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BEN AINSLIE - FACTS FOUND
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Dec 12, 2011, 4:58 PM

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Four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie of Britain was disqualified from two races in the Finn event at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships after a confrontation with a cameraman on a media boat on Saturday, December 10. Here is the decision of the International Jury...

Facts Found:
As the first two boats in Finn Race 9 rounded the gate for the second beat and headed towards the shore, a media boat followed close to leeward of the leader. This caused wash for GBR 3 (Ben Ainslie), who attempted to wave the media boat off.

When the leaders passed through the gate and headed towards the finishing line, the same media boat followed the leader to the finishing line leaving a large wake, which again affected GBR 3's race.

The media boat crossed the finishing line and then stopped in front of GBR 3 after GBR 3 finished. As GBR 3 came alongside, the skipper jumped aboard the media boat.

The skipper (Ainslie) grabbed and shook the boat driver, shouting "You have no respect!" He then walked towards another member of the media boat's crew, but made no contact with him. He then jumped into the water, swam to his boat and sailed away.

On coming ashore, the skipper of GBR 3 wrote a letter of apology and delivered it to the media boat driver. The media boat driver accepted that apology and apologised in a letter for disturbance during the race.

Conclusion:
The action of jumping on a media boat with anger and grabbing the driver constitutes physical aggression. Such behaviour is never an acceptable response. Such behaviour not only constitutes a gross breach of good manners but also, coming from a top athlete at a world championship, brings the sport of sailing into disrepute.

However, the repeated nature of the media boats interference over multiple legs is a mitigating circumstance, as is the prompt and unsolicited written apology given to the boat driver.

Decision:
GBR 3 is to be scored DGM (disqualification non-excludable for gross misconduct) for Races 9 and 10. Source: http://www.sailing.org/37518.php

Consequences:
Ben Ainslie, who was positioned to gain his sixth world championship, was dropped out of contention. However, more could come. Because the penalty came under 69.1, a report automatically goes to the sailor's national authority and ISAF which can take further action.

Photos:
A sequence of photos from the incident are posted online: http://tinyurl.com/Ainslie-121111

Statement:
Ben Ainslie and British team officials have made statements that the incident has been overblown and that the penalty was excessive: http://tinyurl.com/RYA-121111

Conflict:
Previous to the Worlds, Ben Ainslie had been selected to be Britain's representative in the Men's One Person Dinghy Heavy (Finn) at the 2012 Olympic Games. If Ainslie were to add to his medal collection of three golds and one silver at the 2012 Games, it would make him the most decorated sailing athlete of all time. Additionally, Ainslie's brother-in-law is Jerome Pels, is the International Sailing Federation's (ISAF) Secretary General.




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Dec 12, 2011, 4:59 PM

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From Steve LeMay, Frisco, TX:
Regarding the Ainslie incident, I was a casualty of a similar but much more substantial incident involving a press boat. We were literally cut in half by a RIB at the 2009 J/80 Worlds in Santander, Spain. The incident occurred before the practice race. A media boat driven by the club manager came over our port rail and literally landed in our cockpit with the outboard still turning. This sent our helmsman to the hospital and our hopes of a win down the tubes.

Since the two circumstances are related to press boats, something has to be done. While I agree that our sport needs all the positive media we can throw at it, we also need adequate regulation regarding who is actually allowed to enter a race arena in a motorized vessel. Do we need a fatality or something more severe to raise awareness of this increasing and dangerous practice?


From Mario Sampaio:
We are a bit tired of hearing these totally false and misleading arguments that try to convince the sailing community that we need to go in this 'new' direction in order to save sailing, when the truth is what they are exclusively after is making a huge profit with sailing events, while totally ignoring that along this process they are completely destroying our sport!

If they did want to get people back on sailing boats, nothing would have to be re-invented nor copied, all they would have to do is to center sailing on the family, on honour and sound moral and ethical principles, once again. Unfortunately the only criterion today is to win at any cost, full stop!

So every time I re-read all these BS 'new' arguments, my modest and quite decrepit intelligence feels insulted, and I have a feeling many other sailors do too, which obviously will not do anything good for sailing.




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Dec 12, 2011, 5:04 PM

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From Daniel Meyers, Newport RI:
Imagine the following: It’s the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Score is tied. Your team has the ball, first down, goal to go. The quarterback goes to pass, but a crazy fan or press photographer runs onto the field and tackles him. The ball pops loose, is recovered by the other team who runs it back into the end zone. The play would ABSOLUTELY be whistled dead. No turnover, no touchdown, no advantage to the other team. The fan arrested. The security chief probably fired.

The same would happen in any professional sport. Well, you would hope so. But in sailing, it is common to have overzealous spectators and press boats come on to the course, foul the competitors, cause danger or collision. They affect performance and results.

The regatta organizers and race officials should have responsibility to keep the course clear. Photo boats could be suspended or banned. It has happened to us on 'Number' many times. At the Rolex BVI regatta, a professional photographer swam onto the starting line 30 feet abeam of the committee boat to take pictures while treading water; we had to come head to wind not to kill him because we had a competitor to leeward.

Now, it appears all logic is lost. Ben Ainslie, clearly one of the best sailors in history who seems to be an overall good guy, great ambassador for the sport and perfect gentleman, gets waked by a photo boat so maliciously that he warns them off repeatedly and then HE gets disqualified?

And the photo boat in question was working for the regatta, where officials should have complete control over their own people? The photo boat crossed the finish line during the race? Are you kidding? They have cost this guy a chance at another world championship. This is insane. No wonder so many sailors are taking up golf.


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Dec 13, 2011, 7:05 AM

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SACRIFICING THE PURENESS OF SPORT
As high profile sailing events seek to package themselves for broadcast appeal, the sanctity of the 'perfect race course' will be compromised. And when highly vested athletes meet with imperfect conditions, tensions increase.

When four-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie (GBR) grew frustrated with a media boat at the ISAF Sailing World Championship, he could not hold back his anger. But it is arguable that his inexcusable actions - boarding the boat and physically shaking the driver - were predictable.

