesn't believe World Sailing is trying to hide money.

"Hiding is the wrong word," he said. "Are they open and transparent? No. It needs to be much more detailed than it is."

Henderson was president of what was then called the International Sailing Federation from 1994-2004.

He's running against incumbent Carlo Croce of Italy and Kim Anderson of Denmark. Voting for the four-year term will be on Sunday during the General Assembly in Barcelona.

Henderson, a retired plumber, said he was encouraged by several people to run for the post.

"I don't think I'll get elected but at least I'll have a platform," he said in a phone interview.

Of particular interest to Henderson is the Sailing Foundation that is being set up in Switzerland. Although World Sailing, based in Southampton, England, says there is no formal relationship between it and the foundation, Croce and two World Sailing vice presidents, including treasurer W. Scott Perry, are listed as directors. The foundation's president is King Constantine of Greece, a former Olympic sailing gold medalist who is president of honor of World Sailing.

Also listed as a director is Valery Gulev, the senior vice president of the Russian Sailing Federation who is a former executive with Russian energy giant Gazprom. World Sailing said there is no other relationship between the foundation and Gazprom.

Gazprom signed a five-year, 5 million euro ($5.52 million) sponsorship deal with World Sailing, then known as ISAF, in December 2014.

World Sailing said the foundation will raise funds from corporate donors to support the development of sailing. Because the foundation has not yet been approved by the Survey for International Foundations in Switzerland, it cannot set up a bank account, World Sailing said.

Henderson said there are many unanswered questions about the foundation.

"Where's all the money going? What's going on here?" Henderson said. "They say this Swiss foundation is to promote sailing and youth sailing in emerging countries, which is all World Sailing's job. They say they don't have anything to do with one another."

Perry said in an email that the Gazprom sponsorship money goes "to the World Sailing (UK) Ltd. account and nowhere else."

Both Perry and World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt declined to provide a copy of the Gazprom deal to The Associated Press, saying it was covered by confidentiality clauses.

"We are reducing our reliance on the Olympic income which we receive once every four years by building increasingly successful sponsorship and commercial programs," Hunt said in an email. "These initiatives ensure the sport is economically sustainable and help to ensure that we can continue to invest in the growth and development. Without successful commercial programs, it would be very difficult to create a virtuous circle of success for the sport."

Hunt, World Sailing's third CEO since October 2014, said he disagrees with Henderson's contention that World Sailing lacks financial transparency.

"I struggle to understand any claim that we are not transparent," Hunt said, saying World Sailing's accounts are audited and published on its website. "It is disappointing that there has been some significant misinformation that has been circulating on email and in the sailing media over the past few months which relate to a number of areas of administration at World Sailing."

Henderson disagrees, saying he feels World Sailing is "driven by money instead of being driven by being the governing body of the sport. With an organization like this, it's just as bad to have too much money than not enough. You put your fingers into places they shouldn't be. Our sport is different than a lot of sports. Sailors own their own clubs. They're not owned by wealthy owners. Sailors own the sport."

In 2015, Henderson filed a complaint with ISAF contending its five-member America's Cup jury failed to provide a fair hearing to sailors from Oracle Team USA while investigating the biggest cheating scandal in the regatta's history. ISAF rejected Henderson's complaint.

Henderson also paid his own way to testify on behalf of former Oracle sailor Dirk de Ridder before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. ISAF had suspended de Ridder for five years, later reducing it to three. CAS further reduced de Ridder's suspension, to 18 months.

Croce didn't respond to a request for comment made with the London public relations firm that represents him.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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