Friday, May 25, 2012

US Sailing Statement on Kiteboarding Decision

Prepared by Dean Brenner, US Sailing Board Member and Chairman, Olympic Sailing Committee

Every four years, difficult decisions are made about Olympic sailing events. The choices made always leave some part of the sailing community frustrated and feeling, at least on some level, disenfranchised. I say this as a former Soling sailor who was quite upset with decisions made in November 2000, and a long-time keelboat sailor who did not agree with the recent decisions to exclude keelboats from the Games entirely. I know, first hand, how it feels to have the part of the sport I care most about excluded.

There is no right and wrong here, or good and bad. On behalf of US Sailing, I would like to raise my hand and explain the reasoning behind the votes.

While the Board of US Sailing makes final decisions on all recommendations to our ISAF delegation, much of the thinking on Olympic events and equipment originates in the Olympic Sailing Committee, which I lead. The OSC believes, and I continue to support this 100%, that kites will be good for the sport of sailing, worldwide. The reasons are simple:

1. Kiteboarding is an exciting and rapidly growing area of the sport.
2. The infrastructure required will be minimal.
3. The potential exists to bring in new countries to the sport of Olympic Sailing, and at Council, there was support from every continent and region: Europe, Caribbean, South America, North America, Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Mid-East.
4. Kites can be sailed close to shore, increasing spectator possibilities.
5. There have been major advancements in safety, and the evaluation and technical reports said exactly that. Those interested in this debate, really should read that report, linked here.

Is there work to be done? Every time events or equipment are changed, work is required. There will ALWAYS be more work to get a new event established vs. the continuation of an existing one.

Does US Sailing have work to do in supporting the industry’s pipeline development? Of course. For kiteboarding to flourish, the kiteboarding community will need to commit to increased support in this area. US Sailing will work on developing pathways for kite sailors to make the Olympics, just as it has done in other classes.

The decisions on Olympic events and equipment are never easy. But I stand behind ISAF’s decision 100%. Kiteboarding will be good for the sport of sailing, in the USA and worldwide.


  1. Dear US Sailing:

    I find your recent statement on Kitesurfing incredibly disappointing.

    I cannot believe that US Sailing can in good conscience support "100%" an obviously flawed vote. Just the fact that the expert committee voted to retain the RS-X sailboard 17-2, but ISAF's broader forum rejected it 19-17 should raise a large red flag. Spain's recent admission of error is just icing on the cake.

    As a matter of principle US Sailing should petition ISAF to re-vote the issue. As the leading democratic country in the world we should not condone or support votes that are flawed. It might be hard to set aside US Sailing's self interest in medal count and stand for principle but that is the American way and would restore my faith and pride in your organization. That is the main reason to reverse course, Now for the five reasons.

    see my own blog post at

    Particular attention should be paid to the Olga Maslivets letter to Fiona Kidd which really lays out in detail what a flawed decision ISAF reached.

    I hope that US Sailing will get onto the right side of this issue.

    yours sincerely,
    Platt Johnson

    ps: Just as a disclaimer:I have windsurfed since 1973 and kite surfed regularly since 2006 and have no particular axe to grind as I am no longer an owner of a windsurfing shop or involved in either industry. I just can't stand to see such a wrong headed decision stood behind by our national sailing association. And just because I figure you will want to know I have been a member of US Sailing and US Windsurfing for many years but currently am not.

  2. To US SAiling:

    I have been a competitive sailor since I was 9 years old, competing in Sailfish, Flying Juniors, Lasers, many keelboats and, for the past 12 years, mostly Lightnings and various windsurfers. I am now 52 years old and continue to compete locally in Lightnings and nationally on the Mistral Prodigy Windsurfer.

    As a windsurfer, I have watched and encouraged the development of kiteboarding around me and my fellow windsurfers. Although I do not plan to become a kiteboarder (preferring to stay closer to the water and not interested soaring 20 feet over it) I believe that it is a very exciting wind/water sport that brings more people out on the water. And, it is exciting to watch.

