8 February 2009

Controversy over the selection of the Brit Worlds Team – Laragne 2009

I would like to start by saying that this message is not written with any sourness on my part. Based on the results of other pilots up for selection I never expected to be selected as part of the 2009 UK World’s team.

My message is in support of the fact that based on results and past performance both Dave Matthews and Gordon Rigg deserve a place in the team – my view is supported by many UK Pilots.

Back in November '08 the Comps Panel announced the Worlds Team as:

Carl Wallbank - Cpt
Gary Wirdnam
Grant Crossingham
Robin Hamiton

1st reserve & possible 5th pilot - Bruce Kavanagh
2nd reserve Gordon Rigg
3rd reserve David Matthews

With so many excellent pilots eligible for selection this was always going to be a tough decision. But the announced team caused some surprise as it appeared that based on past performance and the Comps Panel’s published rules and also the selection criteria laid down for the Texas World’s team had not been adhered to.

Noticeably absent from the team is Gordon Rigg (8 times UK Champion) and Dave Matthew’s who had had an outstanding results year in comparison to 2 other pilots (see results below).

The panel have stated how very close and difficult this team selection was, but it is most unfortunate that they have selected a team which so severely undermines the importance of the UK Nationals and has caused so much unrest and demotivation among the pilots – me included. “What do you have to do to get selected?”

This begged the question as to how the team had been selected as it appeared not to be in line with the Panels published rules:

How was the team selected?

In August 2008 rule 5.1.1 was deleted which made reference to the selection on the basis of a pilots’ position in the WRPS ranking system and the panel decided to continue with full discretionary selection. I have to say I was in favour of abolishing rule 5.1.1 as the WRPS only recognises (in my opinion) those pilots who are fortunate enough to afford the luxury of competing in many competitions = time off and money!

However, the ‘discretionary’ selection has somehow failed us this year:

1.1.3 To provide a pool of pilots from which teams for International events may be selected.

(50% of the 4 pilot team is not selected from this pool)

5.1.2 The remaining places will be selected by the competitions panel. A simple majority of a quorum (for this purpose being 2/3 rounded up) of the Competitions Panel will be required for these selections.

5.1.3 Competition attendance will affect team selection on the basis that others are unable to compete against absentees.

(1 selected pilot from the 4 pilot team has taken no part in UK nationals for 10 years and based on results his recent performance is inferior to several who are not selected)

The precedent had been set in so much as the past selection of pilots for UK teams who have not regularly attended the UK nationals has been extremely rare. And where a pilot has been selected other pilots have been consulted and the reason deemed for selection has been considered ‘exceptional’.

Attendance at the UK Nationals by the best UK pilots is essential for the transfer of skill to up and coming pilots for the future of UK hang gliding.

The results as widely accessible on the internet - I have only listed the 'relevant' pilots:

Pre Worlds – Laragne 2008
4 – Carl Wallbank
14 – Gary Wirdnam
18 – Dave Matthews
19 – Bruce Kavanagh
21 – Gordon Rigg
28 – Robin Hamilton

UK Nationals – Laragne 2008
1 – Grant Crossingham
2 – Gordon Rigg
3 – Dave Matthews
4 – Gary Wirdnam
4 – Bruch Kavanagh
Robin Hamilton – absent
Carl Wallbank – absent

UK Nationals – St Andre 2007
1 – Gordon Rigg
2 – Grant Crossingham
7 – Dave Matthews
8 – Bruce Kavanagh
Robin Hamilton – absent
Carl Wallbank – absent

UK Nationals – St Andre 2006
1 – Gordon Rigg
2 – Malcolm Brown
5 – Bruce Kavanagh
6 – Dave Matthews
Robin Hamilton – absent
Carl Wallbank – absent

World Championships – Texas 2007
6 – Gary Wirdam
8 – Carl Wallbank
16 – Dave Matthews
17 – Robin Hamilton
42 – Bruce Kavanagh

Based on these results the Comps Panel were asked to explain what was considered ‘exceptional’ reasons to allow someone who has not entered a UK competition for many, many years to take the place of others who had attended and outperformed and most importantly given UK competitions their regular support? This question was not answered but all non selected pilots were promised a personal telephone call to discuss their individual situation. I believe some have had their call – I am still waiting!

On 30th Jan it was made public knowledge that a member of the 4 pilot team had resigned his place due to being “uncomfortable to be in the middle of a polarising debate on the issue among pilots and did not wish to be the cause of any problems between Exec and the Comps panel”. The Panel regretted but accepted the decision. I too was uncomfortable that he had been made to feel this way – It should never have come to this.

More controversy reared its head today as it became apparent that upon accepting the resignation of the pilot from the 4 pilot team that the 'Comps Panel' invited (both verbally and in writing) Gordon Rigg onto the team and as such Gordon had begun to make arrangements with his employer and purchase equipment required etc etc

- oh no not again!

It appears that after Gordon had been invited onto the team that somehow the pilot who had resigned had been persuaded back onto the team and had accepted.

- I shall leave you all to make your own conclusions as to the state of the UK Competitions.

As I said at the start – based on results of other pilots up for selection I never expected to be selected. But put my name forward as we were all encouraged to do so. At the least I would have expected to receive the ‘promised’ telephone call and an explanation of why results don’t appear to matter. I still support the fact that both Dave Matthews and Gordon Rigg deserve a place in the team.

I am sure this debate will linger on and it is a shame that the future of UK Competitions has been tarnished by such an outcome. To my knowledge and to date 3 members of the Comps Panel have resigned over this debacle (one had been a member for over 30yrs and the other was Chairman).

Over and out for now.