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29 November 2002, 02:53 pm
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History Repeated

An interview with Paul Henderson

YR/C: You're suggesting some rather radical changes in IYRU policy through what has come to be referred to as "The Henderson Papers." Some of the trends you're protesting have been practically commonplace for a number of years. Why have you waited this long to submit your proposals?

HENDERSON: Well, actually, the ideas have been brewing in my mind for some time now. But only recently have I really come face-to-face with the problem - on the racecourse. What immediately comes to mind is when 1 went to the Ontario Sailing Centre this past summer to give a lecture. Under-stand, the Centre is on the edge of a lit-tle lake where waves in a hurricane probably wouldn't get much over six inches. I had a chance to sail against some of the instructors and program participants in Lasers. In one race, I started right at the windward end, and I had this younger sailor tucked away - he was about a boat length behind and half a length to leeward. 1 mean, 1 really had him hammered. Anyway, the wind's blowing 10 to 12 at that point, and everything's looking good for me. All of a sudden, 1 see this guy start to bang and shove - you know, the whole body energy deal. Before I know it, he's sailed right through me -to leeward! I know that without that extra movement, there's just no way he could have broken through like that.

After that incident, I decided to do a little more active research. I've got a small outboard powerboat, one that allows me to get in close enough to racers without getting in the way. I took it to CORK and paid a visit to the 420, 470 and FD courses.

On the 420 course, where the wind was blowing about Five, I saw a 420 skipper on an off wind leg sitting to leeward, pumping the main by actually moving the boom in and out with his hand. And all the time, his crew is sit-ting to windward, bouncing up and down, pumping the spinnaker and basically propelling the boat with his weight. 1 watched this team approach the windward mark, about two boat lengths behind another 420 in the same, light wind. So the guys behind threw in four quick roll tacks and just edged out the other boat at the mark.


YR/C. How about the other classes? Did the same thing happen there?

HENDERSON: The 470s proved to be a real shocker. Everyone gets in posi-tion at the line, then, just before the gun goes off, they let their rudders float up. At the gun, they start sculling like mad -directly upwind! In the one race I watched, the fleet was sculling so hard that seven guys broke their rud-ders at the start and had to drop out. These same sorts of things - rocking, pumping, roll tacking and sculling -were all common on the FD course as well.

YR/C: Did you attempt to do anything at the time you saw these things going on? Did you say anything to these competitors?

HENDERSON: Yeah. When I saw the guys rocking and pumping their 420 off winds, I yelled at them. And they stopped, which indicates to me that maybe they think that sort of thing is wrong, too. After the race, I talked to them about roll tacking their way ahead of the other boat at the weather mark. I asked the skipper why he did that, and he said that he couldn't get around the mark ahead of the other boat any other way. He said, "It's a tac-tical manoeuvre."

I also talked with some of the up- wind rockers and pumpers. I said,
"Look, you're pumping upwind. That's illegal." But one person replied, "No, I'm not pumping; I'm just quickly trimming." As for the rocking, the same person justified his actions by saying that the rocking was due to the change in apparent wind caused by going over a wave. But when I think back to the conditions in that race, I get more waves in my bathtub.

YR/C: So what you're saying is that these "illegal" movements are com-mon in practically all classes, and that most of the sailors who utilize move-ment think they have a reasonable justification for it?

HENDERSON: That's basically it. My point is that there has not been an active sailor who has legally sailed a race in the past couple of years. And it's at all levels. We had an Optimist Pram North American Championship in Toronto a while back, and 1 see this 11-year-old kid walking down the dock with two rudders. I said to myself, "My God, things have become so-phisticated around here." so I said to the kid, "Why do you have two rud-ders?" and he replies, "One's for light air and one's for heavy air." Then I asked, "What's the difference between the two?" and he answered, in the truth of youth, "The light-air rudder's designed so that I can scull better."

YR/C: And by your proposal you in- tend to see that all of this is outlawed?

HENDERSON: Not necessarily. We've got to do one of two things, as I wrote in my proposal. We've got to either let it all go, or we can't allow any of it. As it is right now, we've got some sailors who are sailing by the rules and not doing any of this body movement stuff, and they're being taken advantage of by guys who'll do practically anything -all of it illegal. They sail by he "anything goes to win" rule, and if hey get caught, they can usually come up with a defence to baffle the race committee, as many of the sailors I talked to did. But the problem is that this sort of attitude is starting to become more widespread - it even permeates the building of boats.

YR/C: But isn't there a problem en-forcing such rules, especially in large fleets?

HENDERSON: We're the only sport that doesn't have referees. If that's what it would take to reverse this trend, then that's what we have to go to. They'd go out on the course, close to the competitors, they'd be paid and they'd blow their whistles when they had to.

Continues on page Three

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Yacht Racing/Cruising - 1979
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