Feb 2, 2012, 10:36 AM
From Steve Schupak:
Re: [The Publisher] BEN AINSLIE - FACTS FOUND
In my opinion it is never acceptable to accost another person, no matter what level the regatta is or what the outcome “may have” been. But the ISAF World Championship is the pinnacle of our sport and viewed by a world-wide audience. To this point, competitors have to demonstrate the “standard of behavior” for the rest of us to follow.
Society dictates that there is a “line in the sand” that when you cross it you must stand up and take responsibility for that action. Abandoning ones boat to berate a competitor, volunteer, or paid professional staff, has been on previous accounts deemed as “crossing that line”. And once crossed you cannot uncross it without penalty.
In this case jury acted quickly, decisively, and compassionately in their punishment for “crossing the line” that included giving credit for the rapid and unsolicited apologies from both parties. The jury’s punishment could have been much harsher.
I truly feel sorry for Ben that this incident has #1 happened (as a regatta volunteer and racer), and #2 that it has taken on a life of its own in the media. I think we all need to take a step back and remember why we do all this, (because sailing is fun), and keep racing in perspective that lives are not at stake, (racing will not cure cancer), and there will always be another regatta.
From Rob McNeal:
To me, it has to do with the sailor themselves. I speak from a position of numerous race and protest committee's on the Hobie circuit including the 1992 Nationals. And the Hobie circuit had its share of "temper incidents". None with media boats as we wouldn't know what that was in those days. Does Ben have a history of temper or is this the first time anyone has ever seen anything like this from him?
I don't know the man but what I read (he said) seemed appropriate and contrite. IF (big IF) there is no history then it doesn't seem to make sense to penalize further. What lesson is it exactly, that we would be trying to teach him that he has not already learned? One has to ask the question- and I wanted to write here "don't we want our best sailors sailing and representing?" but then I realized- quality of the sailor has nothing to do with it at all. Instead I ask- don't we want all our eligible sailors sailing and representing?
So I choose to err on the side of keeping sailors on the water until they show me they have not earned the right to be there. This guy has a lot of regattas under his belt, presumably without previous incident. I'm sure if this is a trend then we'll see more. I hope, if it's not, that we don't see more punishment. Carry on Ben. Fair weather.
PS I kinda like a hard charger that's passionate about performance- as long as he/she keeps it appropriate. We all had to learn that line somewhere along the way didn't we?
From Rich Roberts:
As the Ben Ainslie controversy carries on, has anyone considered that the race committee was initially at fault for turning a clueless media boat loose on the race course without cautionary instructions?
Most sailors understand that power boaters seldom look back and the word "wake" is not in their vocabulary. I was once on a Congressional Cup press boat that laid its wake directly in the course of four-time winner Gavin Brady while the driver was talking on his cell phone and I was momentarily distracted taking notes. Brady protested, as he should have. He was right; we were wrong. He later withdrew the protest, but the point was made, and I thanked him for that. Later I wrote a "Guidelines for press/photo boats" that none should leave the dock without. Blame the RC at Perth. Aussies, especially, should know better.
Ainslie took it too far, but in doing so he only did what many of his peers have wanted to do and, most importantly, he presented his high profile to a problem that RCs everywhere need to address. DSQ Ainslie from the OIympics? Heck, for this service to sailing he should get another medal.
From John Riise:
Having driven or ridden on photo boats for the better part of 25 years, I can say without question that they often get closer than the racers like. It's the nature of the beast - and our job. You enjoy all the spectacular sailing photos/videos online and in magazines and calendars? You’d never see a lot of those shots if photographers didn’t get “too close for comfort.”
When I used to cover racing events on San Francisco Bay (often with my friend and fellow sailing journalist Rob Moore), it was something of a running joke that if we didn’t get flipped off or yelled at least once, we weren’t close enough. I often thought that if some of those boats were closer and could have pulled alongside, I’d have probably been punched in the nose several times.
That said, most of the time we were photographing weekend warriors, not the America’s Cup or races that could decide an Olympic medal berth. We also felt “too close” was okay for most big boats events, where an errant wake or close cross upwind in our small-profile motorboat had minimal effect on rankings, especially in San Francisco’s powerful breeze.
On the other hand, we were cognizant and extremely careful when photographing smaller boats and dinghy races, where insensitive positioning could have a far more detrimental effect. You didn’t get upwind of those guys - at least not for long - and you tried to keep your wake small and out of their way. In that sense, getting “The” shots of dinghy racing was always more difficult.
I wasn’t there for the Ben Ainslie incident, but from the photos I saw, he had every right to be pissed. That photo boat appeared to be way too close and could very well have, as he’s said, affected the outcome of that very important race.
I would hate to see more restrictions put on the positioning of photo boats. (Some of the past A-Cup arrangements have been absurdly far away from any action). It might be a good thing if more photo boat drivers were also sailors and could better appreciate how their actions could affect racers. More dialogue before or even during an event could also help.
If I was planning to cross close in front of a boat to get a good shot, I would often motion my intentions to the helmsman/skipper. If he nodded, I went. If he shook his head and motioned me away, I pulled away. These intentions could be communicated to skippers before a race so they would know beforehand that us photographers are aware and will defer to them if there’s any question.
I would also hate to see Ainslie suffer any more embarrassment and/or penalties for the ‘road rage’ he has obviously regretted and for which he has apologized numerous times. As pointed out in the last 'Butt, professional athletes argue with officials all the time. From what I can see, Ben's 'infraction' seems the nautical equivalent of a baseball player kicking dirt on the ump's shoes over a strike call. I’m frankly surprised that sailors with his level of talent, drive and pressure don’t snap more often.