Quanhai Li of China has been elected as the new President of World Sailing after defeating incumbent Kim Andersen of Denmark in a run-off.
Li’s victory, by 68 votes to 60, was announced today at the governing body’s General Assembly which was held virtually.
The run-off followed a first round contested by four candidates, with the top two progressing.
Andersen came out top in this initial phase, with 53 votes, followed by Li with 39, Spain’s Gerardo Seeliger with 21 and Scott Perry of Uruguay with 15.
Li, however, succeeded in overhauling his rival in the decisive second stage by picking up the vast majority of Seeliger and Perry’s votes.
The 58-year-old Li, director-general of the Chinese National Olympic Sports Centre, will join a select group of Chinese officials to have taken charge of a Summer Olympic International Federation.
As such, his election comes as a marquee moment for Chinese sport as it prepares to stage the next Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing in 2022.
Wei Jizhong was President of the International Volleyball Federation for four years until 2012.
Lu Shengrong was President of the Badminton World Federation from 1993 to 2001.
Xu Yinsheng was President of the International Table Tennis Federation for a time in the 1990s.
Taiwan’s Ching-kuo Wu was President of the International Boxing Association between 2006 and 2017.
Taking the floor after his victory was confirmed, Li said: "Thank you, everybody.
"I don’t know how to express my gratitude.
"Today is a special day.
"You have made new history."
Early priorities for the former World Sailing vice-president will be to negotiate the financially-stretched governing body’s exit from an expensive lease on its London offices and to deliver new sponsorship.
In his election platform, Li stated that through his "substantial business contacts around the world" he was "very confident to be in a position to bring valuable sponsorships and support to World Sailing."
It has been suggested by the South China Morning Post that Li has backing from Evergrande, a Chinese property developer, and that this company might offer $10 million (£7.6 million/€8.4 million) in a sponsorship deal.
This could conceivably be enough on its own to transform World Sailing’s financial position.
The 2019 accounts show that the organisation had future payments under "non-cancellable" operating leases in respect of land and buildings which amounted to £2.67 million ($3.4 million/€2.94 million) at the end of December.
David Graham, World Sailing chief executive, told the Assembly that the body’s office space was "on the market", but as of yet there were no offers.
These accounts also showed a deficit for the year of just over £2.5 million ($3.2 million/€2.75 million), with operating income of £3.7 million ($4.8 million/€4.1 million), including just £1.47 million ($1.9 million/€1.6 million) from sponsorship.
The governing body announced last week that it had extended its longstanding partnership with watchmaker Rolex, without giving further details.
Andersen is the second consecutive World Sailing President to be unseated, after he himself ousted Italy’s Carlo Croce in 2016 by a similarly tight margin of six votes.
Besides World Sailing’s financial difficulties, the decisive factor in blowing his campaign for a second term off course in a bitter campaign may well have been concerns within the International Olympic Committee (IOC), on whose payments for the sport’s contribution to the Summer Games the governing body is heavily dependent.
These concerns came to light in an email to the World Sailing Election Commission from Ng Ser Miang, an IOC vice-president and former vice-president of the International Sailing Federation.
This purported to relay comments by Pâquerette Girard Zappelli, the IOC’s chief ethics and compliance officer, about "the current [World Sailing] President who faced three consecutive issues brought to the [World Sailing] Ethics Commission – this situation which might tarnish the reputation of [World Sailing]”.
Andersen, who denies wrongdoing, has filed an ethics complaint against Ng, who has also been accused by World Sailing of intervening in the election.
The IOC has emphasised that the comments set out in the email were "not the statement of an official position."
It was reported by insidethegames yesterday that Andersen is facing possible sanctions after the Ethics Commission found he may have breached rules by signing a contract with a consulting firm, allegedly without the approval of the Board.
The Dane, who, again, has denied wrongdoing, is able to appeal the decision of the Ethics Commission - which he has repeatedly criticised after claiming the panel has been biased against him.
The following have been elected as World Sailing vice-presidents - Tomasz Chamera (Poland), Philip Baum (South Africa), Sarah Kenny (Australia), Duriye Öziem Akdurak (Turkey), Yann Rocherieux (France), Marcus Spillane (Ireland) and Cory Sertl (United States).