“Talking Sailing” by Richard Crockett – issue 02

WOW! What a Positive Response
The first issue of “Talking Sailing” really hit the spot as the positive response I have received has been overwhelming. Thank you to all those who responded so positively and enthusiastically, some even with possible topics and issues to address in the future.

Some selected comments are included at the end.

Local Sailors Rewarded & Acknowledged
At an event, hosted by the Minister of Sports and Recreation Mr Fikile Mbalula, Deputy Minister Mr Gert Oosthuizen, and Director General Mr Alec Moemi, local sailors who achieved podium positions in recent world championships were recognized.

This was a first for our sport as the medal winners were recognized with cash awards, the gold medal winners being awarded R10,000, silver medal winners R7,000 and bronze winners R5,000.

The Minister expressed his enthusiasm for excellence within sport saying “we do not roll out the red carpet for mediocrity, we roll out the red carpet for excellence. Sailing was high on the agenda for the Minister who also said “it is not just rugby, cricket and soccer – there is sailing, swimming and rowing too!” The Minister also mentioned the importance of “make sailing fashionable”.

The following sailors were recognized:
Ryan & Michaela Robinson                   Mirror Worlds                         Gold
Georgiou Divaris                                      RX Tera Worlds (Sport)        Gold
Allan & Daniel Lawrence                        Hobie Tiger Worlds               Silver
Sam Lombard                                           RS Tera (pro Fleet)                Silver
Brandon Wijtenburg & Todd Fisher    Hobie Dragoon Worlds        Silver
Blaine & Peter Dodds                              Hobie Tiger Worlds              Bronze
James Hellstrom                                      RS Tera (Pro Fleet)               Bronze

The significance of this function, the recognition from Government, as well as the results achieved by our sailors, is due to many people who have worked tirelessly in the background to ensure that our sport not only competes internationally, but are also recognised by our national sporting bodies.

The sport of sailing now has ‘top of the mind’ awareness within government – a huge breakthrough.

Well done to all those sailors for doing our sport and the country proud.

Shame on the America’s Cup
Under ‘Cheating’ last issue I mentioned that Oracle Team USA was under the microscope as the International Jury would conduct a hearing on August 29 to determine if the America’s Cup defender has breached Article 60.1 of the Protocol.

Well the International Jury has deliberated, and these are their findings:

Three team members have been excluded from participating in the regatta. The team has also been deducted two points from its score in the upcoming America’s Cup Finals beginning September 7. They have also been fined US$250,000.

In August the team voluntarily withdrew retroactively from the 2012/2013 AC45 regattas in question.

The International Jury confirmed that only a handful of individuals were involved, and that all members of senior management of ORACLE TEAM USA — including skippers Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie, CEO Russell Coutts, General Manager Grant Simmer and Shore Team Director Mark Turner— were not aware or involved in any way.

To win the America’s Cup, a team must score nine points, the highest ever number in the competition’s 162 year-old history.

The defender now starts with a deficit score of minus-2 and must win 11 races (of 17 ED.) to retain the trophy. Emirates Team New Zealand, the challenger, is unaffected and must win 9 races as before.

This hearing stems from the discovery that the team illegally altered their AC45s during the AC World Series. The investigation revealed that three boats under the team’s control either had weight improperly added to the boat, illegally lengthened the kingpost strut, or both.

What is very interesting is that a transgression in one event has led to a penalty in another. That does appear to be harsh? And is the $250k fine going to be a hardship for one of the world’s richest men? I doubt it.

Oracle Team USA’s biggest penalty is the fact that they have lost their wing trimmer who is considered to be the best in the world. Now that’s punishment, and could well play into the hands of the New Zealanders who it appears most people are backing to win.

J22 Jiggery Pokery
During last weekend the J22 Class held its nationals at Hartbeespoort Dam, and if we thought the America’s Cup was a fiasco, this event was right up there with the best.

The bottom line is that ‘measurement protests’ off the water got in the way of the sailing, resulting in the bulk of the fleet being disqualified!

I have no problem with protests as they are part of the sport. I also have no problem with people being disqualified if they transgress the rules, as ‘rules are rules’ and need to be adhered to. But if the rules are illogical and petty they will lead to a situation where people are disqualified under a rule which hardly affects the performance of a boat.

I am told that boats were not officially scrutineered prior to the event by the class, but that all skippers were required to sign a declaration indicating that they complied with the rules. That’s a cop out.

During a windless day with racing not possible I am led to believe that some spot checks were called for. Were the class scrutineers possibly bored? Some 6 boats were found to have transgressed the Class Rules and disqualified from the races they had sailed. And from here things escalated and appeared to rapidly get out of hand resulting in a protest from one of the originally aggrieved parties identifying a bunch of boats that had also transgressed the Class Rules. The protest committee had little wiggle room in terms of the Class Rules and had no option but to disqualify some 14 boats from 6 races.

What I think irked most affected parties, as well as the armchair sailors, was that some of the rules transgressed quite simply do not affect the performance of the boat. The Official Class Decal was found to be on the wrong side of the transom on some boats, and another had not tied the anchor line to the anchor chain! And they were disqualified from 6 races for that!

