Unchecked Bias

The claims made by the Technical Report are biased and at a minimum needed to be checked and confirmed before reaching the ISAF Council.

A step by step analysis of the claims made in the Technical Report is the object of a separate paper (here). Our focus here is to establish that considering the composition of the Working Party, the bias in that report was predictable, and to demonstrate that various Panels and Committees along the way made an effort to interpret that report and limit the scope of its conclusions.

There was, however, no time for a full investigation, and as a result that misleading Technical Report was allowed to reach the ISAF Council untouched. To better understand how this unfolded, it is critical to first visualize the chain of events from the time that the trials were recommended by the Events Committee in November 2011 all the way to “The Vote:”

At The Trials

The trials were run March 17-25, 2012 in Santander. They were called the “ISAF Kiteboarding Format Trials” and if we accept that they were designed to showcase Kiteboarding, and Kiteboarding only, for a possible inclusion at ISAF events as a learning experience, then we might be able to justify the composition of the evaluation team chosen for that task. But if those trials were to be taken as an evaluation of the merits of Kiteboarding against those of the RS:X for immediate Olympic selection, then the composition of the evaluation team assembled by the Executive Committee ought to be scrutinized.

The Kiteboard Evaluation Working Party was as follows:

  • Kamen Fillyov – Chairman of the ISAF Windsurfing & Kiteboarding Committee
  • Markus Schwendtner – Executive Secretary, International Kiteboarding Association (IKA)
  • Bruno de Wannemaeker – ISAF Equipment Committee. Mr. de Wannemaeker, President of the International Funboard Class Association (IFCA), is currently sitting on the Executive Committee of the IKA
  • Michael Gebhardt – Former Olympic Windsurfer and Professional Kiteboarder. Mr. Gebhardt is a professional Kiteboarding coach and has been a fervent supporter of Kiteboarding for the past 10 years

The team itself made no secret that it was selected for its expertise in Kiteboarding:

The evaluation team has been selected for their in depth Kiteboarding knowledge and is made up of representatives from both ISAF and the IKA
ISAF Kiteboarding Format Trials – Technical Report http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/2012EC0512-[12547].pdf (p.1)

Before any vote, and especially in those instances where time is short, Council members shouldn’t have to spend time cross-checking the validity of claims put forth before them. They should be able to expect unbiased reports from the Working Parties they commission. Yet, with so much at stake, the trials in Santander were conducted by individuals with vested interest in the outcome.

In the Hands of the ISAF Expert Evaluation Panel

The ISAF Expert Evaluation Panel was as follows:

  • Tomasz Chamera – ISAF Events Committee
  • Ilker Bayindir – ISAF Windsurfing & Kiteboarding Committee
  • Bruno de Wannemaeker – ISAF Equipment Committee
  • Alastair Fox – ISAF Events Manager

That Expert Panel did not have time to question the validity of the claims made by the Kiteboard Evaluation Working Party, but it was at least careful to frame its recommendations in the context of Kiteboarding’s possible inclusion at ISAF Events, not at the Olympic Sailing Regatta. There is a stark contrast between the overly enthusiastic and almost reckless tone of the Technical Report, and the more measured conclusions of the Evaluation Report.

In the Hands of the Windsurfing and Kiteboarding Committee

Both the Technical Report and the Evaluation Report were released April 20, 2012, less than two weeks before the ISAF Mid-Year Meeting was to begin on May 3, 2012 inItaly. As a result of those time constraints, the Windsurfing and Kiteboarding Committee made no formal recommendation to the Events Committee, as evidenced by the Minutes of the Events Committee at that meeting:

There was a discussion on the option of delaying the Kiteboarding and windsurfing decision until November. Whilst this focused on the opportunity for ISAF to raise the issue with the IOC, with a view to securing additional medals for Kiteboarding, as reflected in the Recommendation to Council, concern was also expressed that the meeting did not have a recommendation from the Windsurfing and Kiteboarding Committee on the issue.
Events Committee Minutes – May 2012http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/2012EC0512-[12547].pdf (p.4)

In the Hands of the Events Committee

The Events Committee did its best to absorb the findings of the trials and translate them into a formal recommendation to the Council. It was evident by then that many of the claims made by the Technical Report were unsubstantiated. The Athletes Commission had raised a number of flags and asked for clarifications that nobody had the time and resources to provide. As a result, the Events Committee took a measured approach and proceeded with the following recommendations:

a) The Events Committee recommends to include Kiteboarding into ISAF events. Vote: for: 14; against: 3; abstain: 2.b) The Events Committee recommends that no decision should be made on the RS:X and/or Kiteboarding event until November after a direct approach has been made by ISAF to the IOC for additional medals for Men’s Kiteboarding and Women’s Kiteboarding events. Vote: for: 13; against: 5; abstain: 0.

c) If Council decides to make the decision on the RS:X and/or Kiteboarding event then the Events Committee recommends the RS:X is selected.Vote (Men’s Event): RS:X: 14; Kiteboarding: 2; Abstain: 3. Vote (Women’s Event): RS:X: 15; Kiteboarding: 2; Abstain: 2.

Minutes of the ISAF Events Committee at the 2012 Mid-Year Meeting http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/2012EC0512-[12547].pdf (p. 4-5)

Those recommendations are a clear indication not just of the Committee’s near unanimous preference for the RS:X as Olympic equipment, but also that the trials in Santander were inconclusive, and that more research and fact-checking was warranted. The role of the Events Committee was to interpret the findings of the trials and spell out their implications for the benefit of the Council. That interpretation was instrumental, because the Council is composed of members who, we postulate:

  • have less direct knowledge of the discipline of Kiteboarding;
  • were not privy to the details of the Kiteboarding trials;
  • may not have had the time to read through the Reports coming out of those trials;
  • did not have enough time to check the validity of the claims in those reports.

At the ISAF Council

It is our opinion that many Council delegates were unaware of the extreme bias of the Technical Report when they convened for the Mid-Year Meeting, and that the rush to make a decision made it impossible for them to fully analyze that report’s shortcomings.

During the Mid-Year Meeting in May 2012, an early amendment is particularly revealing. Regarding the Events Committee’s first recommendation to include Kiteboarding at ISAF events, the ISAF Council acknowledged that it was not fully prepared to make a decision and voted to amend it as follows:

from: a) The Events Committee recommends to include kiteboarding into ISAF events.
to: a) The Events Committee recommends to include kiteboarding into ISAF events and/or the Windsurfing and Kiteboarding Committee to prepare a recommendation for how and when this should be achieved and report to Council in November 2012.
ISAF Council Minutes, May 2012 http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/MINCO201205-[12543].pdf (p. 12)

This nearly unanimous amendment (0 reject, 1 abstain, 37 approve) is further evidence that important elements were missing at the time. If the ‘when’ and more importantly the ‘how’ were still unclear with respect to ISAF events, it is hard to imagine that they were clear with respect to the Olympic Sailing Competition.

Yet, the Council proceeded with “The Vote.”

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