We speak to World Sailing’s Athletes’ Commission Chair Yann Rocherieux about how he plans to make sailors’ voices better heard within the Olympic Movement
A competitor at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 in the 49er class, 34-year-old Frenchman Yann Rocherieux is now the chair of World Sailing’s Athletes’ Commission. Here, he explains the role of the commission and how it is helping to shape the future of Olympic sailing
When did you become involved with World Sailing’s Athletes’ Commission?
I joined the commission in 2012 following World Sailing’s request for representatives. There was a discussion amongst my fellow sailors regarding who should stand for election and I was asked to put my name forward. I became chair of the commission, joining the board of World Sailing, after a vote at the annual conference in November 2016.
What prompted you to stand for the position of chair?
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 do the job. The role of the commission is to articulate the voice of sailors to the federation and I believed I could do that. My term is for four years, ending in 2020.
What are the commission’s short and long-term goals?
The most pressing issue 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 try and adopt a more strategic overview and look at 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.
How would you assess the impact of the commission since you became involved?
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 in 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.
What is your relationship with the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission?
The IOC Athletes’ Commission is an organisation to which we can turn to for advice, information and support. For example, it provides us with the latest information regarding the issue of doping in sport and what athletes can do to combat it, and it has 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 Athletes’ Commission, and it is our medium-term goal to change that.
How can commissions from different sports work together to strengthen the voice of the athletes within the Olympic Movement?
I believe different sports can learn 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.