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Coach and support boat rules at regattas
Team McLube


The Publisher

Jul 12, 2012, 10:30 AM

Post #1 of 7 (18146 views)
Coach and support boat rules at regattas Log-In to Post/Reply

The Melges 24 class has grown to become arguably the most competitive classes in its size range. This is in large part because of the high performance of the boat and the permissibility of professional sailors (and the owners who are willing to pay them).

With the elite teams comes the assistance they retain in the form of coaches and support boats. To manage this situation at the 2012 Melges 24 World Championship, which will be July 27-Aug 4 on Lake Garda, Italy, the event has established the following rules.

Coach and Support Boats
1. Coach and support boats shall register with the race office during registration. They shall declare which boat or boats they are attached to.
2. Coach and support boats shall display a flag, or other identification symbol, as may be required by the race committee.
3. No coach boat or support boat shall pass information in any way to a boat that is racing. Rule 41. Infringements of this will be taken very seriously.
4. Coach and support boats shall communicate only with the boats they are registered to, and only by means of voice between races. Closed VHF or mobile telephone communication is prohibited.
5. All Melges 24 boats shall proceed to the racing area under their own power.
6. There shall be no transfer of any goods or equipment until after the finish of the last race of the day between Melges 24's and their coach or support boats.
7. Coach and support boats shall not go alongside their Melges 24's until after the finish of the last race of the day.
8. Coach and support boats shall keep clear of the racing area at all times during racing.
9. Any coach or support boat that interferes with another competitor or the racing in any way, including creating excess wash, or hinders an official boat carrying out it duties shall have the competitor(s) to which they are attached, liable to a penalty at the discretion of the jury.
10. Any competitor may protest under this attachment.
11. The penalty given by the jury is at their discretion, but shall be applied to the overall score and therefore not discarded.

Event NOR:


Jul 12, 2012, 2:45 PM

Post #2 of 7 (18141 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Coach and support boat rules at regattas [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

This is a good set of rules and the Melges 24 class should be commended. However it doesn't go far enough. Coach boats can obtain information about the course, conditions, competitors, etc. that a racer cannot. Any communication of this information to a racer is an unfair advantage period. Coaches should be prevented from communicating with racers from the moment they leave the dock until the finish of the last race of the day. The exception is development regattas where learning is the focus.

The Publisher

Jul 13, 2012, 10:56 AM

Post #3 of 7 (18115 views)
Re: [stewartvz] Coach and support boat rules at regattas [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Howard Paul:
The fact is anyone with a coach/support boat has an unfair advantage if there is any communication after the boats leave the docks until the finish of the first race. My rationale is that as the boats are going out to the start line the coach boat can go upwind, they can check last minute weather forecasts. By giving the "fair" advantage which they already have with professional coaches it only adds to the arms race that can exist.

Not so long ago in a one-design fleet I sailed in, we had a discussion about sail purchase limitations and some of our more affluent owners wanted to be able to purchase as many sails as they wanted. Their rationale was that if one member bought a sail that was significantly faster they would be at a disadvantage for the rest of the year. The fleet voted for the sail limitations. One of the votes for limiting sails came from one of the most affluent members in the name of the more fair things are, the better the racing!

From Peter L. Wilson:
I think there is fair balance in the "Coach and Support Boat" rules based on many years helping to manage this in USODA. However, I would offer a couple of suggestions to 'tighten up' these rules.

#2 should require that only OA provided identification is allowed to be displayed. This prevents a coach flying a large team flag that can be seen by his sailor(s) going up the favored side of the race course.

#4 allows voice communication by coaches between races, but #7 disallows 'going alongside'. So 'alongside' needs to be clarified, e.g. within a certain distance or with no boat or personal contact.

Since only a competitor can break rule 41 (not a coach), there should be a clear statement that goes something like; 'a competitor attached to a coach that breaks any of the coach and support boat rules may break rule 41. This changes rule 41.'

The Publisher

Jul 17, 2012, 10:27 AM

Post #4 of 7 (17920 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Coach and support boat rules at regattas [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Terry Bischoff:
During my tenure as a PRO at the OCR in Miami, I witnessed a number of incidents regarding coach boats. One of the worst, was a number of Stars under tow after completion of their race. These tows went directly through a circle of 470s which were still racing. The worst example was one Star towed directly through the gate of the 470 course, totally ignoring the waves form the 470 race committee. The following morning the Star PRO issued a stern warning to any repeating the previous days' rude behavior. But why was this necessary?

Another example of the disregard by coaches toward others than their team is displayed by their lack of interest to teams without the resources to employ coaches. In Miami to get from the US Sailing Center to the racing area can be very difficult especially in light winds. One year a team of 470 women without a coach asked me as the PRO if I could arrange tows for them, as they were barely moving out from the Miami shore. They told me that their requests to other teams with coaches were ignored or bluntly denied. I personally monitored their situation the next morning, and probably against my protocols arranged that they were at least towed out from the islands and into Biscayne Bay itself, where they could find some wind. Again, a complete lack of sportsmanship. Other examples of lack of interest to other competitors by coaches could be related, but I think the above examples make the point.