This excerpt from a publication that follows Olympic events sheds some light on this path that high profile sailing events such as the Olympics and the America's Cup are taking...
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Sailing is trying hard to improve its profile - and their key tactic is to make the action more television and spectator friendly.

In no other sport do media get quite so close to the action, press boats - with demanding photographers, cameramen and reporters shouting their instructions - are right in the thick of it, sharing the same crowded water with the competitors.

Broadcasters want their dramatic close up shots and this week's ISAF World Championships has seen several new ideas trialled to deliver them - to the annoyance of Ainslie's British team manager Stephen Park.

"At the moment the sport seems to be fumbling its way into trying to make the sport more appealing for television," he said. "But surely there is a better way than trialling new race formats, rule regulations and, specifically in this case, media initiatives, than trialling them at the World Championships?"

And it's the same with spectators. Next year, for the first time in Olympic history, a ticketed area has been introduced for the sailing regatta with 4,600 pass holders accommodated every day on Nothe Gardens, which overlooks the planned medal race course in Weymouth harbour.

Tickets, which cost up to 55 pounds, have already sold out, generating revenue of approximately 250,000 pounds ($390,000) a day for London Olympic organisers.

But former windsurfing world champion Nick Dempsey and Skandia Team GB colleague Ainslie have both expressed serious concerns about the suitability of the inshore course in certain weather conditions.

They rightly claim that it's not about the spectators, the television audiences or the atmosphere - it's about providing the best sailing course for those athletes who have worked their entire lives for that moment - and may never get it again.

"Sailing is going through a transition, they want more races closer to the shore because maybe that is the future of the sport commercially," said Ainslie, after his London 2012 selection was confirmed by the British Olympic Association in September.

"But this is the Olympics and the pureness of sport should come first."

Full story: http://tinyurl.com/OLY-121211
----------------------------------------------------------------------
PROTOCOL: The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is awaiting the report from the International Jury, of the Perth 2011 Worlds, in order to consider what further action, if any, to take in regard to the incident involving Ben Ainslie. The RYA will follow its established procedures for responding to Rule 69 reports, and has the authority to take such disciplinary action within its jurisdiction as it considers appropriate. -- Full report: http://tinyurl.com/RYA-121211

COMMENT: In regard to the Ben Ainslie incident at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championship, the media boat involved was hired by ISAF as the official host broadcaster to videotape the racing. Additionally, the Sailing Instructions changed RRS 62 (Redress) such that actions by media boats and helicopters were not grounds for requesting redress. I am going to assume that Ben knew he could not file for redress. While Ben's actions were clearly in error, it is asking a lot of a highly vested sailor to accept being hindered for broadcast purposes as part of ISAF's media objective. - Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:16 PM

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From Brad Dellenbaugh:
I have a great deal of respect for the sailing abilities of Ben Ainslie. Clearly one of the best ever and often compared to the legendary Paul Elvstrom. It’s unfortunate that the incident with the camera boat in Perth occurred and I’m not sure of all the details that might determine any further disciplinary action by ISAF. But let’s not lose track of what actually happened…

ISAF is pushing to increase television coverage. ISAF didn’t control their camera boat. ISAF shouldn’t have been testing new TV techniques at the Worlds. The driver didn’t understand his poor positioning and the effects of his wake in the WORLD championship! Boat shouldn’t have been there. OK, got it.

But at the time of the incident, Ainslie was in second place behind Postma. And he finished the race in second. Sure, he may have had a chance to pass Postma and win the race, but he didn’t lose boats. Sure, be pissed that the guy was all in your way…sail by and give them a piece of your mind…but despite all the pressure and tension, you don’t jump into the boat and physically or verbally confront the driver and cameraman.

Perhaps having lost focus, or maybe just jumped the gun, Ainslie then gets black-flagged in the final race. With the black flag as his discard, Ainslie would have gone into the Medal Race with an 8-point lead over Scott and 10-point lead over Postma. The Worlds was his to win! Except…

It’s interesting to see the spin, particularly from the RYA. While not condoning Ainslie’s actions, it seems they are trying to lay this at the feet of ISAF for inappropriately trialing new television initiatives at the Worlds, then at that feet of the Jury for not letting the Championship be determined by the sailors on the water. The chance to win his sixth Worlds was taken away from him.

What fails to get mentioned is that he WAS winning the Worlds despite getting screwed by the wake. Stay in his boat; win the Worlds. The reason he didn’t win the Worlds is because he couldn’t control his anger and he boarded another boat. Period!

I wonder how Elvstrom would have reacted.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:16 PM

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From Roger Vaughan:
As a long time sailor who has put in many hours behind the wheel of photo boats, I sympathize with Ben Ainslie. His actions have been called "inexcusable," among other adjectives, and while there's surely a case to be made for that in the world of manners, that's not a world that exists among photo boats on a race course.

It's every man and woman for themselves out there, with every photographer bent on getting in just the right position and as close as possible. It's rough and tumble, a dog eat dog situation. Chances are taken by aggressive drivers doing their best for their shooters. They cut each other off, and think nothing of zipping inside a boat that's already well-positioned, angering the other shooter and often disturbing the race boats.

It helps if the drivers understand racing, of course. With the recent emphasis on making sailing more viewer friendly, both at the event and on television, there are surely more photo boat drivers out there without a clue of how to behave on a race course. Someone needs to make those drivers take racing 101 to begin with. Drivers also need to be held accountable for their actions.

On the one hand, having a sailor boarding a photo boat and throttling the driver isn't the right way to solve the problem. On the other hand, many players believe the fight in hockey helps police the game, helps reduce cheap, crippling hits. If a boat driver knew he might be stood up by an offended sailor, he might think twice about giving that sailor a bad dose of wake.

Ainslie has been quoted as saying that the effort to broadcast sailing should not interfere with the purity of the sport. How could anyone disagree with that? And yet the jury is about to possibly ban one of the sailings' most successful competitors for his angry reaction to a chase boat that interfered with the water he was sailing on. I wonder what the penalty will be for the offending photo boat driver. Will we see him back on the race course at the next event?

What we have here is a question of priorities. I hope the officials who are about to resolve this incident make sure to put the cart behind the horse, because it will set an important precedent.




