You do wonder where, when and how World Sailing got it so wrong. Living off the life-support of the International Olympic Committee, it’s an organisation in desperate need of some vision. In case you missed it – come on pay attention at the back – they elected Quanhai Li (jokingly known as ‘Who He?’) as the latest ‘President’ and quite frankly we need a recount until we get someone who isn’t just a committee man.
Examining El Presidente’s bio, it reads like corporate sailing b*ll*cks on steroids. Started out as an International Judge, then progressed to Vice President and then sat on the Council from 2006-2012 whilst moonlighting with the Chinese Rowing association from 2010 (and is still involved currently) according to World Sailing’s published bio. ‘Who He’ was part of the Beijing Olympic bid and “helped in the preparation of the Olympic marina.”
So we’ve managed to end up with a political pen-pusher rower who’s good at throwing state money at marinas. Hardly Tom Ehman or Grant Dalton is our ‘Who He’ and you just sit back and think how on earth did we get here? The organisation is limping along like a wounded dog at a time when it needs radical innovation, leadership, cultural and philosophical imagination and a thorough overhaul from top to bottom – starting with ditching the ridiculous ‘President’ title.
There is so much good happening in the sport but it’s fractured good, apologetic good, we’ll-just-get-on-and-do-it-our-way good. There’s real stuff happening out there. Technology is rife. Great champions of tomorrow are at it right now – albeit in a safe and socially distanced manner. It needs harnessing and World Sailing needs massive, foresightful leadership that is recognised and revered, not laughed at or passed off with a shoulder-shrug.
How many times have I heard sailors in the past 30 years say: “IYRU/ISAF/World Sailing are doing a fabulous job, thank God we’ve got them – here’s my association fee. Happy to pay it.” Er….never. And that’s the problem. there’s just no value to the ordinary sailor in this. It’s elitist. Its presentation is so poor. It’s old men in blazers. It has to change.
Look at these kids in the Optimists. Look at the joy. This is where it’s at. Not stuck around a committee table debating the best use of rapidly diminishing funds and trying to strike deals with Chinese building companies.
Get a grip World Sailing. Get a grip!