Campaign to get match racing back into the Olympics mobilises

Dawn Riley rallies the troops

Tuesday December 5th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
America's Cup veteran Dawn Riley has mobilised the world's top women match racers to carry out a last-ditch campaign to get the discipline reinstated into the Olympics. Many women have been gearing up for an Olympic campaign in match racing, only to see ISAF install in its place women's fleet racing in Ynglings at the Edinburgh meeting last month.

"Paul Henderson has upset a lot of people. It was the wrong decision for a number of reasons," Riley told madforsailing. "One of the big ones is cost. In match racing you can fly around the world to a venue with a fleet of keelboats and compete there. What ISAF have proposed means buying your own Yngling - or maybe two - and shipping it around the world as well as getting yourself there. I've lined up sponsors for the match racing, but I can't see them wanting to back this, and I can't see myself paying that sort of money myself."

Riley's views reflected the views of many - although not all - of the competitors at the recent Rolex 2000 ISAF Women's World Match Racing Championship in St Petersburg, Florida. However, the determined American did call a meeting of skippers during the event, and has put together a plan to try to influence ISAF to change its decision. She asked every skipper to write to her national representative on ISAF using a letter that Riley had drafted for the purpose of lobbying for an extraordinary general meeting. The letter was worded:

"We are requesting that you ask for a re-opening of the decision to make the Women's Keelboat Medal Fleet Racing by asking for an extraordinary meeting of Council as allowed for in Constitution article 62 (president, 2 VPs or 4 Council Members can call it)."

The letter continues;
"Please submit that the Fleet Racing be changed back to Match Racing, as announced in 1999.

At least one council member that did not understand the whole picture presented to him in English, not his first language, and is very upset and feels tricked.

There were no submissions that spoke of fleet racing keelboats for women. This is at the very least a serious procedural error against ISAF regulation 1.9.

Two other points were misreported:

Match Racing is practised in over 35 countries and that number is growing quickly with large sponsor support.

The Olympic Charter specifically states that while traditions should be respected, all efforts should be given to accept as events, those which look towards the future and attract media and sponsorship. Match Racing does both.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we know that, unlike Match Racing, women's world class fleet racing has not been growing but has been dying. Olympic keelboat fleet racing is expensive and will exclude the poorer countries, as well as many of the top US sailors due to the lack of funding."

Riley told madforsailing that she was taking professional advice as to whether to take legal action against ISAF, but that she would not be looking to combine with the Soling class, also considering suing ISAF over its rejection from the Olympics. "It is better that we keep our own issues separate here," she said.

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