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Dec 13, 2011, 3:16 PM

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From David Barrow:
One cannot help wondering about the whole issue of what happened and why.

Mr Ainslie, like some other British greats in UK sport such as Nick Faldo and Nigel Mansell, are single minded individuals totally driven by their goals. It is a level of commitment that is required to win consistently at the highest level. They are generally quiet individuals that do not overtly want to be in the full glare of publicity, good or bad, but just want to go out and let their results do the talking.

Ainslie seemingly has no history of problems with anger, and generally seems to be a good ambassador for our sport; he genuinely inspires and attracts youth to sailing and many youngsters model themselves on him. To make a negative a positive, I am sure that in the future he will be preaching, to the many youth sailors he meets, the perils of losing one's temper no matter how much pressure you are under.

He obviously did wrong, and anyone who has ever met him would be amazed that this normally mellow person, off the water, could have reacted like this. I would hope that the UK authorities can look at this whole issue objectively, and maybe already the punishment of losing in Perth, plus the massive press reaction that he will have to somehow cope with, is punishment enough.

To try and put things in perspective, you must consider the amount of effort that had been put in, including some six weeks training in Perth before the Worlds. Add to that sponsors and public pressure expecting you to just click in another win, your own demands on yourself to perhaps achieve the greatest record of results ever amassed, and perhaps even surpass your own sailing hero, Paul Elvstrom, ... and it is easy to imagine the strain.

But can the behaviour ever be condoned? NO and I am pretty sure that there is no one more embarrassed and sorry for the situation than Mr Ainslie himself. Can it be understood and treated accordingly? I would hope so.

The world spins and changes with an ever dizzying speed causing these guys to adapt and cope with the authorities different demands on them, and certainly this time it would seem that they have pushed the media coverage aspect a bit too far. If it is true that it was stated in the sailing instructions, or elsewhere, that competitors had no recourse over any incident with media, or other boats, then trouble was bound to ensue, as unless the media boats were helmed by extremely knowledgeable drivers who know where and where not to go then, sooner or later, someone was going to get seriously baulked.

We are all human beings and make mistakes, but most of us make them outside of the mass of publicity that Ainslie will have to deal with. One hopes that when the boiling pot of press comment calms down that a cool considered decision does not permanently tarnish the reputation of a golden star in our sport.

In 2012 someone has the opportunity to become the greatest sailing Olympian ever. Iis this incident going to overshadow or even stop that opportunity?

To Err is human - To forgive?


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:17 PM

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In Reply To
From Mario Sampaio:
We are a bit tired of hearing these totally false and misleading arguments that try to convince the sailing community that we need to go in this 'new' direction in order to save sailing, when the truth is what they are exclusively after is making a huge profit with sailing events, while totally ignoring that along this process they are completely destroying our sport!

If they did want to get people back on sailing boats, nothing would have to be re-invented nor copied, all they would have to do is to center sailing on the family, on honour and sound moral and ethical principles, once again. Unfortunately the only criterion today is to win at any cost, full stop!

So every time I re-read all these BS 'new' arguments, my modest and quite decrepit intelligence feels insulted, and I have a feeling many other sailors do too, which obviously will not do anything good for sailing.


From Mal Emerson:
I agree with Mario that there is too much defending of the "new", and I am solidly one of those defending and do so far too much.

I feel your pain but just as all professional sports go after the media and a bit of profit, why shouldn't sailing? The direction it's going is quite natural and really needs no defense. I don't for a minute think that the NFL has ruined pee wee football, the Big's ruined little league and so forth. On the contrary, sandlot baseball is quite dependent on the success of the pinnacle of the sport. Just as in baseball, the now professional nature of a part of sailing has allowed the very best to concentrate on the sport. That shouldn't detract from the more local levels of the sport. In the past, the very rich have facilitated technical improvements that have advanced the sport. Profit from media exposure will likely do the same.

Don't make too much of the AC growing pains or the Ainslie incident. Those things happen and, I think are being handled well. Let's hope things progress more in the direction of football (NFL) than Hockey (NHL) but I don't think we need to worry about brawls on the tramps of the 72's.

The wholesome friendly family etc aspects of sailing won't promote sailing in themselves but also aren't automatically compromised by media attention or the profit motive in the highest levels, or even new formats of the sport.

I don't really think sailing needs "saving" but I would like to see it be a bit more mainstream and I think it's time may have come. I don't think the new formats or the media attention will do any harm and they could well help.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:18 PM

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From Doran Cushing, Sarasota FL:
The tales of media interference, and the long-standing thread about how to make sailing more media friendly (aka "masses" friendly), have come together at the ISAF Worlds. Specifically, the circumstances of Ben Ainslie's behavior and the media interference bring these two threads together.

Sailing will never be NASCAR. It will never be the X-Games. It will, as it has been for decades, be a passion of men and women who love to sail. Today's media intervention will not change that basic passion or the basic logistics of sailing. It's done on open water, away from land, and thankfully so.

No one is suggesting NASCAR race on city streets and no one is suggesting that pro golf be played like a baseball game with the crowd screaming at the participants while they "play." The same applies to a number of sports including tennis, pool, bowling...all sports of the average man or woman. We have the common decency not to harass our friendly opponents while they play the game. My point is that sailing doesn't need to live and die by the rules of other sports.

Sailing will live and die based on our passions and how we convey them to others. It's a one-on-one game, not NFL and NASCAR running the agenda. We - you and me - need to be sure that sailing lives on among our youth, among our teens, and most importantly among the adults who have the resources to share the tradition.

Don't blame the media for the lack of participation. But do blame the media when they interfere with a complex sport loved by millions for the sake of TV exposure. As Bill Murray said in his movie about summer camp (and winning and losing) ..."It just doesn't matter."

Ainslie should be given the sportsmanship trophy...in the interest of all sailing competitors...for saying "enough is enough."


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:19 PM

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In Reply To
From Daniel Meyers, Newport RI:
Imagine the following: It’s the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Score is tied. Your team has the ball, first down, goal to go. The quarterback goes to pass, but a crazy fan or press photographer runs onto the field and tackles him. The ball pops loose, is recovered by the other team who runs it back into the end zone. The play would ABSOLUTELY be whistled dead. No turnover, no touchdown, no advantage to the other team. The fan arrested. The security chief probably fired.

