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 withoutfouling 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.