“Talking Sailing” by Richard Crockett – issue 14

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A Subject Close to my Heart
In numerous ‘Log Entry’ editorials in SAILING Magazine over the years I have mentioned the issue of Sportsmanship and strict observance of the racing rules of sailing (RRS) and the consequences of cheating. It’s a subject close to my heart as I was always taught to respect the rules, and to fully understand the meaning of sportsmanship – whatever sport one competed in.

Plus, the rules when I first started sailing, and right up until the ‘80s were simple – transgress a rule and you went home – full stop. There were no on-the- water penalties to be taken – just an RTD (retired) reflected on the scorecard.

Over the weekend I received two calls from people who were concerned about the flagrant disregard for the RRS. The first was from someone in the Eastern Cape who had been contacted by a colleague who had experienced, first hand at a Provincial regatta, people ignoring the rules and not taking penalties. His comment was that in one race alone had he protested he would have had to lodge multiple protests – something he chose not to do. And that was just in one race as the disregard for the rules continued throughout the event.

There may be a feeling that he should have protested, and had he, he would not have had to whinge.

The point is simply this. At a Provincial regatta the rules should be strictly applied by the officials, who in this instance saw them but turned a blind eye. Plus, all competitors should know the rules and uphold them.

The second was at a completely different event where a person was seen to hit a mark by a boat behind. The crew of the boat hitting the mark made it very clear and in a loud voice to his helmsman that they had hit, yet they did not take their penalty. On being challenged ashore, the crew and helmsman denied emphatically that they had hit the mark? Quite something from senior people in the sport, one of whom aspires to higher office in sailing administration.

There is absolutely no room in our self-policing sport for people who do not play to the rules. Quite simply they are cheats – plain and simple.

And while mentioning the RRS, few people really know them well, and make no effort to understand and learn them. It is the responsibility of yacht clubs to ensure that their members know the rules. Simple ‘rules evenings’, which will bring people into the club, will go a long way to solving this, and educate the members.

Finally, SAS, the sports national body, has copies of the RRS available FREE. Just go to your local SAS office and collect one.

Mykonos Race
An event in this country that keeps catching one’s imagination for all the right reasons is the Mykonos Race. With a shade under 100 entries, the organisers have continued to fine-tune the event to make it more and more attractive for competitors every year.

That philosophy is in keeping with really good sports marketing principles which say that every event should, post event, be evaluated every year and re-designed – which basically means taking out the bad and bringing in new.

It was unfortunate that the wind did not play ball last Friday as just 10 of the fleet actually finished the course, the rest retiring due to the lack of wind early on, or because of the strong headwinds which were sandwiched between the start and finish. Those who finished hung in and really showed some mettle and achieved something few others did, which must have been highly satisfying.

I am led to believe that there was much moaning and groaning about the heavy beating – which ultimately took its toll. Unfortunately sailing to windward in all conditions is part and parcel of coastal distance racing, and despite the adage that “gentlemen don’t sail to windward” one sometimes has to vasbyt.

I believe that if we had more distance races in this country, the crews would become more conditioned to hours and hours of slogging upwind, and would see it as part of the challenge rather than something to complain about.

I always compare the challenge of long upwind beats on ocean races to walking around with a stone in your shoe! Once you take it out it feels really good!

Well done to those who organised the race, and especially to those who were able to vasbyt.

A full report on the event will be in the April issue of SAILING Magazine.

1984 Vasco da Gama Race Reunion
Many will remember the 1984 race which started on Thursday 26 April, as the ‘Vasco da Drama Race’ due to an unforecast south wester that devastated the fleet on its first night at sea. Rubicon was lost with its entire crew, and was never heard of again.

Several boats sank, and one ended up on the rocks of the Wild Coast. Many had damage, some quite severe.

This was probably the most devastating storm to have ever hit an ocean race in this country as winds were well in excess of 60 knots, and the seas massive. In those days crews were pretty tough as there were lots of coastal races which gave them tons of great experience, and as a result few boats required assistance to get home, despite being damaged.

