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ISAF vs. Kite-Powered Crafts

From the ISAF Website (link):
ISAF Executive Committee Meeting
© ISAF, Chantilly, France, 10 February 2005

Opening the meeting, ISAF President Göran PETERSSON emphasised the goal of focusing on what really matters in the sport and developing a strategy for sailing:

  • World Speed Sailing Record Council - in considering recognition of kite surfing within the speed sailing arena, significant safety concerns continued to be expressed. At this stage, ISAF does not give endorsement to recognizing kite powered crafts as holders of the World Sailing Speed Record.

  • From Dave Culp, President, KiteShip Corporation (February 22, 2005):
    Is it really ISAF's (and WSSRC's) desire to ban ALL kites from ALL speed record attempts, including inshore, 500 meter speed attempts, offshore and round-the-world sailing? Does ISAF truly mean to take this sweeping action despite a complete absence of safety data for ANY form of kites and kite sailing other than those typically used for pulling "kitesurfers" across inshore protected waters? Does this action properly meet ISAF's own stated goal of, "focusing on what really matters in the sport and developing a strategy for sailing"?

    I believe this to be wrong, for at least 3 reasons:

    1) Banning a hopelessly broadly-defined sector of the sport of sailing isn't right. Would this ruling seek to ban world-record holder Jacob's Ladder today? Does it include OutLeader spinnaker replacement kites carried aboard offshore and inshore racing yachts? How about Don Montague's race-winning Hawaiian outriggers? Peter Lynn's new (brand new) kite-powered beach catamarans? To my knowledge, there has never been a serious injury accident, let alone a death in kitesailing, outside of kite surfing. Can mainstream racing yachting make this claim? If the intent of this issue is to ban kitesurfers, far more specificity is needed. It is extremely frustrating to find oneself banned from one or another rating system, without hearing, without testing, and without clear reasoning. Our industry is being "tarred" with an extremely broad brush.

    2) Even an effective ban on a more narrowly-defined sector of sailors (ie.: "kitesurfers") cannot effect the desired actions. Kitesurfers will simply form their own class of speed sailing and ignore the WSSRC--and the ISAF. These guys aren't mainstream sailors to begin with; being banned from mainstream sailing recognition is not going to motivate them to alter their behavior--it will simply alienate them (remember windsurfing in the 1970's and 80's)? Far more effective would be, for instance, the banning of the unsafe actions sometimes promulgated with the devices--in other words, let us consider using the rules to help sailors enjoy their sport in a safe and responsible manner. (for example, consider a ban on non-releasing "suicide" leashes; banning the launch or beaching of a kitesurf kite while "hooked in;" effecting a helmet requirement, etc. The dangers of these activities are well known, widely published and are just beginning to be strongly discouraged within the culture of kitesurfing today. Let's work to fix the problem, not seek to marginalize yet another broad sector of sailors from ISAF participation. (In 2003 more than 125,000 kitesurf kites and boards were sold worldwide. I don't yet have data for 2004)

    3) How can one effectively define the devices one wishes to ban? "Kites" won't work; see 1) above and consider the Law of Unexpected Consequences (also consider that, according to ISAF's RRS, the devices my company builds are asymmetrical spinnakers, no more and no less. There is no definition for "kite" in the RRS, nor is one necessary. Spinnakers are an envelope, not a specific restrictive shape of sail). Narrowly defining the "dangerous" activity--as for instance, kite powered devices where the kite's force-path runs through the operator's body--won't effectively increase safety either. Any definition simply cries out for "designing around" the ruling, as we well know.

    Most importantly, why does ISAF (and WSSRC?) fail to gain the perspective of the actual sailors they desire to "control" via a ban? I have never been approached for statistical data in kite sailing, despite 27 years of putting kites onto boats. No major rule maker has ever asked me or anyone of my distributors for a kite sailing demonstration, nor asked my opinion as to how kiting might be made safer. Worse, in a short poll, I cannot find another kite sailor who has ever been asked for insight or even raw data.

    Surely there is a better way?

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