The same would happen in any professional sport. Well, you would hope so. But in sailing, it is common to have overzealous spectators and press boats come on to the course, foul the competitors, cause danger or collision. They affect performance and results.

The regatta organizers and race officials should have responsibility to keep the course clear. Photo boats could be suspended or banned. It has happened to us on 'Number' many times. At the Rolex BVI regatta, a professional photographer swam onto the starting line 30 feet abeam of the committee boat to take pictures while treading water; we had to come head to wind not to kill him because we had a competitor to leeward.

Now, it appears all logic is lost. Ben Ainslie, clearly one of the best sailors in history who seems to be an overall good guy, great ambassador for the sport and perfect gentleman, gets waked by a photo boat so maliciously that he warns them off repeatedly and then HE gets disqualified?

And the photo boat in question was working for the regatta, where officials should have complete control over their own people? The photo boat crossed the finish line during the race? Are you kidding? They have cost this guy a chance at another world championship. This is insane. No wonder so many sailors are taking up golf.



From Barbara Gold:
In response to Daniel Meyer, no one could have worded it better. He is 100% right. The regatta should have taken responsibility and kept the photo boat at a fair distance.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:19 PM

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From Beau Vrolyk, Santa Cruz, CA:
I believe there is an additional party who is fundamentally responsible for the mess at the Finn Gold Cup. ISAF chose to remove the option of redress for a competitor in the event that there was interference from a media boat. By removing redress ISAF put itself on the hook for the quality of the drivers of the media boats. It is now painfully obvious that ISAF failed to provide a driver who could stay out of the way.

Mr. Ainslie's reaction was a violation of the rules, that's clear and he has been punished for it. However, it is equally clear that the person who hired the media boat driver needs to deliver an apology for what was quite obviously a grave error. ISAF hiring the wrong person led directly to the elimination of one of the finest sailors in the world from the World Championship while he was leading.

That ISAF would run experiments with the rules and the media coverage at a World Championship is probably an error. That ISAF would avoid taking responsibility for hiring the person who did the damage is exactly the sort of thing a sports journalist like yourself should be shouting from the roof tops.

Mr. Ainslie and the media boat driver both apologized unprompted and in writing immediately after the incident. So, to whichever ISAF person hired this poor boat driver: Exactly when will you, sir, apologize for having actually caused much of this mess?


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:20 PM

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From Philippe Herve:
In previous Olympic events, Sailing was the most followed up sport on the internet. The reason is simple - many of us are passionate about sailing and sailing in the Olympic used to be the best one could achieve.

Unfortunately, to please the media, the Olympic races have now nothing to do with the races most of us enjoy on our week-ends. A race lasts 20 minutes in the Olympics to please the media. Choosing a course that privileges viewing but transforms the race in a vast lottery seems to be the goal. The media may be happy but as a past member of my national team, I don't see what sailing at the Olympic level in today's format has to do with the purity and pleasure of sailing competitively.

I understand Ben Ainslie frustration. Thank you Ben for loudly saying what everybody else was thinking. Hopefully ISAF will listen and correct the destructive path on which they have engaged.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:20 PM

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From Philip Gage:
The ISAF worlds have a sailing instruction 15.2 that prevents competitors seeking redress for the actions of any of the official boats. There are many who view such sailing instructions as being liable to bring the sport into disrepute.

There is no mention of this change to the rules in the Notice of Race as required by Appendix J1.2(1), so it is hard to see how this the sailing instruction complies with the Racing Rules. One wonders why the International Jury have not seen this flaw and had the instruction stricken out. At this stage there is no change to the wording of the Instruction that could possibly bring it to comply with the racing rules.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:21 PM

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From Frank Pong:
Perhaps we should equate a camera running alongside a footballer; next to a Golf tee off, or on an NBA Court. It is one thing trying to bring live action shots of sailing to Internet and TV viewers, but that ought to be weighed against intrusions onto the race course. In the AC, Volvo, Extreme, and many other events, non-competing boats would be required to stay outside the Race Area by Marshall Boats.

Ben Ainslie didn't harm any persons on the camera boat. He didn't, in my view, bring disrepute to the Sport.


From James S. Leopold:
Why is it that Ben Ainslie gets thrown out of two races because he got in someone's face because they (a non-competitor) interfered with him while he is competing in a World Championship event?

While we're at it, I have never gone sailing or been interested in sailing because I thought it might get me on television.

If you think television coverage is going to improve sailing, think again, and ask yourself why you like to go sailing and racing.

For me it's always been about getting out on the water, away from the crowds, with a little time and space to enjoy the challenge of the elements, and maybe mix in some friendly competition.

For those of you who want a three ring circus, try Times Square, or reality TV. To borrow from John Masefield, "... all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:21 PM

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From Robert D. "Dan" O'Brien, Olympia WA:
I seem to recall hearing about an incident in the past where a wronged participant drew out a saber and cut the shrouds of the offender. No doubt someone was exercising their right for self-defense. I also recall being a spectator at the 1977 Americas Cup Races in Newport RI. The US Coast Guard had a string of armed cutters keeping us spectators a long way from the race course.

It seems the use of dangerous weapons being used to keep the racing fair is nothing new. So what's with a good shaking? At one time the captain of the press boat may have been strung up on a yard arm. To me the fault lies in a Race Committee that would allow such an incident to occur in the first place. The RC and all the officials should be suspended instead. Ainslie should be given a Jack Sparrow hero medal.


From Rodney Myrvaagnes:
That the media boat operator was operating on behalf of the organizers makes his behavior beyond inexcusable.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:21 PM

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From Gunther E. Hering:
Ben Ainslie was wrong to lose his temper. He was punished for it already by the DSQ. Ben Ainslie was absolutely right to object to the intrusion into the race course and obstruction of competitors by media boats for the benefit of TV footage. The RC was wrong in changing the rules to allow such intrusions for purely commercial subservience.