30 years later the Point Yacht Club, who organised the race that year, have decided to have a Rubicon Memorial Evening in Charlies Bar on Friday 25 April.

This is an opportunity to re-acquaint oneself with fellow crew, remember the event, and especially those who succumbed on Rubicon under skipper Siggi Eicholz.

I have an almost complete list of crew who competed in that race, and will publish it in the next issue of “Talking Sailing’. In the meantime get your thoughts together, and pics or press cuttings you may have, and bring them on the evening as they will be of interest to all present.

It is open to anyone who competed, so if you are now an out-of-towner, make a plan NOW to be in Durban that night – or even for the weekend as I am sure there may be a few old ‘Vascoites’ willing to take a nostalgic cruise to sea the following day in the company of long lost mates.

I will not miss this for anything as I remember that night vividly. I will also raid my archives and make material available.

How Narrow Minded
A ‘senior’ member of the sport was recently on holiday when he decided to visit the local yacht Club. At the gate to the club property he was confronted by an intercom system. Well nobody answered this for a long time, and when it was answered the person said that as he was not a member he was not welcome! This despite saying he was a member of other yacht clubs.

What is worse is that while he, being a yachtie and member of a Club, was attempting to get access, a family who wanted to get into the sport arrived to go to the Club, find out more and express their interest in taking up sailing. They too were turned away deflated, and our old salt left in disgust.

Come on guys ‘n girls – wake up and smell the roses! We need to encourage as many people as possible to our clubs and sport and not keep them as ‘elitist’ playgrounds. The consequences of this are too frightening to contemplate.

Regatta Entry Fees
I had a very interesting discussion with a concerned sailor recently who lamented about how yachties simply want everything for nothing, and entry fees to be as low as possible. How true – unfortunately.

Why is it that yachties simply won’t pay and whinge that their ridiculously low entry fees don’t give them goodie bags, handouts, clothing and the like? Champagne tastes with beer money!

One simply has to look at other sports to see that the successful ones are the ones which charge an entry few which enables a successful event to be staged. In cycling for instance many of the events have entry fees which run into thousands of Rands, with the competitors getting little tangible back for their entry fees other than a well run event. Plus these events have a limited entry which is taken up within minutes of on-line entries opening – so there are lots of disappointed people.

In sailing our entry fees are pathetically low, and we often have to beg people to enter an event.

In events I have been involved in for many years now the entry fee has always been queried as being too high, and the “what do I get for my money” being the universal lament. Are people entering to sail an event, or entering to see what they can get out of it in terms of tangible goods? The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) syndrome again!

Most regattas in this country are run on shoestrings with most emphasis being placed, by the organisers, on what they can give back to competitors, rather than on how they can improve the regatta and make it the best ever on the water as well as ashore.

I am interested to see an event in which the organisers have the courage to charge a market related fee, and see how this affects the status quo?

It is my observation that over the years clubs and classes have continually reduced entry fees in the misguided view that this will encourage entries. Well, it simply does not as the low numbers show.

In closing this subject, I was horrified to learn recently that an individual actively encouraged a class to boycott a key event as in his opinion the entry fee was too high!

No wonder our sport is losing out and numbers dropping.

Having Fun in A Boat
The last issue – “Talking Sailing” issue 13 – carried much about entry level sailing.

In my opinion there is too much emphasis put on teaching new kids to our sport how to race rather than how to have fun in a boat. The key to keeping people in the sport is to teach them how much fun the sport of sailing really is – and it is fun, great fun. But to teach newcomers how to race from day one does not create an atmosphere of encouraging people to stay, especially as not everyone wants to race and be competitive. There are people who are quite happy simply to be part of an event and their results being irrelevant to them.

The other issue here is that we generally teach people on singlehanded boats.

Put two kids on a boat and they will have a day of fun, whereas the kid on a singlehander will be bored after 10 minutes.

SAS Sailing Classes and the Olympic Pathway Document
Late last year SAS in its wisdom published the above document. In my opinion it was ‘work in progress’ which needed much thought and revision before being published. But what publishing it prematurely did do was to galvanise a bunch of people into action.

