ISAF is aware of the challenges to "Fair Play" in Sailing. As Professionalism has become evident so has the pushing of the rules to gain the ultimate speed advantage has become more prevalent.
Professionalism has brought money to Sailing, which means the sailors are more dedicated and their coaches have become more important and innovative. This has happened in all aspects of Sailing from the Olympic Classes to the Offshore Yachts to the America's Cup. The current attitude is to play the game by what can be got away with, not by what the rule says.
If the coaches believe one sailor is getting away with something they do not protest, but copy it and then this becomes the standard which is set until it is pushed even further. This attitude has been prevalent in many sports for years, but is reasonably new in Sailing or at least has previously gone unnoticed.
Rule 42 Kinetics has again become a focus. Early in the year, several top Finn sailors, along with many Judges, came to me and said something had to be done as it was totally out of control and ruining the sport. So a direction was made to endeavour to enforce the rule. At last week's Olympic Test Event two of the sailors who wanted more enforcement were "flagged" and complained that the rule was now being enforced too far. Deja-vu!
There are two schools of thought on Rule 42 or for that matter any Rule:
- Some lawyers will argue that a rule that cannot be enforced should not be in force, so that Rule 42 should be withdrawn.
- The other side is that if Kinetics is not controlled then the game is not Sailing, because it totally negates traditional tactics and tilts the playing field to the strong rather than to the talented.
I certainly subscribe to the second viewpoint. The rebuttal to the first argument is to see what it has done to competitive boardsailing and how that has imploded with the unlimited pumping. The noise at the start of any boardsailing race produces more decibels than a 747 taking off.
Also when debating the issue, even the negative lawyers admit that sculling and paddling are Kinetics which should be banned and most will even go as far as to say that to allow pumping and rocking to the point that it is 100% of the propulsion force is not good. Even they believe that you should not be able to have an "Air Rowing" race
with no wind just air.
So everyone really agrees that uncontrolled Kinetics which means sculling, paddling, rocking, pumping, ooching, towing, etc should not dominate Sailing.
Sailing has changed dramatically over those years since we first focused on the problem:
- Highly paid Coaches and National Teams have become normal whose job it is to "Win at all Cost!"
- Sailors consider it unsportsmanlike to protest, so anarchy has taken over.
- Technology has become the most important aspect not Talent.
Here are a few concepts which ISAF should examine to control Rule 42:
1. "Yellow Flag"
- which is flown over a certain wind strength allowing some Kinetics;
It is reassuring that after 25 years that some progressive classes like the 470 have finally instituted the progressive concept of a "Yellow Flag" originally proposed by Andy Kostanecki and myself so many years ago but discarded because the "Rules Gurus" did not want to impose this enforcement on the Race Committees.
- the rule is fine as now written. The problem is to have consistent and knowledgeable enforcement by Judges who know the class.
This means an ISAF Team of respected officials, whose major role is to ensure "Fair Play", must attend major events and hopefully compliance will filter from the top down. They would also decide when the "Yellow Flag" is flown.
Education is not the answer as all the sailors and the coaches know full well what the rule says.
- the more radical solution is to promote classes at the World level where Kinetics has a minor effect, thus doing away for the need of Rule 42 enforcement.
Skiffs are a good example. The 49er and 29er must be sailed and it was a joy to see the young sailors at the recent Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Canada so enjoying true high-performance sailing without coaches schooling them on how to use kinetics clandestinely, because kinetics are not a major problem in skiffs.
Catamarans also do not lend themselves to Kinetics. At many joint class regattas, the sailors having the most fun are the Hobie 16 sailors. They are socialising while the boardsailors are being worked over by their masseuses and doctors.
- increase the number of purchases on the mainsheet and make the sailor use all the blocks. Therefore to get any meaningful pumping action they dislocate their shoulder. This was a Finn suggestion many years ago.
Pin rudders down so that they cannot be floated up for sculling. 470 did this long ago.
Redesign rudders so that they are efficient for steering but not sculling. Optimist did this already.
- Clifford Norbury, in his usual "out of the Box Thinking", suggested that the boards should not sail downwind in under 10 kts of breeze, but only upwind where the pressure is greater and they can plane, which limits some of the need for pumping. In fact it is not a bad idea for other classes also.
The course could be Start, upwind, reach, upwind, reach, upwind, Finish.
Then be towed downwind for the next race. Clever Concept for a Brit!!
If the wind is over 10 kts then downwind legs are OK. There are other areas which must also be policed because they have a great impact on speed which means the sailor and the coaches will endeavour to push the rules or even break them.
- this must be tightened up. I was shocked to see a coach holding one end of the measuring tape at a World Championship ensuring their boat measured or another World Championship where they did not even weigh the boats.
Coaches and sailors cannot be part of the measurement process.
Corrector Weights - it is alleged that sailors remove their corrector weights for events where they are not measured or even after measurement they remove them for racing. This has been proven at several events including the recent Athens Test Event. This must be one of the areas that the "Policing Judges" enforce.
Weight Jackets - I have been going through the boat park picking up the jackets worn by the sailors and because this is not being checked the amount of weight being worn is not legal. It is also alleged that a few coach boats immediately go to their sailors after they finish and they dispose of any excess clothing.
Again the on-the-water judges must act making the sailors sail through a gate after finishing to check this out.
7. Race Management
- at the top level ISAF must ensure that there are competent ISAF PRO's present overseeing this aspect. Several major events do not have acceptable Race Management.
8. Outside Assistance
- it must be accepted that in the Grade 1 Olympic Class events that the input of the coaches is limited. From the moment the sailor comes under the jurisdiction of the Race Committee until they finish, there must not be any chance of the coaches influencing the outcome of the race nor can the coach receive any input from outside sources once they leave the dock until they return to the marina.
There must not be any electronic equipment on the coach boat.
Contact between races and supplying spare equipment is normal. Also the coaches can provide a needed service with regard to safety. The coaches themselves will propose what area is acceptable for them to be allowed to observe racing.
ISAF must be very nervous about what has gone on in other sports with cheating. Sailing must face up to the fact that it is happening also in our beloved sport.
ISAF must act and make sure that it does not erupt into a major scandal and act now. We have the resources. Do we have the resolve?
There is too much at stake for the MNA's, athletes and coaches not to have ISAF ensure that when a competitor goes on the race course it is a fair and consistent competition.
ISAF welcomes your feedback on the above article. Feedback will be published on the ISAF website, unless the sender specifically requests otherwise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier in the year, there was considerable discussion on Rule 42, which is published on the ISAF website at: www.sailing.org/isafcal/Article_content.asp?ArticleID=2586