David Campbell James Announces Retirement From Olympic Race Management

The 2024 Nacra World Championship and 49er European Championship will mark the end of an era in Olympic sailing, as David Campbell James (GBR), the Principle Race Officer for the 49er Class for over 20 years, retires. He was a trailblazer; reforming how Olympic sailing was managed on the water to blend new forces in sailing as the Olympic skiff burst onto the scene.

He worked tirelessly, bridging the gap between the traditional roles of officials and athletes to create a sailing community that worked together for the betterment of all involved. Many of the reforms his process uncovered are now the standard in all Olympic sailing and that will be his lasting legacy on the sport.

He was early to adapt to modern sailing as an athletic endeavor and evolved the race day to fit those athletic requirements. Olympic sailors could no longer sit below all day for hours during delays. Skiff sailors needed to drive the boat at all times, so he developed a daily plan of short, sharp races, quick turnarounds, and a certain sensibility about the suitability of the racecourse to ensure the avoidance of long delays.

He helped lead the race official community through the very successful London Games in Weymouth, working on every detail to create a wonderful sailing regatta at the games and ensure a tradition of excellent race management would continue onwards. Every aspect of race management was explored, and Campbell James even created both national and regional mark-laying qualifications to help teach all the skills necessary for great racing.

Within the 49er Class, David has served on the executive and as the PRO for the class. He managed all the official’s appointments and race documents to keep standards high for all racing.

He began his Olympic career in the Tornado catamaran, and represented Great Britain at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

His wife, Jenny, was also a fixture on the 49er Committee boat for many years in a supporting role. His sons, Mark and Paul are also sailors, with Paul competing in both Sail GP and the America’s Cup after a long 49er career.

He does a lot of remote control sailboat racing in a 1m racing community near his home in Southern England.

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