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16 May 2002, 09:53 am
On Disrespect of the Racing Rules of Sailing
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The President Speaks - Your Feedback Part 3

On Monday, 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. ISAF publishes your feedback.
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.

David Buckley, Australia
The sailboards are a classic example of the adverse effects of pumping. The divide between the professional sailor who can happily fan the rig for two hours in 25 knots and the recreational sailors becomes massive. Prior to unlimited pumping there were large fleets and the whole fleet would finish on the same leg. Now the elites who have the fitness to pump, lap otherwise skillful sailors. It created a change where fitness moved from being a small to major component of the sport. It may be only one of the reasons but sailboard fleets have disappeared. Moves by some fleets to stop pumping upwind certainly help but much of the damage has been done. Unfortunately I cannot see the Formula boards remedying the situation as the huge rigs and expensive gear are unlikely to attract youths, beginners or recreational sailors. The fleet already comprises most sponsored sailors. The old windsurfer one design with its cheap gear and no pumping reached massive
participation levels and the slightly modified version still produces the happiest sailboard fleet in Australia, where olympians race happily with desk jockeys like myself.

Yair Suari, Israel
As in any legal system a rule that is not or can't be enforced does more harm then good.
In our case I think, and in fact more and more of the Olympic classes think the same, that using kinetics is part of the game and should be allowed. As many of the sailors said in a questionnaire on the 470 class web site "it should be allowed because it's more fun".

I also think that the option of strict enforcement in national and small international events is impossible.

As for weights I think that that protests by the sailors are very possible in this case and may solve the problem.

James Malm
The Tornado and 49er are difficult boats to sail. The other boats in the Olympic class do not require driving on a trapeze wire. (Side note)

The windsurfer is a different animal all together and should not be raced under 10 knots of breeze and anything should go all the time. For gods sake the mast isn't fixed in one position; should a sailor have to hold it up straight in light breeze?

The rest of the Olympic boats are traditional boats designed to be sailed under the racing rules of old. Sailors were more concerned with Corinthian sailing (policing yourself) and reputation, than bringing home the silver bowl.

How to fix propulsion in older, outdated boats? Individual police - never works. Self-policing went out with the Beatles. The yellow flag should be the answer. If the race committee has wind over a certain velocity (10 knots), all propulsion should be allowed. In light winds no propulsion should be allowed. Penalties for breaking the propulsion rules in light air should be insurmountable for the competitor. Make it impossible to win an event if a competitor gets a DSQ for propulsion.

Determining when to hoist the yellow flag is difficult. It seems universal that hiking a boat flat creates propulsion. Once sailors use their weight to go faster, the yellow flag should go up. Some sailors sit on the leeward side then move to the weather side repeatedly in light air; is this legal?

Moving your weight around to keep a boat upright (49er) is legal, but to move weight around to increase speed is not legal.

Solution to propulsion - Yellow flag all fleets for legal propulsion at a certain wind speed.

Morten Christoffersen, Danish Olympic Sailor 1992, 1996
The comments by Paul Henderson shows how much out of touch with the sport the leaders of sailing has become.

First, as a two time Olympian (1992 and 1996) I take serious offence to the accusations by Mr Henderson, that practically all Olympic sailors are cheaters. Except for some vague accusations, he provides no evidence to back up his charges. And to blame all sailors for cheating based upon what a few have done is outrageous!

Mr. Henderson raise a couple of issues, that need to be addressed.

First, he complains that some National authorities pay out bonuses and support financially their sailors in other ways.

I say, good. Without the financial support, 90% of the worlds sailors would not be able to afford this very expensive sport, making it a sport for the rich. I did two Olympics campaigns and received financial support from my NA. This enabled me to compete around the world and get the best equipment. Now, 6 years later, I am still paying of debt incurred to do my sport. Without the support from my NA I would never have been in a position to even start competing at an Olympic level. This has nothing to do with what other countries do. It is just a fact that travel around the world to get to regattas is very expensive. So I say; the more NA support the better. The alternative is that only the rich and well connected can afford to sail!

Please remember that amateurs in sailing used to be the people who could afford to sail on their own without getting paid. Professionals were sailors who got paid to sail on the big private yachts as crew.

Mr Henderson's comments about rule 42 also deserve a reply.

I competed in the 1992 Olympics on the Lechner board, with Rule 42 and the 1996 Olympics on the Mistral without rule 42. I would take the Free pumping any day of the week.