Let's stop corrupting our sport for commercial gain. Sailing is neither a football game nor a F 1 race. If any TV crew tried to interfere on the playing field or the track they would get their heads knocked off!!


From John Rumsey:
It seems in sports these days if you want the press to make a fuss you, you have to kick someone while they are down or shout at their ref or do some obnoxious dance after a score. It is sort of getting to be like wrestling or reality TV, where of course the masses are watching people doing dumb things like they might do themselves.


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Dec 13, 2011, 3:22 PM

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From Robert B. O'Brien:
If there had been a proper "Patrol boat" monitoring the media boat, Ben wouldn't have had to 'take matters in to his own hands'.


From William J. Hoehler:
Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck was spot on when he said... "While Ben's actions were clearly in error, it is asking a lot of a highly vested sailor to accept being hindered for broadcast purposes as part of ISAF's media objective."

I am trying to think of a sport where media is allowed on the playing field.


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Dec 13, 2011, 5:01 PM

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From Adrian Morgan:
TV boats, camera boats, spectator boats, coach boats should be seen but not felt; for a TV boat to be anywhere near a competitor, least of all one going for a seventh World Cup, is inexcusable. For the sailor to see red is understandable; as for swimming over to have words, Ainslie should be given a medal by default, for all the other sailors who have been swamped, blanketed and generally annoyed by press intrusion over the years. Ainslie's ban was outrageous. Does the TV crew face a similar ban, or has the ISAF sold itself so completely to the media they have lost the whole point of their existence: to protect sailors and sailing.


From Renata Goodridge:
Yes, I know, Ben Ainslie's actions do not set a good example - accosting those press boats, but I still vividly remember in the late 70's witnessing close up a whole fleet of Finn sailors banging their tiller extensions against their decks to get the attention of the race committee so that a proper windward leg could be set - and they had their way. And all though there was plenty of talk about it afterwards, and definitely some grumbles, the point was made that this particular boat design demands the most of its sailors, so the sailors demand the most from those creating the races that everyone loves to watch.

After all, when it comes to Finn sailing, it takes some of our fittest athletes to even attempt to handle the boat, never mind the lightning speed reflexes needed and great tactics. For me as a young sailor growing up, the Finn sailors were demi-gods (and cute ones too!), and most other racers appreciated and respected the levels of effort and endurance needed to competitively race the design.

All that said, when I saw the photo sequence of Ainslie and the press boat (http://tinyurl.com/Ainslie-121111), I could not help but feel a reverberation of those tillers banging against the decks 30 odd years ago ... here was a Finn sailor expressing himself! And honestly now, I have to admit to a certain pride that one of the world's best sailors would take such a bullet for everyone by expressing his outrage in the moment. And why was such little respect paid to the event itself by allowing press boats so close to the fleet - apparently a good close up shot of the racing was more important than the race itself. Tsk. Tsk. My Mount Gay cap goes off to you Ben, I love your style!



PeterJacobsen
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Dec 13, 2011, 9:14 PM

Post #19 of 65 (53063 views)
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I am a professional photographer with a solid racing background. I raced for many years in the junior, college and Olympic classes. As a sailing photographer, I covered many high profile sailing events. In order to get the shots I wanted, I needed to get as close as possible to the action. Any still photographer or cameraman knows that getting close to the boats is almost always the best way to get a decent shot. The only way to guarantee that a photo boat will not get in the way is to ban them from the race course. I'm surprised more sailors have not jumped onto photo boats in fits of rage after being slowed down by press boats. As much as I always tried not to get in the way of racers, I probably had my share of incidents where I should have been more careful, especially when covering dinghy racing. I cannot suggest a solution, except to say that it's unrealistic to assume a cameraman can do his job on the race course without the risk of interfering in a major way. The best compromise is to require that all press boat drivers be experienced sailors who know when they are blocking the wind, who can anticipate when a boat might tack or jibe, who can see where there's more or less wind on the water, who knows what tack is the lifted tack, who knows ahead of time if he's about to get in the way, who knows how to get out of the way without causing disturbance and who won't be bullied by a photographer or cameraman insisting on getting to a certain location.


billreilly
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Dec 14, 2011, 2:38 AM

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I now have even more respect for Ben Ainslie than I had before... WELL DONE BEN!!!

Anybody who thinks he should be banned is a pussy!

Bill
Bill Reilly
bill@passageweather.com
www.passageweather.com


Manfred
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Dec 14, 2011, 6:19 AM

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In Reply To
From Doran Cushing, Sarasota FL:

Ainslie should be given the sportsmanship trophy...in the interest of all sailing competitors...for saying "enough is enough."


Agree with you! Thanks for making it clear.


Matt Bounds
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Dec 14, 2011, 7:39 AM

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In Reply To
From Philip Gage:
The ISAF worlds have a sailing instruction 15.2 that prevents competitors seeking redress for the actions of any of the official boats. There are many who view such sailing instructions as being liable to bring the sport into disrepute.

There is no mention of this change to the rules in the Notice of Race as required by Appendix J1.2(1), so it is hard to see how this the sailing instruction complies with the Racing Rules. One wonders why the International Jury have not seen this flaw and had the instruction stricken out. At this stage there is no change to the wording of the Instruction that could possibly bring it to comply with the racing rules.

The preamble to J1.2 and J1.2(1) do not require all rules changed by the NOR/SIs to be listed in the NOR. Only those "that would help competitors decide whether to attend the event or that conveys other information they will need before the sailing instructions become available." SI 15.2 does not meet those conditions.

The elimination of redress requests for actions of official boats or helicopters is a very practical one. At an event of this level, the jury would be inundated with redress requests, not all of which would be valid claims. Except in the most egregious cases, determining redress would be extraordinarily difficult.

In reviewing the photos, including ones taken from the helicopter, it's very hard to imagine that Ainslie could have passed Postma for the lead in that race. I agree totally with Brad Dellenbaugh - if Ben had stayed in his boat, he would have won the event, but he made a very poor decision that cost him a chance at a medal.