    Kiteboarding is not, however, particularly suited to course racing around the buoys. Because of that, racing has not been promoted particularly strongly in the kiteboarding world, except for downwind races. A very very small percentage of kiteboarders have ever raced or have any interest in racing. I understand that the majority of windsurfers and sailboat sailors also do not race. However, the involvement in racing of sailboat sailors and windsurfers is much much higher than among kiteboarders.

    It seems extraordinarily premature to put kiteboarding in the Olympics, when the sport has yet to demonstrate that racing is to be a strong part of it. If the kiteboarding world demonstrates a strong commitment to racing, then consider including it in one of the premier sailing events in the world, not now.

    In contrast, windsurfing is a true sailing sport, with a long tradition of racing with involvement by both sexes from all over the world. There are already programs all around the world grooming windsurfers for the 2012 games and the future. These programs barely exist for kiteboarding.

    I can only hope that US Sailing will revisit its decision to support kiteboarding over windsurfing in future Olympics.


    Glendon M. Gardner, MD
    Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
    Member of US Windsurfing, Sail#MIG

  3. I had some great conversations and dialogue on this with lots of people over the last couple of weeks. Not everyone is going to agree on issues like this.

    But the part that I think people forget is that there are only ten events in the Games, for men and women combined. That means that based on simple math, something is going to left out. singlehanded, doublehanded dinghies, skiffs, multihulls, boards, kites, and oh yes... keel boats! The math doesn't add up. No one segment of our sport has the absolute right to be an Olympic class, yet when something gets removed from the Games, the tone from many is that heir fundamental right has been trampled.

    I've also heard from lots of people that Boards has a great pipeline program that is now going to be useless. There has been some great strides made in the board community to begin a pipeline program, but let's remember that boards have been in the Olympics since 1984. There were a lot of years with no development efforts, and only now has some momentum been established.

    This whole discussion may be moot. We'll see how the efforts go to get a revote in the fall. This may be much ado about nothing.

    Sail fast,

    Dean Brenner

  4. I find the Olympic Event decisions by the US team at the ISAF meetings to be short sited and very disappointing.

    From the intense lobbying to get the Finn out during past years. To the decision to exclude catamarans from this games. To the decision to play games with the women's match racing. To this decision to switch from Windsurfing to Kites. I just find the US team to be completely out of touch with the sport.

    ISAF needs to throw out the blue blazer crowd who get into these positions of power through attrition and bring in modern sailors who understand the sport and don't have short sited nationalistic goals.

  5. In Response to Dean Brenner's latest post.
    Dear Dean,

    It's not that the rights of windsurfers are being trampled. It is that the WRONG decisions are being made for the WRONG reasons. That offends everyone's sense of right and wrong. Ben Barger's analysis of this issue which you can find on Facebook (see below) shows how badly the process went from the beginning. Yes there are only ten classes but you don't
    A) Swap out the second most popular class to admit kiteboarding.
    B) Pretend that kiteboarding has an established path to the Olympics (required by evaluation prescriptions) and enough safety to be even considered for youth sailing.

    As to saying it took 38 years to establish a strong youth program for windsurfing
    C) As a point in fact Robby Naish won his first World Championship at 13 years of age in 1976! Pretty youthful and just 7 years after the sport was invented.
    D) And as a counterpoint if it takes 38 years to develop a strong youth program (the largest youth event ever will probably happen this summer in with 400+ Techno 293 windsurfers at Medemblik Holland) then why change to another event before it has had a chance to properly mature and solve the issue mentioned in B above.

    I would like to see US Sailing join Venezuela, Spain and Israel in officially criticizing the ISAF decision and asking for a simple majority vote on either windsurfing or kitesurfing.

    Will US Sailing do that?

    Platt Johnson
    (Kitesurfer and Windsurfer and Sailor)

    Since no links are allowed in your blog you will need to search the following on Facebook

    Robby's Resume

    General info - 19,000 plus members
    Appeal against kite surfing in the Olympics put windsurfing back in

    Ben Barger's analysis
    ISAF Athletes Commission - The Sailors Voice!

    Google Venezuela