The Olympics are all about the best of the best. The top of the top. By allowing pumping many critics thought that Olympic windsurfing would be a contest between big guys that could only pump. But that is not what happened. Pumping turned out to be just another facet of the sport that you had to master to win. You can be the most fit person in the world and pump for hours. But if you are going the wrong way or you cannot read the wind or waves, you will never win.

The fact that Mr. Henderson can say that "Mistrals have been out of control for years" shows how little knowledge he has of the sport he is supposed to govern. On the contrary, the Mistral class has been in total control, accepting the fact that rule 42 is impossible to enforce in a sport where you steer with your body. I actually think that the Mistral class is the one most fair Olympic class, because it is not subject to various judges, interpreting the rules differently. And his comment about the youth going to other fun sports, is just plainly wrong. The proof is in the growing numbers of youth sailors in the Mistral class.

I find it very regrettable, that the person representing sailing world wide, is so ignorant about the sport, and think that it is helpful to the sport to accuse the elite of cheating without any proofs.

But then again, he was responsible for taking the most spectator friendly sailing event out of the Olympics, Match Racing.

Think about it, the Olympics are supposed to represent all aspects of sailing, yet there is no Keel boat class with a spinnaker, for men, in the Olympics.

Jean-Baptiste Dupont, President French 5O5 Class Association
I did appreciate very much your article on the necessity to enforce the rules in order for competitors to sail fairly...

We are lucky in our 505 class not to be affected too much by those practices - Thanks to our group of sailors and the "old guys" who continuously remind us the spirit of sailing.

Fred Eaton, Toronto, Canada
The president is right again noticing and wanting to control rules violations in high level sailing events.

I think his proposal to change from 5 judges to 3 and having a two person enforcement team is a good one.

Gail M. Turluck, USA
I race and own Sunfish primarily because our Class has had a low/no tolerance approach to all the rule ending/breaking that has occurred in so many other high performance Classes. My involvement with US College Sailing has caused me to see more and more of the "if no one sees the rule get
broken, it's not broken" situation, and it's one I abhor. So few people, however, are willing to step forward, challenge folks, raise a flag, use the "P" word (protest), and go to a room. I have been to too many events where
there isn't even a Protest Committee planned for; then, suddenly, when it's needed, the folks cobbled together have never heard one, don't know what to do, and often make a bad decision.

When I was a junior sailor, the other juniors who were not involved in the situation that day had their names put into a hat; 3 names were drawn.

There was the committee. All the kids I was sailing with learned the rules, learned how to conduct a hearing, and learned how to present their arguments. Long, drawn out affairs were extremely rare ... 5-10 minutes and we were done.

Today the only time things go to a hearing is when it's a major championship and something major is on the line ... exactly the time people shouldn't be going into the room for the first time. Everything has been turned top to

One example from this spring: a competitor didn't inform the other party of the intent to protest after the race was concluded (ICSA Procedural Rules, college sailing). Because of this simple oversight, he could not have his
protest heard. Turned out he had NEVER read the ICSA procedural Rules though he's been a high-level racer in college sailing for THREE years!

I don't know how we get people to read the rules, re-read the rules, look things up when they get to shore (and honorably withdraw should they find they were in the wrong ...), though I encourage this to be done at every
opportunity I get. I'm one of those in the "honest Canadian" crowd, though I'm American ... If I find that I can't go anywhere and sail under the rules as they're written, I'll be selling all my boats and getting out. The
progression has been growing since the 70's and the introduction of the planing dinghy, and though they're fun to sail, it's not so fun to be physically abusing ourselves to gain that nth in speed (ooching, etc.) and be breaking the rules.

It will take a large number of people like Paul Henderson standing up and saying NO!! No more!! I hope this view will have enough support to keep it viable and will continue to work in the direction of guiding programs this

Nelson de Alencastro Guimarães, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
As a Laser sailor since 1975, my opinion as one solution for the problem is to have a flag that will allow any kinetis on the race course, and when lowered nothing will be permitted, and the disrespect of it will oblige the yacht to retire immediately. Finish with the 720 penalty rule on this case.

The rules as they are now pushes the sailors to try the limit, and most of the time they are lucky that the judges are far away. To protest someone and go for a hearing is a very good way to have a very bad night, winning or loosing the protest, and that's why few sailors do it.