Personally, I think that coaches should be eliminated from Championship events in all classes, not only Olympic classes. I highlight Championships here, not beer can or regattas of lessor status, but some might disagree here also. If you have reached the finals of your class champs, you should be able to continue on without a coach. I exclude high school and collegiate racing here, where coaching is necessary as in a basketball game. Level the playing field, it would be very good for the sport at this level.

The Publisher

Jul 18, 2012, 8:42 AM

Post #5 of 7 (17690 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Coach and support boat rules at regattas [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Rob Overton:
I think the Melges 24 Worlds rules concerning support and coach boats are a step in the right direction (in Scuttlebutt 3631), though they could use some editing.

For example, rule 4 says that coach and support boats shall communicate with their competitors "only by means of voice between races," which presumably bans electronic communications. But then the rule continues, "Closed VHF or mobile telephone communication is prohibited." What is a "closed VHF"? Does this rule imply that "open VHF" is permitted, despite the previous sentence?

Private communication on an "open VHF" is no great challenge -- there are a dozen or so available US-legal VHF channels on my hand-held plus another half-dozen on International and Canadian frequencies, and this doesn't count the channels allowed by other nations such as the UK that aren't available on my set but will be available on VHF transceivers owned by competitors and coaches from those countries.

But in my opinion the biggest shortcoming of this set of rules is its failure to require coach and support boats to render assistance to ANY competitor in danger. This is not a moot point; I have seen coach boats motor right past capsized boats without so much as a glance to see if the crew needed help.

I suggest a rule saying something like "The requirements of RRS rule 1 are extended to coach and support boats. Assistance to boats or crew in danger shall be rendered without regard to what boat or boats the coach or support boat is attached to."

From David Chivers:
Banning coaches and support boats from the regatta is probably the only fair way to ensure a "level playing field" and I would not disagree with this approach.

The Melges 24 rules were written as an attempt to balance this with the desire of many teams to still have support boats present. Yes there is an advantage to a tow home, of course, but don't forget the M24 does carry an engine so the flat calm return is not necessarily a disaster.

The allowance to communicate buy "shouting" was designed to hopefully keep boats in the same area and allow an element of self-policing in that boats can watch others to what is happening. It was felt at the time that to ban communication of any sort would see boats and support boats gong off in opposite directions and then using mobile phones to communicate. Sadly it was thought that sailors and coaches could not be trusted.

The rules may not be perfect but they have worked well over several years now and are monitored should they need to be changed.

The Publisher

Jul 18, 2012, 10:56 AM

Post #6 of 7 (17685 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Coach and support boat rules at regattas [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Claude Bonanni:
I am writing today to respond to the letter of Terry Bischoff in SB 3634. While there is clearly no excuse for those coaches and competitors to tow through another classes course, and is absolutely inexcusable, I would like to point out the Miami OCR does not sail under the rules of the individual classes, but under rules as defined by ISAF as part of their Sailing World Cup.

The International Star Class has for over three years sailed its Continental and World Championship with very strict guidelines for coach and support boats. The rule states that "a yacht shall receive no outside assistance from support boats or otherwise once she has left the dock for the day until the finish of the last race of the day."

It has been very well received by event organizers, PRO's , IJ's and competitor's. It is also better for our environment. As a 100 year old class, the Star Class is again at the forefront of developing new ideas and rules for sailing. All classes should adopt this rule.

As for ISAF, well, let's hope November elections bring stronger leadership to move sailing in the right direction.

The Publisher

Jul 18, 2012, 10:57 AM

Post #7 of 7 (17684 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Coach and support boat rules at regattas [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Sue Reilly:
Regarding coach boats - the Farr 40 class has the best I have seen :

37.1 OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE - A yacht shall receive no outside assistance from support boats or otherwise once she has left the dock for the day until the finish of the last race of the day, except in the case of emergency.

63. With reference to Rule 37.1, is it permissible to provide weather and tidal information to a yacht prior to the starting sequence from a support or coach boat? No. Individual support or coach boats shall not have contact of any nature, either by radio, telephone, vocal signal, visual signaling of any kind i.e. tactical placement, flags and/or different colors of clothing, or the transfer of equipment or victuals, with a registered racing boat from the time the boat leaves the dock each day until the boat has finished racing for the day. In addition, individual support or coach boats shall not approach closer than 300 feet to any boat that is racing, except at Mark Roundings or the Finish where they shall not approach closer than 100 feet upwind of the windward mark or downwind of the leeward mark and extensions of the finish line. The only exception would be the race committee declaring an emergency. At the Warning Signal for the Start, individual support or coach boats shall leave the area being used by the racing boats and may station themselves outside of either the pin or committee boat, but no closer to either end than 100 feet. Sailing Instructions for Farr 40 regattas shall contain the following instruction: 'Video taken from any source shall not be used as evidence at protest hearings. This alters RRS 63.6'. The penalty for infringing this Rule shall be assessed at the discretion of the Event Jury or Protest Committee. Rule 37.1 is not intended to prevent family and friends from sharing social interaction before and between races. Communication between spectator boats and competing yachts before and between races is OK as long as no competitive information is exchanged.

69. Is it permissible to use a cell phone once a boat has left the dock to get updated weather information or other useful information prior to the conclusion of the last race of the day? No. As per Class Rule 37.1

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