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15 May 2002, 12:00 pm
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The President Speaks - Your Feedback Part 2

Yesterday, the ISAF President voiced his thoughts on the disrespect shown to the Racing Rules of Sailing and how ISAF must ensure greater enforcement and respect for the rules. We asked for your feedback .... and we've got it.
Firstly, ISAF would like to thank all those who have emailed ISAF and expressed their thoughts and opinons. Thank You.

Your feedback on this subject continues to be welcomed and will be published on the ISAF Website.

Andy Mack, USA
Bravo for trying to address this sticky issue. The solution is simple and I believe the President knows what it is. Police the race courses and don't hesitate to act upon those who are cheating. Without harsh consequences for bad behavior there is no way to eliminate it. Self policing only works for those who have a conscience and respect for their fellow competitor.

Thanks goodness we don't have to deal with this problem very much in the 49er. Although I have seen some interesting trimming techniques.

Good Luck.

Rob Hoogstra, The Netherlands
Finally the issue is addressed. In today's high level racing there's a lot at stake indeed, and not to my surprise people test the rules to their full extent. Not a bad thing as long as the basic principle of sportsmanship and the rules, and fair sailing for that matter, are upheld. This unfortunately seems to fade away; fair sailing is loosely interpreted and appears as 'if all abuse 42 or weight jackets hence the game of sailing becomes fair again', whether or not a conscious decision by the sailor. This of course can be regarded a misconception, but displays a mindset of sailing society and perhaps society at large.

Enforcing the rules by introducing more race officials (if available and qualified) is only part of the solution.

The fundamental attitude has to change and this requires attention to the complete sailing competition chain: young talents, class organizations, MNAs etc, etc. All have a crucial role to play. ISAF faces a formidable and no doubt time-consuming task. Having said that I also encourage ISAF to contemplate if Rule 42 in its current form fits today's sailing practice.

Nick Skulander, Australia
I'm an olympic class sailor and attend most high profile regattas (Laser worlds and so on). The biggest problem is that at every regatta there are different interpretations of this rule by the juries! Different judges see things different ways and therefore we have sailor's getting very argry eg. getting DSQ from the entire regatta after just one race! (2001 laser worlds). This happened to a few sailors and a sailor's meeting was called. The conclusion of this meeting that we should have two options - either have unlimited pumping and rocking or have Juries on the water who have sailed the class of boat they are Judging. Judges coming from keelboats have no concept of boat balance, boat trimming or steering a boat with boat heel instead of a rudder.

John den Engelsman, The Netherlands
Paul's a very good statement but also a difficult task to enforce through major events not only for olympic classes but also other ISAF classes. It all begins with one design boats as yourr former article suggested and also ISAF is setting there a good example (see ISAF Worlds) where competitors race in equal boats.

That is really the name of sport, because not only do sailors cheat on the water but also they cheat on material, weight distribution etc so where do we start and most important who is the body to enforce???

Are there enough measurers, judges while they are all volunteers??

Also ISAF should be more strict in which boats we allow to be official ISAF boats and check class rules etc.

You see the subject is complicated while a lot of sailors (talking to them) also like the sport because of this (not so strict rules), so they can try to be smart at the expense of a lot of money and time. So mentality has also to change with the sailors and ISAF has to be strict in ruling.

I mean we are just touchinga subject here but it is important first to recognize the problem and then talk about it with future targets and how we want to change this.

Ronnie R McCracken, Hong Kong
As an ISAF IJ I agree in part with Paul's comments.

There is a need to police kinetics on the water, not only at Olympic and International level but also at National and Regional level.

In years gone past the Laser Class in the UK had a terrible reputation for kinetics but the Class started on the water judging and cleaned up the fleet. This should be applied firmly in all countries from base level upwards.

Although not angels the British Laser sailors do now receive fewer yellow flags than other countries at International events and have learned to sail fast within the Rules.

I have also been criticized for being too strict at times but the rules are clear and if you start withdrawing from one next we will have mark hitting and boats colliding without any penalty being taken or protest. Next step on the race course would then be anarchy.

Although not falling within Paul's list of classes the root problem, in my opinion, starts with the Optimists and if this was controlled properly at an early age we may not have the problem in later years. But there you have parent problems.

In all the International and World Championships I have judged involving dinghies on the water judging has been used. Maybe I am only invited to events where the organizers are more enlightened.

In Hong Kong, where I am now based, the HKYA had RRS 42 policing at a local dinghy Regatta. This was not high profile Regionally or Internationally but was a good learning curve for competitors, some of whom may represent Hong Kong in this year's Asian Games.

Jimmy Nyhan, Ireland
At last the ISAF are at least planning to do something about this and are recognising that there is an issue.

I have never seen so much cheating going on as I have in the last few years, and when you hear of conversations of the best cheating techniques been discussed it can only do damage to our sport. I have been racing against boats where competitors have rocked, ooched and pumped there way around to the top of the fleet. There are rules about Kinetics, so why do people ignore them? They are not being enforced and it is felt that you cannot protest other boats because you have to do the same to win so it becomes an unwritten rule that the Kinetics rule is to be ignored. This seems to be the case amongst both competitors, Committees and Jury's alike. The result for me was that I got out of Monohulls and went into Multihulls where as you said kinetics do not matter as much, and we have far better racing, far more fun and a lot less agro and distrust amongst sailors. Bottom line is every body knows who is cheating and it is blatant cheating i.e the use of kinetics, so why do we allow it.

Every thing starts at the bottom at club level but when it is accepted and required at top Olympic level then what hope do our club sailors and potential Olympians have of ever competing fairly, it is our sport and we owe the sport the dignity of sportsmanship.

