New Delhi: A massive row has broken out between the sailing fraternity and the Yachting Association of India (YAI) over the re-appointment of England's Peter Conway as the chief national coach.
Former Olympians and world champions have shot off a strongly-worded letter to the Sports Ministry, seeking its intervention to immediately stay the re-appointment of an "arrogant and incompetent" Conway as the sailing coach.
The disgruntled group, led by Olympian and world champion Farokh Tarapore, has described Conway as one whose "frequent loss of emotional control, foul temper and abusive language" act against the interests of the Laser, Optimist, Board Sailing, 420, 470, Match Racing, Hobie 16 classes which represent all the 14 medal events at the Asian Games.
In a letter signed by eight clubs and associations, seven national awardees, 20 other sailors and coaches, the ministry's attention has been drawn to the fact that Conway promotes the 29er class over other performance classes in India notwithstanding that the 29er class is neither an Asian Games nor an Olympic class.
The other prominent signatories to the letter include former world champion Homi Motivala, former world silver medallist G L Yadav and former world champion Nitin Mongia. Tarapore is the coordinator of the Sailing Performance Development Committee (SPDC), a unit of the YAI Council, tasked with the development of performance sailing in India.
The SPDC, under the chairmanship of Vice Admiral Anup Singh, was specifically directed to prepare a report on coaching in India with recommendations to improve performance sailing in India. The SPDC formulated a report which brought to light Conway's "lack of appreciation of sailing performance development by taking incompetent coaches and applying them to our best sailors."
Tarapore and other sailors approached the Ministry and SAI after YAI Council recommended Conway "as the most suitable person" for a third term.
Conway is seeking a third term after his second term expired in August last year. It has been learnt that Conway was in touch with the YAI Council for the renewal of his term despite incompetence charges levelled against him by SPDC and that he was expected to come to India in the first half this month.
The unprecedented step taken by the sailors and affiliated class associations to petition the Ministry directly has frayed the temper of YAI Council which has described the action as individualistic and against the interest of the NSF. The sailing fraternity questioned Conway's competence when he misread the 'Notice of Race' for the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
"This resulted in the Indian Laser Radial sailor arriving at the regatta site without a boat. This led to a loss of a certain medal at the 2010 Asian Games. This incompetence should have resulted in the immediate dismissal of Conway. However, in 2011, he was reappointed," the letter said. It was also alleged that the coach lacks strategic vision by taking one single class and four sailors and betting the enitre future of Indian sailing on them. The statistical results, however, show that the sailors have won more medals by competing in more classes, especially in the Asian Games.
Counting on other failures of Conway, it was alleged that he took government funding for a training regatta (Regatta Perdena 2012) in Malaysia prior to the Asian Sailing Championship by stating that there was a 29er event when there was none and subsequently had to refund the money to the government.
"The preparation for the Asian championship that followed the regatta was also affected as the sailors were without boats," the letter said. The sailing fraternity has also threatned to move court for legal redressal if Conway's re-appointment was not stayed by the government.