ISAF becomes World Sailing – hopefully more progress to follow

A rose by any name would smell as sweet. But in ISAF's case, a world sailing body by a new name must show evidence of change, and fast .

Today, December 9, 2015, ISAF changed it's name to World Sailing. Here's the media release:

The governing body of sailing worldwide, formerly known as ISAF, has officially announced its rebrand to 'World Sailing – A Sport for Life'.

Sailing is one of the most inclusive sports in the world, regardless of gender, age or ability of a sailor, there is a boat for anyone and everyone to train and race in. It's not unusual to see men and women racing alongside and against each other, grandparents sharing a boat with their grandchildren, or able-bodied and disabled sailors going head-to-head – all can compete on equal terms and this is what makes the sport unique.

Not only will the federation have a refreshed look and focus, the new motto – 'A Sport for Life' – also reinforces the team's dedication to the whole world of sailing, from an individual's first step in a boat to the day they choose to hang up their salopettes.

Malcolm Page, Chief Marketing Officer of World Sailing, said, “We are really looking forward to a new era of sailing governance and myself and the team are determined to make World Sailing the best that it can be.

“It feels natural to develop our brand as the organisation evolves. The new identity satisfies all of the existing positive expectations of what our previous mark stood for, whilst moving the brand forward to acknowledge the maturity, functionality and diversity of sailing.

“We have great history and tradition and of this we are justifiably proud. However, in some areas, we were stuck in the past. Only by thinking and acting together, acting now, sharing one clear powerful message, can we move beyond this, remain relevant and grow as a sport.”

The future of the World Sailing will see a united sport from juniors venturing onto the water for the first time to champions competing at the Olympic Games or in the Vendée Globe. Greater value will be provided to Member National Authorities, Class Associations and Continental Federations, alongside initiative developed to grow and broaden participation in sailing.

The appointment of Malcolm Page was an inspired one. And President Carlo Croce has made a good start to his tenure. The rankings system is still severely flawed but is a big improvement on the previous one. The decision to make the Nacra 17 a foiling catamaran for the 2020 Olympics is an excellent one and shows an organisation able to look ahead and make quick decisions.

However, World Sailing's major test will come with the Rio Olympics and the potential scandal over water quality. The old ISAF would have rolled over and accepted the false assurances from the organising body that everything was under control. The new regime has been applying strong pressure and making progress. The water quality will not be ideal. But there is at least a chance that there will be no more sickness in Rio than at any international event, where sailors are drinking unfamiliar water and eating unfamiliar food.
However, if a medal is lost because of illness or injury sustained from hitting debris, World Sailing will be held accountable. 
I have been a severe critic of ISAF and intend to hold World Sailing to account should they not measure up. But the signs I am seeing are positive and I intend to view the body's actions with a less sceptical eye provided they continue their improvement.
Sailing is in good shape in most parts of the world. The 2013 America's Cup ignited huge interest in foiling craft and progress has been rapid, with plenty of small to mid-size cats on foils and a long waiting list for the new foiling Wazp. Interest in the offshore racing scene is at record levels, with good fields and huge spectator interest.
The USA, long the driver of the sport, is finally seeing a revival in sailor numbers after many years in the doldrums. The spark there has been the increase in the number of women members and that is a trend we are seeing in Australia and NZ as well. Governing bodies from international level to club level need to be aware of the trend and take advantage of it for the betterment of all.
I hope we will look back in 10 or 20 years and say that the huge uplift in the sport can be traced to this era, when a strong leader made overdue changes at ISAF – and the name was changed to more accurately describe what it is we offer – World Sailing – a Sport for Life.
– Roger McMillan
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