By Nick Butler

IFDS logoAugust 12 - The President of the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) John Twomey has described the organisation's ongoing legal battle with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and the British Paralympic Association (BPA) as "the most difficult issue for the future existence of the IFDS" ahead of an attempt to remedy the situation next month.

The dispute began when the British Sonar team were controversially awarded a discretionary four-point penalty following an off-the-water incident during last year's Paralympic Games which ultimately cost them a bronze medal.

The RYA submitted an unsuccessful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but the IFDS is still facing possible bankruptcy due to the decision each party should pay the full legal costs that they incur.

Twomey has since met with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), who were represented by its President Sir Philip Craven, chief executive Xavier Gonzales and legal counsel Mike Townley and put in a proposal to the IPC to part refund the costs.

The IPC have now requested a meeting with both the IFDS and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

The British team of John Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel were originally awarded the penalty during the Paralympics when bosun Simon Hiscocks cleaned the port side of the keel after being authorised to lift the boat out of the water to inspect some damage.

This prompted an official to file a report to the International Jury who applied a penalty which relegated Britain from third to fifth place, with the Norwegian trio of Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Kristiansen being promoted into the bronze medal position.

sonar in actionJohn Robertson, Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel in action in the sonar class at London 2012 before they received their penalty

CAS met in London in April and upheld the IFDS's original decision to penalise the British team, ruling that it did not have the legal jurisdiction to alter the IFDS's decision due to technicalities regarding the rules which govern sailing in the IPC handbook.

Nonetheless, the IFDS had to pay substantial legal fees as well as additional costs for witness travel and other expenses.

Speaking to insidethegames last month, Twomey explained why these expenses were having such a grave impact:

"We are a very small organisation in financial terms and our income comes from our registered national authorities in the form of an annual fee, and we are not really geared up for major legal outlays," he said.

"The fact that the arbitrator let the legal costs lie with the parties obviously caused us a great deal of difficulty, and we just have to get some third party support to pay those legal fees.

"If we can't get outside assistance then obviously it [bankruptcy] would be a consequence.

"We are going to explore all opportunities and avenues to see where we can raise this money."

The next development s is now likely to occur after the meeting between the IPC, ISAF and IFDS in September.

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