An idea of self control only from the sailors would be like that: After a race the sailors would make a list of boat numbers that they protest for infringing the 42 rules, deliver to the race committee, and when a boat receives more than 1/3 of competitors "votes" he is DSQ of that race without hearing! The second time the "voted" sailor would be invited to go out of the championship.

Note: Each class would define if it is 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or other number of competitors that would be necessary to disqualify someone.

Mark Reynolds, USA
I agree with Paul Henderson - quality policing is often necessary but don't forget education. Our youth need to be taught ethics along with our rules, not "how far to push kinetics" as a reader reported here recently. Our rules are pretty clear and we have good people fine tuning them.

Fortunately I haven't seen the rampant cheating that Paul has, at least in the sailing that I do. Maybe Paul shouldn't be quiet as he's lifting weighted lifejackets in the boat park. It's sometimes difficult to report infractions because of peer pressure.

Paul's story in Hyeres reminded me of a similar story (also in Hyeres by coincidence) but it had a happy ending. In 1992 Hal Haenel and I sailed in the Star Europeans. My shock at seeing many crews ooching on the run turned to anger when we dropped from 2nd to 10th on one run. I did some yelling and then confronted one sailor after the race and his comment was "just do it yourself and you will have no problem" and "who would you ever get to witness".

I remember discussing this issue with Rod Davis at the time. We didn't win that Europeans but a few months later at the Olympics we had an excellent on the water jury watching for rule 42 infractions and suddenly we were one of the fastest boats on the run! Hal and I got a Gold medal without having to sail the last race and Rod and Don Cowie took the Silver.

Alan Ouellette
There is no room in our sport for people who cheat. Perhaps making the penalties more severe might help the situation. Why not ban someone caught cheating from competition for a year? That would shift the onus to the competitors to ensure that they are competing fairly. Worried about weighted jackets? Check the winner's equipment. Not legal?
Toss'em. We need to make it the competitor's responsibility to compete according to the rules rather than an issue of "What can I get away with?"

Stephen White, Australia/Great Britain
The observations by the pres' are the most vocal of numerous opinions I have heard on the scant regard for propulsion rules of sailing.

I was a laser sailor before 1994 and have raced many other classes. The physical element of the laser class was a great challenge that I have fond memories of, it was not until I left the class that I became fully aware of the extent of kinetics being used.

The problems with propulsion start at club level and extend to Olympic class regattas and one-design class world titles, it is not limited to professionals.

To attack the pres for his observations is unfair. The propulsion rules of sailing are not being adhered to, they are the rules and ought not to be broken. In a competitive environment however it is naive to believe that sailors will adhere to rules that are not policed, if they believe their competitors are willing to go beyond the rules then they will follow suit.

This is not the only problem with our sport. The collective problems of ratings, event clashes, rule compliance and regional politics are all matters that should be solved by the administration at the top of the sport.

Having said that ISAF should take care of these issues it clearly hasn't the resources to do so. The ISAF board of President Henderson, the Vice Presidents and National Members are all volunteers, it also appears to lack the funds to employ enough full-time professional staff.

Like any governing organisation ISAF needs to be armed to the teeth which requires cash and bodies. I suspect this is why President Henderson has spoken in such a public fashion. He has incriminated no one and caused little harm, some may feel his comments erode their achievements, however, they should look at the bigger picture and the good of the sport.

Many believe it is time for change, the pres' among them. Sailing needs a strong federation to lead the sport forward and maintain it's integrity but without the funds and resources to do so our sport will suffer.

Ross Morrissey, Canada
This isn't a new problem.

Here's an excerpt from the Inland Lake Yachting Association website about how Buddy Melges responded to kinetics in the FD class in the late sixties:

"They campaigned the Flying Dutchman up until the World Championships in Montreal. The winds were light and the fleet around them were engaged heavily in sculling and kinetics. Knowing that the sailing venue for the Mexico City (Acapulco) Games was likely to present a light-air event, Melges knew that he would rather engage in sailing than acrobatics. He sold his boat and left the FD class with a bitter taste in his mouth. "I was depressed and didn't do much of anything for a couple years," he recalls. "I trained a lot of Labradors."

Until better enforcement arrives, it seems the only two responses to excessive kinetics are to do the same, or leave the class (or sport).

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

Thank You

The President Speaks on Disrespect of Racing Rules - Original Article

Your Feedback - Part 1

Your Feedback - Part 2

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