A competitor at Beijing 2008 in the 49er class, 36-year-old Frenchman Yann Rocherieux is now Chair of World Sailing’s Athletes’ Commission. Here, he explains the role of the Commission in helping to shape the future of Olympic sailing, and how he plans to make sailors’ voices better heard within the Olympic Movement.

  • World Sailing’s Athletes’ Commission Chair Yann Rocherieux discusses how athletes’ commissions can help bring sports organisations and athletes together.
  • Working alongside other commissions can help to make sure athletes’ voices are heard, he says.
  • Key issues relating to athlete representation will be discussed at the 2019 International Athletes’ Forum.

I joined the Commission in 2012, following World Sailing’s request for athlete representatives. And after nearly four years as a member of the Commission, I felt I had accumulated enough experience and understanding of how the federation works to be able to have more of an influence. There was a discussion among my fellow sailors regarding who should stand for election, and I was asked to put my name forward. The role of the Commission is to articulate the voice of sailors to the federation, and I believed I could do that. I became Chair of the Commission until 2020, joining the board of World Sailing, after a vote at the annual conference in November 2016.

Having a positive impact on athletes

The most pressing issue for us is how we can work with World Sailing to best showcase our sport. Sailors are primarily focused on their own events, and it is the job of the Commission to adopt a more strategic overview. We want to find ways to gain more exposure and increase audiences for sailing. Looking further ahead, we are discussing changes to equipment specifications that will be introduced in 2024 and exploring how they will impact sailors and the sport. Safety is also an ongoing conversation.

The role of the commission is to bridge the inevitable gap between the sport’s hierarchy and the competitors

I genuinely believe we have made a positive impact on our sport. There are eight of us sitting on the Commission, and I think we have consistently raised the right questions with World Sailing and helped bring some clarity to sailors with regard to the decisions made by the federation. The role of the Commission is to bridge the inevitable gap between the sport’s hierarchy and the competitors, and I think we have been successful in cutting through the politics and doing that.

Following the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission

The IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) is an organisation to which we can turn to for advice, information and support. For example, it provides us with the latest information regarding doping in sport and what athletes can do to combat this issue. It has also been very useful to get their feedback regarding the organisation and running of our Commission. As a result, by comparing ourselves to other athletes’ commissions, we can say we are robust and well run. At the moment, however, World Sailing does not have a representative on the IOC AC, and it is our medium-term goal to change that.

Working together to strengthen the athletes’ voice

I believe different sports can learn so much from each other. Many of the issues that impact athletes are universal, and if more commissions are raising these issues it increases the chances of their voices being heard. A single commission can be a positive force, but many commissions together are of course more powerful. Communication is the key to ensure that athletes are able to have a real say in how their sport is organised.

Athlete representatives from all IFs and National Olympic Committees will be able to share best practices and discuss key issues at the 2019 International Athletes’ Forum, which will take place from 13 to 15 April.

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