Ryan Wood
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Dec 14, 2011, 9:16 AM

Post #23 of 65 (52496 views)
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An example of another sport in which media is allowed to directly interact with the athletes to some extent is cycling. The camera men are on motorcycles and in cars alongside the riders and sometimes are responsible for affecting the race. A recent example of this was the 2011 edition of the Tour de France where a french media car was passing some racing cyclists and collided with them (both the cyclists and the car were moving in excess of 30 mph). The result of this collision was that one rider hit the pavement extremely hard and another flew of the road into a barbed wire fence. Both riders finished the remaining 2 weeks of the race. This is not to justify the camera boats actions, the driver was definitely in the wrong. As a motorboat driver and non-competitor, he has the greater level of responsibility, including a responsibility to stay out of the way of those competing. However, Ben Ainslie was also in the wrong by flying off the handle. By losing control he lost the regatta.





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Dec 14, 2011, 10:21 AM

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From Anton van de Koppel, TV producer:
The sport of sailing has expressed its need for a more media sport. This comes with the usual difficulties: more cameras, more chase boats and more incident with sailors and media. The “Ainslie incident” should have never happened if the media boat driver was more aware of how sailing with small boats really work.

This incident goes back to the organisation table, where months ahead of an important venue like the Worlds the organisers are desperately looking for Media boat drivers. But there is no standard briefing for media boat drivers and someone with the papers for a small RIB will do.

As a TV producer for sailing for the last 25 years, we have seen a lot of drivers/ owner that could hardly handle their boat with no sailing going on in the area at all, let alone when you are in a hectic start of a race. Usually we guide the drive as good as we can, and we have managed to avoid a lot of problems.

Powerboat drivers, however, tend to panic when racing sailboats come very close and a wrong decision is quickly made. Furthermore, press boat drivers who claims to have experience always think that close to the race makes the nice picture. This is not the case. Professional media members use long lenses, and know long before the fleet comes close to the mark where they want to be to make that picture-perfect shot.

For our TV shows we have a very experienced director / driver who can bring the cameraman exactly on the right spot. Because we use very long lenses with stabilization, the TV boat does not need to come within 150 feet of any boat and still can capture close-ups of the helmsman.

We have a media boat briefing every day, whether it is a small 50 boat race or the 600 boat mass start of the Round Texel. During these briefings, wake is always an issue. Just don’t go too close and understand what the sailor needs for an uninterrupted race, and it makes your TV show much nicer and the interviews a lot better.

Now during “The Ainslie incident” the media boat driver caused a lot of wake in two occasions. He should have looked at his wake and position all the time and as soon as Ben Ainslie started waving him off, he should have done this and made clear to the sailor that he understood the message by waving one arm back. But preferably, he should not have come in this position at all as it is not necessary to go that close. The excuse the cameraman or the director onshore told me is not valid; the decision stays with the skipper at all times.

We have filmed more than 1000 regattas - Volvo Ocean Race, Heineken regatta, Round Texel - and had no incidents that made it to the protest room. And we intend to keep it that way.

We have proposed to the Dutch sailing association to create a training program for media boat drivers and member of the media. This idea was supported by a lot of well known sailors like Hans Bouscholte and Bouwe Bekking. We will organise one in February in St Maarten in conjunction with the Caribbean Sailing Association and the St Maarten Yacht club.

We believe that time has come for a Media boat drivers licence which makes life a lot easier and the race a lot safer.


Ryan Wood
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Dec 14, 2011, 11:44 AM

Post #25 of 65 (52387 views)
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"We have filmed more than 1000 regattas - Volvo Ocean Race, Heineken regatta, Round Texel - and had no incidents that made it to the protest room. And we intend to keep it that way."-Anton van de Koppel, TV producer

To: Anton van de Koppel

As someone who spends a considerable amount of time at the computer watching sailing, I am very appreciative of those who do produce coverage of events that is safe and fair to the athletes competing. All the best,

Ryan Wood


The Publisher
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Dec 14, 2011, 3:23 PM

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From Mark Bullingham:
I agree with most of the views expressed regarding Ben Ainslie. Having worked in many sports, this is a classic example of where sailing can get it wrong. There is simply no justification for a competitor in any sport being affected in their performance by a member of the media invading on the pitch, and then having no proper recourse against them.

Was Ben wrong to board the boat and remonstrate with them? Possibly, but the penalty against him that prevented him from winning another world championship is ludicrous. Where I disagree with some of the previous views is the link to the increased marketing of sailing. That is a completely different issue from a badly policed media boat.

I have had many great experiences sailing and am amongst a group of fans that want to increase its audience and participation globally ­ to provide others with interest in and access to the sport. It's undeniable that sailing needs to market itself better in order to retain its place in the Olympics and to keep youngsters coming into the sport.

Does that mean sailing where people can watch the sport from land? Yes, provided the venue can provide a fair contest. Does that mean exciting TV images, building heroes, giving greater access to the sport? Yes. Does that mean fast, action packed boats? Yes. Does that mean shorter, sharper races won by 'athletes'? Yes. Does it mean the media impacting the result? Absolutely not.


The Publisher
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Dec 15, 2011, 7:03 AM

Post #27 of 65 (52112 views)
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From Jos Spijkerman, International Judge/Umpire:
The (Ben Ainslie) matter has been dealt with at the event. Is it now over?

Reading Rule 69.1(c):
'The protest committee shall promptly report a penalty, but not a warning, to the national authorities of the venue, of the competitor and of the boat owner. If the protest committee is an international jury appointed by the ISAF under rule 89.2(b), it shall send a copy of the report to the ISAF.'

That means that four 'higher' authorities will be sent a report. The Australian MNA: Yachting Australia (because the venue was Perth), the RYA (Ainslie is from GBR), the MNA of the boat-owner (if that is an MNA other than from Australia or Great Britain) and the ISAF.

In all likelyhood Yachting Australia and the ISAF will defer from investigating and leave the matter in the hands of the RYA. They are now the first to respond. But if the decision of the RYA is not appropriate in the eyes of either YA or the ISAF, they can then start their own investigation and decide on whether an additional sanction is warranted. -- http://tinyurl.com/RRS-121411


PeterJacobsen
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Dec 15, 2011, 8:14 AM

Post #28 of 65 (52103 views)
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One answer might be to make the cameramen a part of the action by substituting rounding marks and the starting pin for press boats. This gets the press as close to the action as possible in the most desirable parts of the race for shooting, when all the boats converge, and eliminates the possibility of interference.