Now not all the action was positive, but when one believes there are classes being downgraded and all the emphasis and money being put into a narrow band of sailing, with the Olympics being the exclusive goal and the rest of sailing being perceived to be excluded, there will be angry people around.

To cut to the chase here, I questioned SAS Chairman Mike Dixon on this matter and he has assured me that this document is FAR from being finalised, and that SAS has absolutely no intention of disenfranchising any class or type of boat.

SAS is very cognisant of the negativity and misinformation surrounding this, especially on Facebook where there have been some strong comments. Dixon says that those are the comments of individuals and NOT the official SAS line on the matter.

My advice for anyone who would like information on this matter is to engage with their local SAS Councillor rather than to rely on what is published on Facebook as being the official SAS opinion.

Kiting – the meaning of this word?
I remember using this word as a kid in reference to sailing fast. A correspondent used it in an editorial recently, and while subbing that copy I wanted clarity on his interpretation of the word. At the same time I did some research and could not find any reference to it in the many nautical and sailing term dictionaries I have.

His interpretation: “I am not sure what the technical term is, but what we use it for is when one is running dead downwind, almost by the lee and the spinnaker is squared as much as possible, with the boat leaning slightly to windward to get the balance right. Similar to how the oppies sail”.

If anyone can shed any light on this it would be appreciated.

Promoting Sailing – part 1
This is a very difficult subject to broach as it is so diverse with so many different Club committees and other experts on the sidelines believing they have the answers. I don’t and I can assure you of that up front. What I do have is first-hand knowledge of running events, being involved in yacht clubs and in sitting on diverse committees at an International, national, provincial and Club level. I get an inordinate amount of feedback from readers on these issues, and have over many years. Plus I have a passion for PR, Marketing and Sports Marketing in sailing, and have formally studied these subjects.

The first point I want to make is that I believe every club that has a ‘members only’ sign on its door or entrance gates, should tear it down! Yes, Clubs are for members only, but they are also here to promote the sport of sailing, which means enticing new people to the sport. And it’s not good enough to say that current members will do just that as they don’t – not the majority of them anyway. Rather replace the members only sign with one which says “new sailing members welcome”.

Just recently I heard of a club that no longer permits its members to bring non-members sailing on Wednesday evenings. Strange as this is a great way to get them into the sport and club life in general.

A former older member and previous commodore lamented to me about this saying how strange he finds the mentality of today’s younger members who want their club to be exclusive, and that everyone, even guests, should pay for the privilege of using members facilities. The old salt said that in his day there was a lot more tolerance and understanding regarding non-members who were encouraged to enjoy the facilities and become members.

This attitude does not promote the sport and maintains the ‘elitist’ status our sport is perceived to have.

But this is a separate issue altogether.

The big issue is Communication, communication and even more communication.

Communication in Clubs is generally very poor, so every effort should be made to communicate better.

The bottom line is that unless people are kept well informed about club events, and especially races, they will simply not attend. Some clubs have weekly newsletters, while others simply rely on the fact that it is sufficient to simply publish an annual sailing calendar. It is not.

Some time ago I suggested to someone that he put more sailing info in the club newsletter well in advance of events so that people get to know about them timeously. His reply was that “everyone knows as I tell them in the pub”. What this clown forgets is that not everyone spends their spare time in a pub, and those who don’t probably rely on the club newsletter for their info.

Keelboat owners need time to get their crew together, especially those who have a pick-up crew every time they sail. It is these people in particular who need ample warning of events. I know that unless I advise my crew very early in the week that we are sailing on the weekend, they have already made plans. And these are your genuine average sailors who have a life outside sailing too, so they are not waiting until the last minute for an invitation to go sailing, as they have other things to do.

Tell people what kind of race it is well in advance. My crew prefer the distance and ‘there ‘n back’ races as opposed to ‘round the cans’ racing. In Durban one club does more distance racing while the one tends to concentrate on course racing, but not always. The biggest problem is that one club never says what kind of racing it is putting on, until you arrive to sail. That does not help numbers. So again, it’s communication.

