Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and the entire Americas scored a first last November by serving as the host location of the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) Annual Conference. The November 3rd – 13th meeting, based out of the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, brought together the ISAF Council, Committee and Commission members along with other global movers-and-shakers in the sailing world to discuss and decide the key issues that will affect the future of sailing.
“I think we were chosen over Australia, Denmark and Taipei for three reasons,” says Eric Tulla, one of ISAF’s Vice Presidents as well as past president of the Puerto Rico Sailing Federation. “First, we are thought of as a developing nation because of our small program, but we have a strong junior program. For example, Raul Rios won the Optimist World Championships in 2008. Secondly, ISAF desires to expand to different areas of the world, and third, our delegation and the Puerto Rico Tourism Company put on a reception at the ISAF meeting in Greece last year that was well received.”
The result was Puerto Rico’s destination selection, something even the mainland U.S. or Canada has never achieved. This choice is one that makes Club Nautico de San Juan Commodore, Gustavo Hermida, very proud.
“We are hosting over 400 sailors from around the world,” says Hermida. “It is wonderful for Puerto Rico and the whole of the Caribbean.”
One of the surprisingly new additions to the Conference was sailing itself.
“This Conference has been held in locations or at times of the year where sailing isn’t possible,” says Tulla. “We changed that.”
The Club hosted an exhibition match race in San Juan Bay. Skippers who set sail in the November 8th event were Lotte Meldgaard-Pedersen from Denmark, Alfredo Ricci of Italy, and both Liz Baylis and Anna Tunnicliffe of the USA. Tunnicliffe was awarded the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award at the Conference, for the second time.
Gary Jobson, president of U.S. Sailing and past America’s Cup sailor and commentator, narrated the match race held in San Juan Bay. He also led the U.S. delegation at the Conference.
“We discussed a whole variety of issues,” says Jobson. “For example, there’s a need to think beyond the sport as just the America’s Cup and engage more people in sailing. The question then is how we get people to learn to sail. The more people who sail, the more people who will head to the next logical step – racing.”
Some of the major issues discussed at the ISAF Conference included what equipment will be used in the 2016 Summer Olympics and the possible addition of kite-boarding; what will be included in the next edition of the Racing Rules of Sailing, which will be published in May 2012; and sites for major international regattas such as Busan, Korea for the 2013 ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championships and Langkawi, Malaysia for the 2015 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships. The 2015 Pan American Games will be held in Toronto, Canada. The Soto 40, a South American build that is sailed in nine countries and included in regattas such as the Audi MedCup, was also granted ISAF Class.
In addition to discussing global sailing issues, Caribbean representatives met and talked about issues important to the region.
Mercedes Rios, secretary of the Puerto Rico Sailing Federation, says, “We exchanged ideas and discussed similarities with other small countries with developing sailing programs. Specifically we talked with representatives from Bahamas about importance of the Caribbean developing the classes sailed at Central American Caribbean and Pan American Games, like the RSX, Snipe, etc. The 470 class is very interested in developing in this region through the International 420. They know we had excellent results in Optimists and would like a pathway for those sailors to continue into the Olympics.”
Next year, the ISAF Annual Conference will take place in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, making it a double header for the venue as it plays host to the 2012 ISAF Youth Worlds from July 12th to 21st.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.