Protests and Penalties

Protests and Penalties:

Cutting corners is human nature. In regattas we have all tried to get
away with spinning penalty turns for harmless (and not so harmless)
fouls. Most sailors don’t like to protest either as it is time
consuming, stressful and can lead to having a bad reputation and not
getting breaks, especially from the team you protest.

Sailing isn’t so fun however, if we play without enforcing the rules.
Of course some sailors are more willing to take penalty turns than
others. Two great college sailors come to mind when practicing penalty
turns. When John Shadden (USC’85) was a freshmen at BU he did full
penalty turns in practice when there was even a chance he was wrong in a
touch with another boat. He took these penalties as a challenge to come
back in those races at practice. He also learned how to spin without
fouling another boat while spinning and how costly it is to spin in the
first place. The result was that at regattas he was more careful not to
foul and when he did, his penalty turns were very efficient.

While observing a practice at BC last month, I saw the same attitude
from a current sailor. Adam Roberts and crew took a penalty turn for a
very minor and questionable non-contact foul. After spinning he and his
crew made their comeback.

A Tufts sailor mentioned that at a minor recently, the race committee
discouraged protests during the competitors briefing because there were
no judges. I was about to say something when I realized I have done the
same when running minors. It’s fouls we need to discourage, not protests.

Rule 42 (Propulsion) violations are harder to enforce. No one protests
another competitor for rule 42 despite being encouraged to do so in
blatant cases. Perhaps competitors could combine to apply some peer
pressure to curb illegal propulsion. In Lasers there are so many times
when propulsion helps that we require umpires in championships just as
ISAF does in their major events. In college dinghy sailing there is not
much advantage to be gained with subtle propulsion except when starting
(when it’s not so subtle) and at downwind marks in light air (think FJ
gybing in under three knots of breeze.) Defining what we can and cannot
do at the start needs to be done so we are all playing by the same
rules. Although it’s not really legal (but oft justified via turning up
to close hauled) how about we allow one and only one rock to start. At
downwind marks, two gybes to gain an overlap should not be allowed.
Three gybes to go around the outside is also not what we want to see.

Coaches need to enforce the rules at practice. Competitors need to spin
when fouling and take sportsmanlike action when getting fouled. This
proactive approach will lead to less fouls. Race committees need to set
long enough start lines so all the boats can line up diagonally without
breaking rule 11 (W-L), and set long enough first legs to spread the
fleet a bit.

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