Published: Thursday, 10 November 2016

World Sailing published Nov 8 its Para World Sailing Strategic Plan for 2017-2020 as the sport seeks re-introduction into the Paralympic Sports Programme for 2024.

Para World Sailing Strategic Plan Released 7

(Photos: World Sailing - Massimo Dighe presents the Para World Sailing Strategy)

Released at the Para World Sailing Forum at the 2016 Annual Conference in Barcelona, Spain, the Strategic Plan outlines the strategic goals and tactics the world governing body will adopt until 2020. 

"Sailing's removal from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Sports Programme in January 2015 deeply saddened the sailing community. It was a great loss for Paralympic sport as a whole because Paralympic sailing allows a multitude of disabilities to compete on a level playing field,” says World Sailing President Carlo Croce. "Action needed to be taken by World Sailing and the strategic goals that we have outlined today will ensure that sailing can put a strong bid together for re-introduction into the Paralympic Sports Programme for 2024, backed up by a doubling in investment in Para World Sailing activities by World Sailing over the next four years.” 

Para World Sailing Strategic Plan Released 8

(Alec Wilkinson leads the panel session)

The Para World Sailing Strategic Plan has four main goals: 

1.    Increase worldwide participation to 40 nations on four continents by the end of 2020
2.    Expand competition, female and youth participation  
3.    Deliver effective marketing and communications to increase engagement with Para World Sailors and sailing fans
4.    Ensure that there is a sound governance framework 

The priorities and tactics to achieve the four main goals are laid out in detail within the strategic plan. The overarching aim of the plan is to ensure World Sailing presents a strong bid to the International Paralympic Committee for re-introduction into the 2024 Paralympic Games and future editions in the Spring of 2018.

Para World Sailing Manager Massimo Dighe, a London 2012 Paralympian, presented the strategic plan to an online audience and delegates in attendance at the Para World Sailing Forum, an open event at the 2016 Annual Conference. 

Para World Sailing Strategic Plan Released 6

“The IPC's decision to remove sailing from the Paralympic Games Sports Programme was taken mainly because the sport did not meet the criteria laid out in the IPC Handbook's minimum criteria for worldwide reach,” says Dighe. “The sport needed to react and take a proactive, forward thinking approach to reinstate and ensure a sustainable future for Paralympic sailing at future Games. We have a clear vision for growth and initiatives such as the Para World Sailing Development Programme will play a major role in growing the sport in new nations.

"In addition, we will continue to work closely with the IPC, support and guide our stakeholders and find ways to develop and innovate Paralympic sailing. Although the removal of Paralympic sailing was of a great disappointment, we now have an opportunity under a new strategic vision to grow the sport, innovate and promote.”

The Para World Sailing Strategy Forum opened with an extended video of experienced disabled yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE laying out his views on Paralympic sailing and the importance of the discipline.

Para World Sailing Strategic Plan Released 9

"The issue is not simply about getting a few elite athletes to the Games,” he explains. "You don't get the Paralympic end without the grass roots at the bottom. Once you get elite sailors, you create role models that inspire those grass roots sailors. It's very important to have a pathway.”

Following Dighe's presentation, RYA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Treseder added her support to the new plans and outlined the RYA's strategy to engage and develop Paralympic sailing in the UK.

Her presentation outlined the various areas that the organisation has found delivers results starting with understanding who their delivery partners are and how best to develop racing and regattas. And while equipment is a big issue, she highlighted how this topic isn't always at the top of the list when considering Paralympic development.

Para World Sailing Strategic Plan Released 10

"We are continuing to develop events in this field and are more interested in the breadth of participation rather than developing an elite band of sailors,” she says. "Sometimes there's a temptation to focus on equipment and jump first into this conversation.”

The following two speakers gave accounts of how Paralympic sailing was developing in their own countries, first Kylli Haav from Estonia provided a reminder of how challenging it can be while Emma Hallen explained how the Swedish sailing foundation Trim the Sails aims to include Paralympic sailing into normal sailing programmes.

"Our goal is not to be needed,” she says. "We believe that all our sailors should be included in the same structure. Inclusion is our way forward.”

The session concluded with round table discussion and feedback presented by delegates in attendance. An interactive question and answer session by broadcaster Alec Wilkinson incorporating Twitter messages via the hashtag #OurSustainableFuture brought the forum to a close. 

By Matthew Sheahan - Sunset+Vine & Daniel Smith - World Sailing