Windsurfing pioneer Neil Pryde was in Weymouth and gave his views
The irony of seeing the London 2012 windsurfing champions receive their medals on a podium set against a backdrop of….kite-surfing, was not lost on the crowds in Weymouth.
Out with the old and in with the new was starkly exhibited at the medal ceremony, which was attended by many members and officials of ISAF, who are now embroiled in a legal action to defend the procedures they used to controversially scrap windsurfing in favour of kites.
There is plenty of lobbying going on to support the action and widespread criticism of ISAF, who according to the manufacturer and supplier of RS:X boards Neil Pryde, have made a ‘terrible’ decision.
As suppliers of boards to the Olympic Games and the ISAF Youth Worlds, NeilPryde will immediately lose a million euros from the decision which may explain why the company has come out fighting for windsurfing to be retained.
As a company, they claim neutrality because kite-surfing is a major revenue earner for them across the globe.
“But ISAF’s decision to displace windsurfing is ill-considered and tragically wrong,” said Pryde, the boss who is himself a former Olympian having campaigned a Flying Dutchman at the 1968 Games.
“Kitesurfing is exciting and aggressive but it is not an Olympic sport. It is dangerous with a high number of deaths and it is at an early stage of its evolution with no youth programme and a low level of female participation.
“These things are important Olympic considerations and the IOC have made it clear that Olympic sports should be about the athletes, and a balance between male and female and strong youth programmes.
“I thought that ISAF had accepted those criteria when they were making choices on equipment but they largely ignored them when making this decision.
“It was an emotional decision made to bring what they thought was an exciting sport into the Olympic arena to compensate for the lack of TV coverage that yachting gets.
“One of the key criteria of IOC in judging sports for Olympic competitions is the television coverage. It’s the biggest revenue earner for IOC so they look at it hard. And of course sailing performs very poorly. Outside the America’s Cup, sailing does not get big audience and I think ISAF thought kite-surfing would add strength to media coverage. But I do not think the sport is ready for Olympic inclusion.”
“Windsurfing has done more to introduce the developing countries into the sailing fraternity. China came into sailing through windsurfing. It’s the cheapest and easiest way into sailing and that has been ignored by ISAF and I think that is tragic.”
“In the past we have been able to sell off the equipment at a cheap price to help developing countries get into the sport but with windsurfing taken out of the Olympics we are sitting here today with no way of recovering a million euro.
“That is a pretty big commitment. I doubt whether there is any other sailing company in the Olympics who has made that sort of commitment. This will be a loss but we made a commitment to ISAF that for the next two years that we will go on supplying it and we will because we believe in it.
“I think it is a terrible decision because I see what windsurfing has done for the sport of sailing,” said Pryde.