Yesterday, ISAF President, Paul Henderson published his thoughts on the state of "fair play" within the sport. We invited your feedback, which is coming in thick and furious ........
David Brunskill, Great Britain
I think that raising the whole issue of rule observance is timely and necessary. I have been shocked at the changes in attitude to the rules over the years.
It was a pleasure to sail in a "Corinthian" way when if a sailor breached a rule, however minor or accidentally he or she would retire.
However the reality now is that cheating is rampant, whether in boat measurement, fitout, use of artificial aids, use of kinetics or in blatant infringement of part 2 rules.
However it is noticeable that the minute that it is made apparent that once race organisers are conducting inspections, instituting rule 42 or Part 2 on the water judging at events there is an immediate change in behaviour patterns amongst sailors.
The most important thing to me - and as touched on in the article - is that as race officers and judges we are there to help sailors get what they want and which, by and large is fair competitive sailing.
It seems to me that whenever professionals are employed in a regatta there should be an attempt to influence their attitudes by making cheating in whatever form visibly more expensive than compliance with the rules. That does not mean that for every regatta there should be over officious policing - far from it.
But just the fact that one random measurement inspection of lifelines took place on the Tour de France a la Voile and rule breaches were rewarded with a 25% place penalty led to an immediate change in attitude. Repeated minor infringements of safety requirements effectively cost one yacht the overall win of the series.
And we heard no complaints from the fleet.
We were not (and I speak as a jury member) "on the water judging". But on the one occasion that we put to sea on a RIB with a jury flag flying there was immediate consternation amongst the fleet.
Where I was judging rule 42 at Lake Balaton in Hungary one prominent sailor was disqualified from the series. Diplomatic difficulties ensued, but were overcome. Informal feedback from within the fleet overall approved the jury action.
So yes, I believe that as race organisers and judges we can be effective and supportive in providing the fair sailing that competitors want.
The requirement is to changes attitudes and to make rule breaches unprofitable.
To do so all major regattas should have the option to have random inspections for measurement and safety purposes and to have an option of on the water judging. And the penalty should fit the crime to the extent that rule breaches are unprofitable and deliberate rule breaches punitively so.
However there are major cost issues. Clearly a fleet race involving a large fleet of sailing dinghies or yachts cannot be comprehensively umpired other than perhaps at Olympic level. However to have RIBs positioned at the start, windward and leeward turning marks and on the finish can effectively cover the situations where major part 2 problems can arise.
Ultimately sponsors of regattas involving professional sailors need to see that it is in their interest to accept the minor amount of additional cost required in the upgrading of inspection and judging activity. Organisers and Juries will then be more able to influence the shift in attitudes that will improve our sport.
I have a lot of respect for Paul Henderson and think it is great that he is bringing attention to this issue. The focus of his articles has been largely on sailors "obeying" the rules. I do not believe that the problem has to do with how the sailors are sailing but instead how the rules are being enforced.
As an example, I was very surprised by the actions of the judges at the recent star class worlds (last week). I believe 8 boats were summoned by the jury for a warning regarding kinetics. No boat was disqualified or protested by the jury. These skippers had to go before the jury and receive a "tongue lashing" because the jury apparently felt they were not sailing within the rules. I lost a lot of respect for the way in which the rules are being enforced after seeing this action.
If judging remains as toothless as this, "cheating" will always be a problem. As far as I can see the only events of more merit than an olympic class world championship are the olympics themselves and the america's cup. In my opinion, if a boat is cheating they should be protested and thrown out. Handing out "warnings" is unfair to those boats sailing within the rules and further confuses the issue.
It is very difficult to understand what actions are and aren't within the rules as they are presently enforced. I believe that 99% of all sailors are sailing within the rules and believe in doing so. My challenge to ISAF and Paul Henderson, stop berating the sailors, uniformly and consistently enforce the rules and the "problem" will disappear.
Rafael C. de Pinho, Brazilian Laser Class Association
I've read with great interest the discussion on the rule 42 of the RRS that has been risen during the ISAF World Sailing Games [Ed's Note: See report from ISAF Sailors' Forum held during the ISAF World Sailing Games - http://www.sailing.org/isafcal/Article_content.asp?ArticleID=2749]. Now I would like to give my personal input into the discussion.
The rule 42 is one of the most controversial rules in sailing. How can the rules ask a sailor who is racing, which is defined as the first to do something, in our case, cross the finishing line, and that means being as fast as possible, that he cannot be the fastest? The rule simply assumes that the right way to sail is a way where we should be "more or less fast", a concept which does not agree with the spirit of a race.
On the other hand, the rule has its reason to be when we think of light wind sailing. In such conditions I must agree with Mr. Henderson's "air rowing" theory. If everything were allowed, then sailing in light winds wouldn't be fun any more, or let's say it wouldn't be fair competition.
I do agree with the rule existence, but we should look for changes in it. This rule is subjective, and subjectivity may lead to interpretation misunderstandings, what can bring disinterest to the sport. Let's take figure skating in Salt Lake City as an example of what subjectivity can do.
I propose the following to be studied by ISAF:
1. Judges in the water shouldn't be the same in a race's protest room. The grounds for this are simple:
(a) Humans make mistakes. No sailing instructions should deny a sailor the right to ask for redress. If the international juries in the race area protest someone under 42, we can not expect the same juries to overturn their own decisions. That is why nowadays it is usual for the SI to forbid redresses under 42. International juries the highest authority in rules may be wrong sometimes, and this is awkward.
(b) Too much power in one's hands has been proven over human history to be problematic. Have you ever imagined that International Juries have the power to decide a World Championship, or even, the Olympics, while showing yellow flags? This subjective rule and so powerful judges could lead us to titles that wouldn't be accepted by the sailing community around the world. That would be disgrace for our sport.
2. End with the expelling from championships. Sailing is an expensive sport. Some sailors go passionately to championships around the world paying for it with personal resources. I think ISAF should avoid the disappointment and stress in a youth sailor's mind after being expelled from a championship, sometimes not even knowing why. Simply giving sailors DSQ in races, or pointing RET is enough to take them out of competition, without expelling any sailor.
3. Class associations should point out judges for applying 42. These judges should be proven sailors experienced in the class they are judging. How can a Star class sailor know what is rocking in a Laser, for example? Lasers can flip their luffs without any unloyal intention from a sailor, but this is something only another Laser sailor may recognise. In Brazil, we have been using only ex-Laser sailors in our major regattas for years now, and this is proven to be effective in avoiding meanless yellow flags. At least sailors respect much more a decision on 42 taken by a known sailor in their class.
4. The system already used in some classes where a flag is risen after certain wind strength is simply the best move in years. After 13 knots, there is no need for help from a sailor to make the boat go faster by pumping, but if he does it, than I would call it athletics. He would certainly lose some power for that next beat when he does it. I definitely agree with Victor Kovalenko's bikers' example [Ed's Note: See report from ISAF Sailors' Forum held during the ISAF World Sailing Games - http://www.sailing.org/isafcal/Article_content.asp?ArticleID=2749].
I hope I have contributed somehow to this discussion, and finish saying that as the national secretary for the Laser class in Brazil, we will start testing new 42 systems, altering the RRS with the objective of finding a better system. I hope that in the future, 42 turns to be as clear as the right of way rule.
Your feedback is invited to the original article published yesteday by Paul Henderson and the above feedback. Email firstname.lastname@example.org