Mar 24, 2011, 7:48 AM
Post #1 of 8
By Peter Wilson, US SAILING Umpire/Senior Judge
IS THE ‘FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE’ STILL RELEVANT?
Log-In to Post/Reply
As a racing sailor who is also a coach, judge and umpire, I worry that the ‘fundamental principle’ which is the foundation of our (mostly) ‘self regulating’ sport has become significantly less relevant. As a consequence, our racing rules appear to have less value to competitors, and the behavior we expect these rules to encourage is not as prevalent as it used to be.
Quoting from the RRS, “Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.” Most of us would agree that this means; 1) If I hit a mark and whether someone sees me do it or not, I should take a one-turn penalty; 2) If I tack to port because I can’t fetch the starting pin and force a boat on starboard to tack when she can fetch, I should take a two-turns penalty whether or not the other boat hails protest; and 3) If a boat fouls me in a way that significantly worsens my position in the race, I should enforce the rules and protest.
However, what I have observed on the race course over the past fifteen years, in the U.S. and abroad, is a growing percentage of sailors who do not enforce and follow the rules. I see sailors break rules with contact between boats and ignore their infraction, even when the other boat protests or the infringing boat gains an advantage in a flagrant foul. I am not talking about incidents where who is at fault is unclear and no penalty turns are taken or no one is protested. We all do that from time to time. I’m talking about the apparent trend towards an obvious level of clear infractions with no action by either party. What seems puzzling is, if it is so easy to exonerate, why does it happen so seldom? Why do sailors break rules and keep on sailing if no one protests? Why do sailors use kinetics when there are no judges around? And a related question is, why aren’t there more protests taken to the room? Are the rules not as relevant in today’s world as they used to be?
Perhaps the best analogy is speeding on the highway. Lots of us drive above the speed limit. But when the radar detector says we are approaching a trap, or we see a cop parked up ahead or coming up behind us, we slow down. But most of the time, the ‘speeders’ speed. Similarly, when there are judges or umpires enforcing Rule 42 (kinetics) on the water, body pumping, rocking, and sculling seem to disappear when the judge boats are close by, but they often reappear when the judge moves on to observe other boats. And, when judges whistle their observation of a foul with the option to protest, competitors usually take their penalty…and when the judges are not around (or don’t whistle/protest), not much happens. Just like speeding, it seems as if one doesn’t break a rule unless an official says we do. -- Read on: http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/11/0317/