The communication theme goes even further to advise members as much as possible about the day’s event well in advance. Time of start, type of race or races, course options, and even a time after which a race will not be started. These are all important to people, and families who may want to come down after sailing to join in the fun. One can never communicate enough. Don’t suddenly spring a new time on people at the last minute or on a whim. People are creatures of habit and have a good idea when things traditionally happen.

Today communication is easy as we have so many options available to us. E-mails, SMS, websites, facebook, twitter and phone calls are all easy today. Websites can give one a timeous indication of what is going to happen, while e-mails, SMS and the social media are more immediate. Use ALL these tools of communication as that way the word will get out.

Don’t also do as some clowns do when they send out their missives about racing early in the week to give a long range forecast which says it will blow dogs off chains on race day. Most people take note and don’t even bother to pitch. I have seen this happen on many occasions only to find that on the day dogs aren’t being blown off chains, and that the foul weather is replaced by some of the best sailing weather possible – and few people are there to enjoy it. Long range forecasts are an indication of what may happen. Weather forecasting is not an exact science. Simply put, don’t give people an opportunity to have an excuse not to go sailing.

I have mentioned previously that some organisers like briefings before a club race. Irrespective, they should not be compulsory, and the information for the day’s race should be published timeously so everyone knows exactly what is happening well in advance. Don’t use the weather as an excuse for needing a briefing as today we all have easy access to weather information.

I have always been impressed when I go into Royal Cape Yacht Club as on their sailing notice board is the seasons Notices of Race (NoR) and Sailing Instructions (SI) for all their many events, as well as plenty of amendment notices. It is these amendments which show that their racing evolves, and that everyone always knows what is happening and what the current rules are. Verbal instructions just don’t cut it nor do they replace the written word when it comes to changes in the Sailing Instructions.

The earlier one informs people about events, the better chance there is of them competing – probably because few people will put their lives on hold waiting for their yacht club to inform them what they are doing. We all lead busy lives, so timeous communication is all important.

And, make it easy for people to compete. Don’t do what one bunch do and make people:
• read a new NOR for every club race
• fill in an entry form with all the same info you have given numerous times before
• register on the morning for a Club race
• attend a briefing before the race.

This is all stuff to irritate people and chase them away. We need to build our sport – not kill it.

SAILING Gybeset portal
The SAILING Gybeset portal (www.sailing.co.za/gybeset) is updated almost daily with new and interesting information on our sport, both locally and internationally.

An ‘Industry’ button was recently added so go there to see new industry news.

The ‘Event’ button will take one to an events calendar where key events are published. By clicking on the event title one can get contact details, the NOR, SIs and other information. It’s a very powerful too, so use it to your advantage – and submit material for inclusion.

We have new advertisers supporting the portal too, so please click on their links and see what they are up to.

SAILING Gybeset carries news items, club and class info, and an event calendar – so check it out and please send your contributions. The electronic media is an incredibly quick way of getting your news out to a very broad base of people – so use this portal to your advantage and share your sport with the thousands of others who have not yet given it a try, but are waiting in the wings.

The only way for SAILING Gybeset to be successful and to be able to disseminate information that covers all aspects of our sport is for Clubs, Class Associations, event organisers and individual sailors to ensure that information and pictures flow our way timeously – so send your material to: sailing@iafrica.com

Some Selected Responses to “Talking Sailing”
● Love your work, especially about kids and sailing. Keep up the good work.

● Another most interesting issue, Captain!

Very pleased to hear that the J22 issue has been brought to a halt although totally distressed to hear of ‘blows’ being traded – literal or figurative!

Regarding the attendance at a verbal briefing, two points arise:
1. US Sailing are very cagey on Skipper’s Briefings as the contents of the NoR & SIs could be discussed and this lead to different interpretations of the written word.
2. An ISAF Test Case is very clear that no Skipper’s Briefing may be made to be compulsory for a variety of very good reasons. Once again, the written word carries the day.

