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14 May 2002, 09:32 am
On Disrespect of Racing Rules of Sailing especially 42 Propulsion and Weight Jackets
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The President Speaks

ISAF must separate the adherence to rules which occur in most of Sailing where "Fair Play" is the normal way of sailing, from the Olympic Classes where money now governs.
(I will not get into the America's Cup debate here).

Most countries now pay competitors bonuses for how they do on the Olympic Regatta Circuit and where they place on the ISAF Ranking List. Coaches are also hired and are rewarded by how well their sailors finish. They push the rules to and beyond the limits because they believe other teams are doing the same thing. MNA's also get rewarded for their sailors winning Medals at the Olympic Games. This has pushed sailing into the arena of all professional sport where the mentality is that only the rules which are enforced matter not what constitutes honest sailing.

I have attended several major events lately specifically the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta and Hyere Week. I always walk through the boat park and talk to the sailors while quietly lifting sweaters and weighted lifejackets. The cheating is rampant.

Then on the race course watching the complete disrespect of the Propulsion Rule. The worst occurs in the traditional boats like the Star, Finn, Europe and Laser. The Yngling will also be a problem.

The Tornado and 49er are boats where Kinetics really do not work so no problem there. Mistrals have been out of control for years and they have developed "Air Rowing" to an art while the youth have gone to other fun sports.

Hopefully the emergence of the Formula Board will partially reverse this. The 470 has at least tried to control the Propulsion abuses by instituting a "Yellow Flag" rule which appears to be working and was an idea originally introduced by ISAF twenty years ago and discarded by Race Committees as being onerous. I believe it is a good rule.

I was shocked to see that the Star Class has allowed their crews to stand forward of the mast and with very simple movements rock their boats down wind. Could they not control it simply by demanding no crew forward of the mast and no standing on the deck except for seamanlike manoeuvres? This would also help to keep the crew weight down.

The solution to the Finn, Europe and Laser was obvious in Hyeres. The Finn was totally out of control and I went and yelled at the top competitors who admitted under questioning that they were cheating. When I went to one of them and asked why the Canadian went from 5th to 25th on one run, he replied: "You Canadians are too honest!"

Then I went to the Laser and Europe course and could not believe how they were sailing according to the rules, after being so out of control in Miami. I asked around the boat park Why? The answer was simple "Luciano Giacomi The Hanging Judge". The sailors know when Luciano is on the course he demands they sail by the rules and therein lies the challenge to ISAF. ISAF Juries are excellent at hearing protests and assessing penalties fairly but ill-equipped to be police on the race course checking for those who are not playing by the rules.

ISAF must engage a Team of Rule Enforcers who appear at all major Olympic Class events ensuring that the rules are adhered to and the sailors know exactly what will be allowed and what will not. They must go on the water in small inflatables with Yellow Cards and Red Cards for repeat offenders.

It is essential that from one event to the other the rules are consistently applied. To ensure the cost to the organizers does not escalate because of the added officials I would cut the ISAF Juries back from 5 to 3 for protest hearings.

Sailing at the Olympic level is out of control and ISAF must act before ISAF totally loses the integrity of the sport. What is happening is analogous to taking performance enhancing drugs in other sports. They are both cheating. The answer is not education but proper policing with tough but fair officials.


Paul Henderson
ISAF President

Your feedback on this article is welcomed. Email to
Paul Henderson
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