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06 May 2020

Graham succeeds Hunt as World Sailing chief

World Sailing, the sport’s international governing body, today announced the appointment of David Graham as its new chief executive.

The federation has been seeking to fill the position since Andy Hunt stepped down, after four years, at the end of 2019.

World Sailing tasked headhunters Odgers Berndtson with leading the search for his successor.

Graham, who will take the helm on 13 July, is the former chief executive of Oman Sail, a position he stepped down from at the start of last month.

Over 11 years he helped establish the small Gulf state as a top destination for Class World Championships and America’s Cup World Series and Extreme Sailing Series events. 

Kim Andersen, president of World Sailing, said: “As World Sailing looks to the future and the next phase of growth, we are confident that with David’s combined background in management and sailing that he is the right leader to help restructure and provide a strong direction for the operations of our organisation.”

Last month, World Sailing laid bare its financial plight caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, the international federation’s main source of revenue.

The federation was due to earn around £12.3 million ($15.2 million) in Olympic income in 2020, some 77 per cent of its total projected income for the year. Without that money, it will make a loss for the year. 

Olympic broadcasters also due to pay their bill in the months leading up to the games have deferred their payments by 12 months.

Almost all staff were furloughed, while high-earners are taking a 20-per-cent pay cut until the end of the year.

Scott Perry, World Sailing vice president, said today: “With better clarity over our finances through to 2021, now is the time to build up our future and this includes bringing in a chief executive to guide the day to day operations and future negotiations of our organisation.”

Graham said: “I would like to thank president Kim Andersen and the board for their confidence; I look forward to working with them to develop World Sailing and building a strong organisation together.”

Meanwhile, the Vendee Globe, the single-handed round-the-world yacht race, could be postponed by up to a year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial race is scheduled to start in Les Sables-d’Olonne in France in November but Yves Auvient, president of race organiser SAEM Vendee, said that a decision on whether to proceed as planned would be made on 15 June.

He told the France 3 television channel: "We are still working for a start on 8 November but we are not absent from everything that is going on around us. What is certain is that the start of the Vendee Globe will be without an audience.”

Auvient said pushing the start of the race back to December or the start of 2021 would be impossible due to the challenging weather conditions.

If the health situation does not improve significantly within six weeks, the Vendee Globe could be postponed by a year, a scenario which was proposed by Sebastien Petithuguenin, chief executive of Paprec Group, a major sponsor of the event, last month. 

Auvient said: “Our responsibility is to consider all the assumptions. We listen a lot, the world of sailors, the world of sponsors and all our partners.”

Meanwhile, SAEM Vendee is working to launch an alternative race on 4 July to replace the cancelled New York–Vendee Les Sables-d’Olonne, a preparation event for the Vendee Globe.