Seems like a case of top-down management style to me!

● What’s Great About Sailing? Add this to the list in issue 13:
It is the ultimate privacy. You can see anyone invading your privacy when they are still on the horizon!

● The US Sailing bit about kids’ sailing is all valid – the reality is that when there are two boats going in the same direction, it is a race. ie. let young sailors (and, in fact, novices of any age) decide to compete (or not) on their own accord rather than have it forced onto them. Remember that the primary objective of any sport should be fun. It’s really hard to achieve that when you’re forced into something you don’t enjoy (e.g. racing if you’re not a particularly competitive person) or, worse still, when you’re a child living under the (considerable) weight of the expectations of Oppie parents trying to win the sailing medals they were never able to achieve themselves.

You made a comment about 50 year old boats and a good question to ask is “has any boat succeeded in chasing more people away from sailing than the Optimist?”.

The continued focus on the Optimists by sailing federations is good for the manufacturers of the boat, but no sane person can surely think that 1940s-state-of-the-art can have too much appeal to a 21st century teenager.

The reality is that “square rigger” sailing (in 7 foot long boxes) has no place in an exciting world of skiffs, foilers and high speed catamarans and really should go the way of other dinosaurs before it does even more damage to the sport. Modern options are more exciting, visually appealing and cheaper to make, simply because they are designed for modern manufacturing techniques – remember that GRP only became popular as a building technique in the 1960s, long after the first Optimist was launched in 1948 (when plywood was leading edge stuff.).

It would be great if South African Sailing (SAS) recognised the absurdity of the Oppie. Rather than blindly follow ISAF thinking (which, according to your figures in Talking Sailing, is also resulting in the terminal decline of the sport), we should actively promote classes which are modern, fun and cheap. The argument that we can’t change the boats we have because the capital costs will be too high does not actually stack up. I’m sure that most junior parents that travel to regattas will confirm that the cost of the boat is actually a relatively small percentage of the overall campaign costs.

The objective of junior sailing should be to give young people something that they want to do for the rest of their lives. It is pretty clear that the status quo, both in terms of approach and classes used, fails woefully at this. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.  Roy Dunster

● Following up on the Windsurfer One-Design update I sent you, there was subsequently an epic session in 15/25 knots at Brandvlei Dam this past weekend. I took the kids individually for a ride and as the wind picked up could beat for a full hour into a strengthening South Easter, then a classic downward ride in the increasing wind swell. Best session in years!

Noticed the comment that we teach kids on old equipment, but we should be cautious to not lose the original ideas. We still use the telephone, the wheel and electricity?

As far as a Windsurfer one-design goes – I still rate this as one of the best inventions for sailing. Fun on 0 to 35 knots, a real challenge to sail and fun for the whole family. One Design sailing also brings people together on common ground.

Maybe someone can build the board in the same shape out of more modern, lighter stiffer materials – but we should not forget our roots.

● I am pleased to see that there are others of like mind. I have been hammering that drum for years about kids needing to be free to have fun in their boats, not chased around a race course and taught to hate the structured life around boats. We touched on this recently in the discussion about Dabchicks.

Competition is not everything in life, I have always placed fun above winning in my racing. The result? I had many people ask if they could join my crew because they knew that they were in for enjoyment, along with an occasional win.

Gerard Koper confirmed that Jack Koper designed the Dabchick as a single-hander and that is the way that the class first evolved, not as a two-handed boat.

The Bitter End
Cheats and people who flagrantly break the rules. The sport does not need you.

The ‘Bitter End’ is the inboard end of an anchor chain or rode which should be attached to the vessel so as not to be lost overboard in it’s entirety. In terms of “Talking Sailing” it’s things about our sport which get up peoples noses!
“Talking Sailing” is written by Richard Crockett, the Publisher & Editor of SAILING Magazine, South Africa’s monthly sailing mag.

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“Talking Sailing” by Richard Crockett – issue 50

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