GeneRankin
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Dec 15, 2011, 8:52 AM

Post #29 of 65 (52096 views)
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Having worked quite a few decades as RC, hauling photogs around when our boat was not otherwise h=needed, we never had much of a problem keeping out of the way of the competitors. If the photogs wanted to get closer? We told 'em to bring a longer lens next time.

Frankly, I'd favor banning photog boats not piloted by a member of race staff from the course entirely. Good on Ben for making his entirely valid point loud and clear.


Ryan Wood
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Dec 15, 2011, 8:55 AM

Post #30 of 65 (52095 views)
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"One answer might be to make the cameramen a part of the action by substituting rounding marks and the starting pin for press boats. This gets the press as close to the action as possible in the most desirable parts of the race for shooting, when all the boats converge, and eliminates the possibility of interference." - PeterJacobsen

That is indeed a good idea which has been implemented in the America's Cup World Series. While this would work for larger boats, such as the AC45, for smaller boats this creates a whole new level of challenges. The penalty for touching a mark would include a 360 as well as possible damage to your own boat.


The Publisher
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Dec 15, 2011, 10:00 AM

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From David Redfern:
I have both organised and driven many boats for media in top class events. I was always conscious of the needs of the sailors and never had an incident, although sometimes it got close due to underestimating how much power you need on the media boat to get away from what might seem in comparison a 'slow' yacht. You need instant powerful acceleration for the times it's needed.

In one event (The BOC Round the World) there was a feeder race from Falmouth to Charleston CA and I borrowed two boats from a chap who lived in Falmouth. One was a beautiful big Nelson for writers and long-shot TV, the other a very fast RIB. The owner said he would like to drive the RIB himself. I cheekily asked him if he knew how to handle a media boat and we had a chat about it. He performed brilliantly, turning up each morning with a '.reporting for duty governor!'

I don't think any of the press twigged that the owner/driver was Roger Taylor, drummer for Queen and a very keen sailor.


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Dec 15, 2011, 10:11 AM

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From Ned Hall:
I see in reading the e-mails that have been posted that I am clearly in the minority in agreeing with Brad Dellenbaugh. I find it incredible that any sailor can support the outrageous and unsportsmanlike conduct Ben Ainslie displayed in physically attacking the photographer on the press boat, irrespective of his (their) proximity to him during the racing. They were overly eager, but made a mistake.

And I am equally stunned by the numerous e-mails supporting his actions. Someone referred to the glorious Finn sailors as "gods" (who have acted this way for years). Not when I was sailing them in some very hotly contested regattas where tempers wore thin. Despite that, we maintained our respect of all despite what we felt were mistakes in regatta administration.

You might have Ed Bennett and Chuck Miller weigh in on this. Peter Barrett - a class leader and strong proponent of good sportsmanship - if he would still alive - would be outraged.


The Publisher
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Dec 15, 2011, 10:12 AM

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From Rich Roberts:
After years of shooting sailboat racing, following some small boat racing myself, I can understand both sides of the Ben Ainslie issue, although --- as he quickly realized--- his ultimate reaction was improper.

Following a couple of similar incidents in the Congressional Cup at Long Beach a few years ago, I wrote these guidelines for photo boats, not only for match racing but sailboat racing in general. Without interfering with the racing, it is possible to get the same high quality of shots by paying attention, anticipating the action and positioning your boat properly.

That said, it must be understood that most non-sailors driving power boats don't understand the concept of "wake." Here are the guidelines: http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/11/1215/




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Dec 15, 2011, 10:12 AM

Post #34 of 65 (52070 views)
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From David Branigan, Marine Photographer Journalist:
The stream of ill-informed comment regarding the Ben Ainslie incident last week is starting to obscure the actual facts which need to be re-stated in the hope that some of the more hysterical commentators might take notice:

FACT: It was the official event TV production company with special sanction to enter the course area, not a media boat involved in this incident.
FACT: The majority of actual media boats respect the needs of the competitors while trying to capture great stories and imagery that are strengths of our sport.
FACT: In fairness, the RIB driver in this case was an unpaid local volunteer acting in good faith even if it didn’t work out on this occasion. He must be properly respected and thanked for this fact.
FACT: The evidence that the RIB interfered with Ainslie on the run to the finishing-line did not include the aerial TV footage that has been withheld from public consumption (on legal advice to ISAF) until the Rule 69 process has concluded. However, it is available to the RYA and should definitively show whether or not the TV boat’s wake obstructed Ainslie or even whether it altered the outcome of the race that Pieter-Jan Postma of The Netherlands won.

It’s already been suggested that ‘mission-critical’ roles should not rely on unproven personnel, voluntary or professional. This is clear: only by employing the latter can you retain some form of real sanction over the expertise, seamanship and sailing knowledge of, in this case a RIB driver.

Events, sponsors and competitors gain great benefit from the efforts of genuine sailing media. Pillorying press with the same vituperation reserved for elements of tabloid media is simply unfair and will lead us towards ‘worst case makes for bad law.’ Ultimately, everyone will lose out.

In comparison to the number of races sailed, how often do media boats actually interfere with a race? Rarely, I suggest. And while accidents can and will happen, professional sailing media stake their own reputations on ensuring this does not occur.


The Publisher
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Dec 15, 2011, 11:36 AM

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From Olof Hult:
With America's Cup going the way of Nascar, and with the Ben Ainslie incident, perhaps sailing should take a clue from NHL as well: to excite the audience, the league has instituted formal and informal rules for how to conduct fist fights during boring games. Yes, it takes away from the game itself, but helps those who do not understand the finer points of ice hockey to enjoy the game anyway. Win-win, right?




