Paul Henderson speaks on the decision of the ISAF Council to eliminate drop races for the 2004 Olympic Regatta.
ISAF Council has made a very significant move that makes it necessary to count all races of the Olympic Regatta. The reasons for doing so are as follows:
1. ISAF believes that preparing one's equipment is a prime prerequisite for sailing success.
Allowing a drop race allows sailors to push their equipment to the limit and therefore beyond which does not promote proper seamanship.
ISAF has not taken away the right to appeal for YMP under extenuating circumstances.
2. The drop race was originally put in as a defensive rule to compensate for unforeseen equipment failures. The sailors have turned it into an offensive weapon.
They push the starts or take chances on Port Tack or come aggressively into the Windward Mark knowing that if they do not make it they can drop the mistake. They will also push Kinetics and other rules until they get their drop.
The sailor sails much more conservatively after they have acquired their drop race.
The new direction returns proper boat manoeuvering to the game. An example of this is that sailors will push for General Recalls but when the "Black Flag" is up they stay well back and good starts result.
3. The best sailors always complain about the lack of media coverage. The media, especially those who do not follow sailing, have complained that they show up to cover the last race only to find their national winners sitting on the shore because they have enough points to not have to sail.
The need to count all races means that all races are equal and the sailors must compete in the last race.
ISAF feels that the exclusion of the drop race is a positive direction and will encourage Fair Sailing.
Comments from Tom EHMAN (USA) - (Olympic Judge, 1992 and 1996)
Finally! After years of debate including an excellent thread or two in Scuttlebutt, the drop race is being dropped from Olympic scoring. One can't blame Ben AINSLIE and others for being a bit upset when the decision was
taken less than a year before the next Games. Nor can one understand why the sole justification given for the decision was "to make the sport more understandable and exciting for the media" (by simplifying scoring and
assuring that the last race always counts). While important, forget for a moment about the media -- it improves the regatta for the competitors as a whole:
+ OCS (premature starter / general recall) problems will all but end as sailors become much less willing to risk being over early, and those who are OCS will for sure return to re-start which clears the first leg for those who started properly;
+ the leader can no longer use a throw-out race to "match race the nearest competitor into the tank;"
+ competitors will take even better care of their equipment, and be more resourceful in fixing on-course breakdowns; and
+ rules compliance in general will improve -- after a foul, competitors will more likely take a 720, and be less likely to make the risky move to begin with.
As to DNF's resulting from a clear failure of supplied equipment through no fault of the competitor, they will be able to obtain redress from the jury same as with any other prejudicial act or omission of the organizing authority or race committee.
In the "old days" when the Olympic regatta was 7 races and had no 720, a throw-out made some sense. But with 11 races and a 720 in effect, it does not. Congrats to ISAF for taking the hard decision, albeit a bit late, and following the lead of the Farr 40 and other major classes which,
increasingly, are throwing out the throw out.