A global perspective

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Adrienne Greenwood discusses World Sailing's global perspective

When we are out sailing most of us simply think about the fun we are having. If we do think past just enjoying being on the water we are unlikely to think about what it takes to maintain the health of, and interest in, the sport itself. Or, more importantly, of how we develop and accelerate the growth of sailing across all the world’s continents. Growth that will in the end make the sport we love even stronger. Whose role is it then to take on the task?

The lead role in developing sailing and increasing participation sits with the international body comprised of affiliated continental and regional entities and member national authorities (MNAs). To fulfil our own constitutional requirements and meet the expectations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the international body must provide a structure and mechanism for the sport to grow – more countries, more participants, continuing Olympic status.

As a facilitator World Sailing (formerly ISAF) has established some excellent development programmes over the years including the Emerging Nations Program. However, using the wide-ranging suite of development tools within its resources, World Sailing now needs to reinvigorate some areas and ensure its programmes remain sustainable and also effectively targeted for the very diverse needs of sailing and sailors worldwide.

To this end, last year the international body’s executive outlined a broad strategy for development and growth. It put in place a working party to review current practice and bring forward recommendations on how better to improve and deliver the development needs of each of the continents. Several continents, such as Europe and North America, have less need of development assistance but in others such as South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania the need is much greater.

Sailing’s governing body comes in for quite a bit of flak but it is incomparably different from the remote and faceless bureaucracy of 20 years ago. Across the globe initiatives are being cultivated on a day-to-day basis promoting sailing at the grass roots and lots of ‘kids’ out there are being inspired to have a go. Pretty good really

For the purpose of the exercise one of the first decisions was to determine that sailing should acknowledge six continents rather than the five of the IOC model; sailing recognises the North and South American continents separately rather than as just a single American landmass.

One of the core elements of our growth strategy is that there be close co-operation between all members of the sailing community to maximise effort. World Sailing’s existing affiliated continental, regional and national bodies are the preferred organisations to provide this support

Central to the executive’s initial thinking is that accelerated growth and wider global recognition for sailing will come about only through consistent and identifiable international branding and collaborative unified programmes at regional level. If this can be accomplished, world sailing’s regional events and development initiatives could be supported by, and run in conjunction with, regional affiliates whose aims are clearly aligned to those of world sailing. If other complementary initiatives can be undertaken then the international body believes that it can offer financial support.

If this strategy is to succeed, however, it requires current thinking to be redefined on the role and governance model required of regional associations and their relationship with the regions’ MNAs, who are the key members of the international body. It also needs a clear understanding of the responsibilities that each regional association has for its own activities and for liaising not only with the international body but also with the various Olympic classes – especially given the recent introduction of regional Olympic qualification.

As the working party has worked through its task it has become evident that the needs of individual countries and continents are very different from one another. To date a wide variety of informed recommendations have been put forward in respect of:

  • Training and development
  • Communication 
  • Events and calendar synchronisation 
  • Legal, governance and relationships 
  • Brand development

These recommendations propose that each continental or regional association should provide a detailed regional development plan to the international body. This should include priorities and budgets in order that World Sailing’s CEO can integrate the proposals into a clearly thought out and prescribed global operational plan. General resources and financial allocations can then be considered. Given how different the needs and strengths of some regions are, it is clearly understood as a result of the work that this will not be a one size fits all plan.

At its November conference the executive implemented an organisational structural change. This puts development and regional matters under the one committee and for the first time it also includes continental representation. This will better target need, delivery and sustainability of our development plans and with our new ‘World Sailing’ branding help to accelerate regional progress.

Will this initiative succeed? Like all such projects it will depend upon gaining the widest possible support and co-operation, plus a concerted effort by all involved to drive it forward. What do you think? Comments are welcome...
Adrienne Greenwood, ISAF vice-president

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