BenN
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Dec 15, 2011, 12:14 PM

Post #36 of 65 (51822 views)
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I have followed the lead-up to and the progress of the Perth Sailing World Championships for the Olympic Classes. I can only begin to imagine how much time and effort has gone into putting all this event together. Media and publicity seem high in their order of priorities, but I find myself asking was the Ainslie incident the PR they were looking for? It would appear, admittedly from a long way away, that his was a normal reaction to expect from a competitive sportsman when it appeared the organising authority was doing it's best to obstruct the sailor in going about competing to the highest level.

I understand there have been repeated complaints from competitors (almost daily) about the invasive media vehicles on the race course at Perth 2011? "Experimenting" with cameras and other media equipment at extremely close quarters to the competitors has resulted in the headlines they were perhaps not looking for? Despite all of the cameras employed, I still keep searching for any moving footage of the racing! Are they making a dvd of the event? I've also not seen any photos that are any better than all the other events around the globe where the press know to keep their distance.... They should take a leaf out of the NYYC's excellent media coverage of events - they keep completely out of the competitor's way to obtain fantastic coverage. Ainslie and the rib driver were quick to apologise to each other, but this was not the end of it. The Organising Authority applied penalties to the sailor preventing him from competing further, despite being comfortably in the lead of the event at the time of the press boat's intrusion. At what stage will the Organising Authority be announcing an apology to the sailor for the obstacle they created? Will they make public any recommendations about how to prevent such a scenario ever happening again? Maybe it was an intentional bit of old-fashioned Aussie gamesmanship or indirect sledging to see how far the obvious No1 in current Olympic sailing could be pushed? If that is the case, they got a reaction, but they must be disappointed it was not a physical one or an abusive one.... One of the biggest Ambassadors of our sport to kids the world over managed to keep a lid on it even under the pressure they managed to put him under. As previous comments have stated, if this had happened in any other sport, there would probably have been blood shed....... I wait to be see if they admit they got the "experimenting" wrong..... I am glad I am not aiming to get a Finn medal in 2012, I fear the fleet are racing for two places on the podium either side of the Gold that has just been made harder to win after incentivising a true Champion to work even harder at winning Gold.....


PeterJacobsen
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Dec 15, 2011, 2:24 PM

Post #37 of 65 (51541 views)
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The last event I covered as a sailing photographer was a big event in 2003 where there was a frenzy of photo boats. At the time, after six years of working as sailing photographer, I decided it was too dangerous to be on the water with so many press boats. I was in a small inflatable, and on three occasions I was almost run over by bigger press boats hurrying to chase the racers after they'd rounded the weather mark. I left the regatta early and sold my inflatable a few weeks later. I have done no sailing photography since that time. I feel strongly that the sport can come up with a creative solution to allow cameramen to get on the race course safely and in very close proximity to the action without the risk of interfering.

I don't know how much things have changed in the last 8 years, but after reading about the recent incident, it sounds like there hasn't been much improvement. It would be great to be involved in the sport again if photographers weren't put in the position where they might be vilified because they're on the race course trying to do a job that is certainly not easy. I disagree with some of the posts above suggesting that photographers don't need to get close to the boats racing and can use really long telephoto lenses to get the shots they need. While this could possibly be true if there were only one or two other press boats covering the event, it simply does not work when there are numerous press boats at an around-the-buoys race, especially when we're talking about dinghies. If I were to set up for a shot 150 feet away from the weather mark, I probably would not get a decent photo because other photo boats would go in front of me and obstruct the shot. This was almost always an issue at big regattas. I had to be sure I could as close or closer to the boats rounding the mark as any other press boat. Also, the longer the lens, the more difficult it becomes to frame a shot when standing on an unstable platform holding a really heavy lens. I could get a much higher percentage of good shoots with a shorter lens because it was simply a lot easier to frame the shot. Of course, this meant I had to get in as close as possible.

As mentioned by several others, there are no problems at many big events. In my experience, some events were just more problematic in terms of photo coverage. Safety and the ability to get compelling photos and video are questions sailing organizers need to scrutinize, and very creative solutions are needed. Making it difficult for photographers to safely get the best photos possible will likely turn away a lot of talent.


wgraves
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Dec 15, 2011, 6:43 PM

Post #38 of 65 (51069 views)
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I just do not understand how this can be only punishment that we see for this "pathetic on all levels" event.

How can we tell the youth of this sport that is okay to get out of your dinghy and not only assault (fear of force) but then batter (use force) on another individual on the race course?

If this was a lesser sailor, on a collegiate course in the USA, the sailor would be disqualified for at least a year from the sport. It would be unthinkable. Equally talented sailors have been banned from the sport for less.

To make comparisons to the NFL and other sports is somewhat foolish. Sure, a fan may run out and interrupt a quarterback throwing a pass....but the QB is only wrong when he punches the fan. That's what happened here. Sometimes you'll get lucky and the exogenous event (the fan or the photo boat) will be on your side, sometimes it will be against you. Live and let live. But never, ever show what happened here...

Extremely disappointed by all involved.

In Reply To


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Dec 17, 2011, 1:32 PM

Post #39 of 65 (50705 views)
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From Stephen A Van Dyck:
It strikes me as being more than a bit rich for Anislie to be outraged at a TV filming boat when it is the TV coverage that generates the revenue by which pro's like Ainslie get paid to sail.

It also strikes me as being too late to save sportsmanship in our sport. This is 2011, winning rules and the hell with the rules. If you doubt my view just wait for the RYA to genuflect to "Lord Ainslie."

And what will we say to the Opti sailor who "tells off" an umpire......."atta boy?"

Ainslie showed us the future of professional sailing.




bigair
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Dec 30, 2011, 11:59 AM

Post #40 of 65 (49729 views)
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Interesting you should mention Opti sailors.
My 10 year old son is getting started sailing Optis, and this event has turned out to be a huge learning opportunity. He is upset and feels for Ainsile, because it 'just isn't fair' that the photo boat interfered with him. I've been working with him to understand that part of sportsmanship is self-control, especially when the stakes are the highest and the foul not correctable. What Ben did was wrong and it cost him dearly.

Of course, from the conversation above, it seems we all are dealing with these conflicting emotions, and perhaps we are all taking away a similar lesson to the one I hope my son has taken away. In sport, as in life, it's all about how you handle yourself, regardless of what gets thrown at you, and everything else will work itself out...


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