Dave Hudson is always a voice of reason, as were his comments on Facebook where heated debate is still raging as I write this. He wrote: “The penalty for contravening the class rules should be a discretionary penalty, which may be zero points if it does not affect the fairness of the competition.”

He also wrote that in properly run events the sailing committee will understand the important distinction between rules that:
a). Impact fair sailing
b). impact safety but not fair sailing and
c). Do not impact either fair sailing or safety.
“I believe that any sailing committee asking a protest committee to disqualify a boat for an infringement of the latter ( c. above) is seriously misguided, and invites competitors to do the same.”

This whole debacle is going to have repercussions, of that there is no doubt, but the harm it has done to the sport locally is irreparable.

Crew’s Union
My suggestion of a crews union solicited some good response, although one person felt that we have enough trouble with unions in this country, so we don’t need them in the sport too! Fair comment.

But there have been various crews unions formed over the years, and here is some feedback:

Gerhard Koper wrote: Regarding your reference to a “Crews Union” I recall that the for’d hander’s crewing on Flying Dutchman dinghies in the sixties formed their own group and called it the F.D.F.U. The names that come to mind are Alick Hardie; Barry Burton Barbour; Alan Serritslev and unforgettable Norman Webster who crewed for Helli Stauch.

Eric Pepper wrote: We already have a fore deck union known as the Federated Union of Certified Knowledgeable Observant Foredeck Fellows and has been used against oppressive skippers and owners in many regattas. While strikes so far have been unheard of, the offer of passing the winch handle back with greater speed and accuracy have led to successful arbitration usually conducted before the bar .

Sean Jones wrote: CRUD, was the Crews Union of Durban in the 80s formed by the Hobie crews at the beach site to put some skippers back in line ! It was a lot of fun for the crews.

Maybe it’s time to revive some of these crews unions and get them more active as this country has a desperate shortage of good crew?

Looking for Puffs Behind You!
John Longley, a 1983 America’s Cup winner wrote that after spending a week in San Francisco and having the opportunity to talk to a number of people who have actually sailed the extraordinary AC72s, he had gathered a bit of AC72 trivia. The one that really had most people flummoxed is this:

When sailing downwind you look for the puffs in front of you not behind you.

Now get your brains around that!

No America’s Cup TV Coverage on DSTV
With the America’s Cup finals due to start on Saturday, I checked the DSTV schedule for coverage. Surprise, surprise, they have nothing scheduled. So I mailed them. Multichoice said:  we have not received communication regarding the event, however you can contact Supersport directly on supersport3@multichoice.co.za – a fat lot of good that was.

Supersport said: Please be advised that we don’t have rights to America’s Cup.

When I responded saying that thousands of yachtsmen who pay for DSTV will be highly disappointed I did not even solicit a response. But why did I think it would?

My suggestion is to check out the live stream via YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericasCup/featured

Some Selected Responses to “Talking Sailing”
* You’ve sent your first edition of “Talking Sailing” to my wife … and I’m hugely jealous … Please add my email address to your list too!

* To me one of the clear topics is how do we expand or at least retain the numbers sailing in SA, I know its been covered before but Im sensing that the popularity of sailing is under severe threat, added legislative requirements, spiralling costs and diminishing club memberships add to the challenges faced. We also have the problem of “old”’ boats and classes, and so many differing classes that it is often difficult to get the minimum numbers together for a class regatta.

* Thank you for having emailed me your new column. A special well done to have expressed clearly what you think about the actual America’s Cup. Finally there is somebody who has the courage to say that it is boring! Too many hypocrite journalists are writing extraordinary articles about speed, technology ,adrenaline, etc but is it sailing? Nobody has the balls to write that Mr Russel Coutts has destroyed an icon, a dream, especially after Shosholoza had shown the world that normal passionate young and not so young normal yachtsmen could compete in the America’s Cup. Nobody writes that most probably all the boats have been partially or totally sponsored by the same source and that the competition is just a show off. I really hope New Zealand win, it is the only hope to return back to the sailing. Salvatore Sarno

* Love it, Richard – Sailing needs a cool column like this with some opinions to get people thinking!

The Bitter End
The whole J22 situation is absurd, especially as the J22 Class is scheduled to hold the Class World Championships on the Vaal Dam next year. If this gets out to the J22 world at large, which it will, what effect will this have on the Vaal Dam Worlds next year?

Locally the J22 is a good class, with good numbers and support, but its premier event of the year, as well as the results of the event have been compromised.

Are those who caused this hanging their heads in shame?

Classes need clear, logical thinkers and good leaders to be effective. Lets hope the class can clean up its act and put this behind them quickly.

Other Classes need to take cognisance of what has happened and not fall into the same trap in the future.

The ‘Bitter End’ is the inboard end of an anchor chain or rode. It is so called because in days of yore the chain would have been attached to the Bitts, though nowadays it would be fastened to an eyebolt in the chain locker – or at least it should be otherwise the chain or rode may all be lost overboard.

One reader correctly pointed out that: The bitter end should never be bolted to a position in a yacht , it should have a rope or something that can be cut through quickly in a emergency.

“Talking Sailing” is written by Richard Crockett, the Publisher & Editor of SAILING Magazine, South Africa’s monthly sailing mag.

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