world sailing tyranny

“Forget the myth that Scuttlebutt has created about World Sailing. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand”.  (apology to Deep Throat)

“If in winning changes of the classes in the Olympics you’ve lost the respect of the global sailing community, you’ve won nothing” (apology to Elvstrom)

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

If the opposite of Anarchy is Tyranny, then given the recent actions of the governing body it is time for that entity to be renamed as World Sailing Tyranny.  There is no greater example of tyranny in sailing right now than the way World Sailing has handled the removal of the Finn in the Olympics to be replaced by a boat in an event that has never been run.

To recap; last month at the World Sailing Annual General Meeting, based on a last minute Presidential submission a vote was taken by the Council as to whether the Finn should remain as an Olympic class, or be replaced by a mix-gender doublehanded boat for an offshore event of over 48 hours in duration.  The Finn was flicked, by one vote. It was only on Monday of this week that the votes as recorded were made available to the voters. At least three of the voters noted immediately that their votes were cast incorrectly. I am now in receipt of an email, with significant back up data, that shows a forth vote was recorded incorrectly.  Other publications have done an exhaustive analysis showing how the electronic voting system works, or doesn’t in this case.

The core issue isn’t whether the Finn should be in the Olympics now that it has been dropped in favor of this mixed gender double handed event that does not yet exist within the sport.  The core issue is the way the decision was made, with discussions in secret by the World Sailing Executive Committee, with a submission foisted upon the Council at the last minute. What everyone needs to understand is this: if World Sailing will replace the Finn, after much long and contentious debate six months ago when it was retained, they will do it to you, no matter in what class or event you sail, exactly the same way.  The World Sailing Board has proven that they work in secret and cannot be trusted to maintain a decision.

Andy Hunt, World Sailing CEO, in his mea culpa to the MNA’s on the voting irregularity earlier this week, said World Sailing operates under the highest levels of transparency.  That is pure and utter bullshit.

If World Sailing was so transparent, that last minute submission would not have come as a surprise to the Council, and especially the Finn class.

If World Sailing was so transparent, they would not only allow and encourage, but require the members of the Board to speak in public on any and all issues.  Same with US Sailing. Both of those organizations have limited the ability for Board members to speak to the public. When was the last time you read something from a Board member of either entity opine in public about any issue, particularly a contentious issue, especially in opposition to what the majority of the Board wants?  The Mafia has more members talk than either of these organizations.

Here’s a question: has World Sailing retained the firm of Squire Patton Boggs to represent them in a matter about who on the Board, or staff, is leaking information about their decisions and actions?    If they have retained this firm for this purpose, what does that say about their level of transparency? Why is anything at World Sailing, other than employee medical records and maybe some disciplinary issues involving juniors, secret?  You’d think they are dealing with something like a drug patent on the cure for cancer, or information about Russian election hacking. They aren’t. They are dealing with a sport that its best is supposed to be about fun, self-reliance and the freedom that comes from stretching your personal abilities on the water.

To wit:  I’ve heard several different things about this vote over the course of this week, both involving Gary Jobson.  Gary and I used to be fairly close. We don’t speak anymore because, in my view, he changed from supporting sailors to supporting the bureaucracy that constrains, limits and has proven to abuse sailor’s rights.  Never the less, I know his tendencies pretty well. Rumor one was that he was orchestrating the double handed keelboat, and was being paid under the table by the builder, that there were contracts which could prove all this.  Cleary, Gary likes to make money off of sailing, but I also know he’s not stupid enough to do something that would be fundamentally corrupt, especially financially.

The second rumor was that when the World Sailing Board had their meeting on Monday, three members of the Board wanted a re-vote on the decision on including the double handed boat in the Olympics – Scott Perry, Ana Sanchez and Jobson.  After debate Perry was convinced to go to the other side, but Sanchez and Jobson remained firm in their position that a re-vote should happen. That part I actually believe. But the thing is, we’ll never really know, because the only message that is allowed to come from World Sailing is that it was the voters fault for pushing the wrong button on the electronic voting device. 

What baffles me about Jobson is that he literally made his career by sailing with the “Mouth of the South”. You’d think he’d have learned from Ted Turner the value of speaking up, especially when it’s the right thing to do, for the greater good of the sport.  Now, because of his silence, he is allowing the actions and required non-public comment of Board members to have him painted in a very bad light. Gary, you know very well that Anderson and Hunt have the organization sailing into a shitstorm. Do you want to spend the next couple of years bailing the bilge, or are you finally going to grab the wheel and steer the World Sailing ship back on course? Why after a lifetime of service to the sport would you allow a guy like Andy Hunt, who probably can’t even tie a bowline, to lead your legacy off the cliff?

How did we get to this mess?  In this specific instance, it was one bad decision leading to another bad decision.  It started with putting kites into the Olympics under the notion of being given two more medals by the IOC.  When that didn’t happen and we were stuck with the current 10 medals, cuts had to be made, some classes were bound to be removed.   

The prevailing theory is that the IOC want entertaining TV, and kites will help promote sailing. This is about as logical as saying the pizza delivery fish will be here as soon she gets on her rabbit.  If Kites in the Olympics will help the sport of sailing, where exactly is the detailed plan about all this, other than a simply pithy one-line statement? That idea is a total crock, kites in the Olympics will not help sailing, they will help kiting. There is no specific plan to use televised Olympic sailing to help the sport, if there is, why hasn’t it been presented in detail?

If kites are such a great thing for sailing and World Sailing is so attractive to kites, how come only 11 women showed up for the World Sailing World Championship this summer?  If it’s such a great event with such great competition how come only 3 women of those 11 finished all the races. Half the fleet had more letters in their final score than a bowl of Alphabet soup. Part II tomorrow.

– Peter Huston