Essam El-Bokl, Egypt
My experience in Appendix N showed that:
1. Most of the sailors feel that they are tied by rule 42 to show their training and sailing skills.
2. They are so happy when they win some places by infringing this rule and so angry when they lose positions.
3. On water judging are not 100% controlled to be fair for all sailors and hence so many sailors get benefits from applying this rules on the others while the others are infringing the same rule too-this is of course un-fair.
4. I believe that only hard infringing of rule 42 are to be banned, especially in light wind.
5. I teach my sons to obey rule 42, but all the others around them are not, so I starts to close my eyes when I saw such infringing from them!!!!

Mick Ralph, Australia
In relation to the comments by Paul Henderson, I would like to make a few comments from a coach's perspective.

One of the most disgraceful incidents I have witnessed in sailing occurred at the 420 worlds in Athens in 1999. In front of a Jury boat at a mark rounding, one competitor jumped into another boat and punched and kicked (in the head!!!) the other competitor. The assaulted sailor duly lodged a protest and secured 5 witnesses from 5 different countries. The International Jury made the protestor and witnesses attend for a hearing on 3 consecutive days and finally opened a hearing on the 3rd attempt, and threw out the protest for being received 2, yes 2, minutes over the time limit!! I witnessed this event and also the aftermath. All the sailors were devastated with the exception of the violent one, who ended up escaping scot free!!!!

These were mostly junior sailors who are now sailing in senior olympic fleets.

If ISAF is serious about the rules I would suggest that closer inspection of the (in)actions and inconsistencies of juries would go a long way to helping. Race committees also are guilty of massive breaches of honesty. How many times have we seen black flags used vigorously on visiting sailors and not once for the whole regatta used on the host country's sailors.

So please focus on the issue in an evenhanded manner and don't just concentrate on the sailors. The example of honesty and fair play must come from above if we are to influence the actions of younger sailors.

I have a theory that sailing lost its sportsmanship and honesty when the alternative (720) penalty was introduced. Wierd but that's how I see it over 40 years.

Would love to have an ISAF chat/bulletin board to discuss these things more fully.

[Editor's Note: ISAF does have a discussion forum, which can be accessed once you are registered as an ISAF Sailor. To register as an ISAF Sailor or find out more about ISAF Sailor go to

Rick Hooper, USA
This issue of kinetics has been sucking the fun out of sailing since we sailed against President Henderson when he came in the 60's from Toronto to Rochester to frostbite in Interclub dinghies with my Dad [Doug Hooper] throwing Howie Reekers out of races for rocking! Enough already! It is a technique that you need to learn to win races! We need no more "hanging judges" on race courses to ruin this sport further! Please!

John Driscoll, Ireland
Well-done Paul Henderson for his press comments Ref: rule 42!

I am in agreement with his observations and the lack of 'morality' when it comes to this rule.

I myself have successfully (a relative statement of course!) campaigned a Finn for many enjoyable and often stressful years, and have been infuriated by some of the rule 42 actions around me! But in order to survive I too have had to train and learn these shenanigans in order not to get blown away. It can be very off putting racing and getting all 'freaked out' about the surrounding 'rock and rollers', while acting as a 'traffic cop' and a tactical sailor simultaneously.

The stigma of being a 'cry baby' must go for self-policing to become effective. The sailors should not only be penalised by the on water juries in the usual way with the 'flag' rule, but also should report to the jury afterwards (believe me... this is one pain in the backside!).

The individual classes should be pulled aside by ISAF and made to discuss the issues (the current rules are just fine). This is a serious matter, and actually rather tiring.

The irony of self-policing is that it can be seen as a personal attack on another sailor, when in fact the personal attack comes from the wrong doer on the whole fleet!

Nice one Paul, get your nose stuck in and use your influence, don't let the class establishments protect themselves.

Tom Hodgson, USA - US Sailing National Race Officer
I can only tip my cap and heartily endorse Mr. Henderson's remarks on the ISAF web page.

What strikes me about these issues is that sailors agree, by entering a regatta, to follow the Rules (Rule 3). They therefore agree that if they should happen to break a rule, they will take a penalty or retire, as appropriate (Basic Princple). The further agree to compete in compliance with recognized principles of sportsmanship and fair play (Rule 2). And finally, when they knowingly and intentially break a rule, they commit a gross breach (in my opinion) of good sportsmanship.

I applaud Mr. Henderson for taking a stand here. Winning cannot be so overwhelmingly important that we sacrifice the integrity of the sport for victory.

Let's meet this challenge to our sport's integrity with fair, unbiased, but firm and certain enforcement of Rule 42 (and Rules 2, 3, 69, and the Basic Principle).

Wietze Zetzema, The Netherlands
I myself sail a Europe dinghy on international level, so I saw what happend to the sport as same as you did. I agree that we are beyond any rules in sailing. But most coaches say pumping is something for competitors to judge, and then comes the jury. In other words in the first place you should be your own judge, and then the competitors, and then jury. It works on many occasions but not with pumping. It's an proven fact that pumping always starts at the back of the fleet, cause number last doesn't like it's place he tries to pump himself back in the fleet, number second last thinks he's overtaking me I should do that as well, and so it starts. I don't think it is good.

In Holland we had a class-president (Marieke Poulie, female) who was always trying to hold fair sailing. So even if she had to protest half the fleet she did it.

Further more what makes me upset, is when you've spent hours of training in a season to compete in a world championship, is that you get a race committee on that point when they want to start a race, and there is 3 knots wind, and huge waves you can't steer over. Then you have to pump. This is because you don't want to see your world championship thrown away by some unknown and unprofessional race officer who thinks that he is jesus on the race course.

And that is where it is all about, judges have been to conservative to DARE to act. That should be replaced, but I know that it will take a long time to heal that again.

Your feedback on this issue is welcomed. Please feel free to email your comments to

Thank You

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