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29 November 2002, 02:12 pm
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History Repeated

YR/C: Some of the young dinghy sailors have said that an "older" keelboat sailor couldn't possibly understand the "aesthetic" relationship between body movements and modern dinghy racing.

HENDERSON: I think that originally the younger sailors, particularly, said, "Oh, he's out of touch, etc., etc." But as they got to know more about me, I've sensed a bit of a change. Now they say "Look, he's very abrasive, and he's very outspoken, but he really does know what he's talking about, and you should talk to him." As far as the relationship between movement and racing goes, none of this is really very new. Marchaj listed them all in his book (Sailing Theory and Practice] over 20 years ago, and I learned a lot of them in junior sailing when I was about nine years old.

YR/C: What about some of the arguments sailors use to justify kinetics?

HENDERSON: I've had a lot of good discussions with a lot of these guys, and I've given solid consideration to what they've said. But there seems to be a lot of changes in their stories, and I get the definite feeling that, as I initially suspected, they're simply trying to justify something they know will make them fast, even though the rules specifically outlaw it. For instance, some of the justifications for pumping were interesting. I spoke to one of the leading "pumpers" early on, and he said that he was allowed to pump once on every wave pattern to promote planing. And I said, "even upwind?" "Oh yes," he said, "I'm allowed to do that. We plane upwind, you know." But I think I caught him there. "Read the rules," I said. "The rules say you can pump to take advantage of the energy of the wave. And there's no way you can take advantage of the energy of a wave by pumping when sailing upwind.???So later on I talked with the same guy. He had changed his thoughts a bit. "What's happening," he said, "is that the wind direction is changing, and I'm really just sheeting quickly for the wind." It's kind of like them saying, "okay, pumping upwind won't work to take advantage of the wave energy, so we've got to think of something new." The answer, of course, was the apparent wind change. And I still don't buy that. In a six?inch chop, how much is the apparent wind changing one foot off the water? It's not changing at all. And the speed of your boat isn't changing, so your apparent wind isn't changing.

YR/C: Some of these same sailors are also asking why kinetics should be banned when the sailors are in favour of it.

HENDERSON: Actually, not all sailors, not even all top sailors, are in favour of kinetics. One top single-handed sailor told me he hadn't sailed for a year because he didn't have the time to prepare. He said that to win he would have to practice every day for six weeks to get his body in tune with the boat. Another time, a Windsurfer World Champion asked if there wasn't something that could be done about kinetics. He said that he had a job and could only sail on weekends, and to be at all competitive, with all the body energy being used, he would have to give up everything just to get ready to compete.

YR/C: Is it really possible to outlaw all movement?

HENDERSON: I agree that saying you're going to outlaw movement is extreme. Maybe the problem lies in definitions. It's not so much the individual movement that bothers me ?hiking out hard for a gust, moving aft for waves. What does bother me is the blatant repetitiveness, it's simple harmonic motions ? you know, like when you are pushing a kid on a swing. If you hit the swing at the right time, each time, the energy built up in that kid's swing will be incredible. So any motion in a boat that's repetitive and harmonic has got to go, whether it's unweighting or something else. Unweighting, for instance, is not truly unweighting; it's an absolutely straight harmonic motion. The same with pumping. That has nothing to do with the apparent wind or the waves; it's
just harmonic ? building on energy. And rocking doesn't even work right unless you do it in an absolutely harmonic, repetitive situation. If you rock out of harmony with the wind or the waves, you'll do more harm than good.

YR/C. Do you think that some of the current definitions and interpretations of the rules might be at fault?

HENDERSON: In a lot of cases, the rule is so wide you can't enforce it. Nobody wants to enforce it. Who wants to sit around in a protest room for three hours? 1 What it all boils down to is that the lYRU has to specifically state that this is legal or Illegal, If the decision 'Is to make it legal, then fine. Let everyone know, and let the races go on, whether there is wind or not. If the lYRU decides it's illegal, then they simply have to do everything within their power to eliminate it. But either way, something's got to be done.

YR/C: Well, where do we go from here?

HENDERSON: I think that what's happened is that the gauntlets have been thrown down. Basically, since they passed my proposal through the Class Policy Committee, everything is illegal right now ? pumping, ooching, rocking, torquing, roll tacking, the works. Now they've referred it back to a technical committee, and who knows what will happen. I think we may come to the conclusion that there are 10 methods of propelling your boat by kinetic energy and then define, say, six methods as illegal and the other four as legal. Personally, I think it would be sad to stop athletic energy from being put into a. boat on one of those absolutely beautiful downwind planing days. I love to get out there and kick and shove and fly down the waves just as much as anybody. What I'm absolutely against is the attitude of "Aw, the hell with it, let's let everything go." In the end, everyone wants the same thing ?to clearly understand the rules so that they know exactly what they can and can't do on the racecourse.

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