Monday, November 29, 2021
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Wanna buy a Bridge?

BridgeForSaleIt's February 2019, Southport Yacht Club Water Sports Centre, Building #2.  Two volunteers are just completing the gruelling job of checking more than seventy IOMs entered for the National Championships, as specified by the ARYA Race Management Manual.  It took over two days going through the boats and all three rigs.  Outside was mid-thirties both days, the shed was hotter, the skippers had not enjoyed it either.

When sailors know that the boats will be checked most present them accordingly.  But quite a few had to be adjusted, sails signed and stamped, ballast added.  One of last boats to front up was a Queenslander who has been sailing regularly and doing well, his boat proved to be frighteningly under weight and worse on the B and C rigs.  He didn't seem to care though, no big deal it seemed. He used the resources and time of the already jaded volunteers to correct his equipment, sometimes by adding weights in the mast, sometimes in the battery pot if needed.  Sheet ticked, another conforming IOM, boat legal.  Or was it?  Why had he been able to sail that boat for the last few years and no one noticed, or even cared? 

The entire exercise at those Nationals was most likely a total waste of everyone's time and effort.  That sailor may not have fixed the correcting weights to his boat as agreed, we will never know.  No checks were done on any boats after that draining two-day process before the event, because everyone was totally and utterly 'over it'.  Besides, checking during the event is not currently part of the culture or practice these days, what happened was accepted normality.  Anyway, we're all mates right?  We just wanna have fun!IOMLinedrawing

If you believe that your fellow sailors do not break rules sometimes, I have a bridge to sell you, one owner, well maintained, great location and going cheap!  Or, how about we don't kid each other about this, concede that some really competitive sports people have been known to cheat, let's just agree so we can move on to a productive discussion.  Oh, but you want evidence?  Ok.  In the last few years Queensland competitors have been seen to swap keels or even entire rigs during an event, that's against the rules.  They have swapped batteries to smaller ones, common ... not one person has ever been pinged for changing anything.  Not one, because no one looked.

So who cares anyway?  What is the worst that can happen if people do this?  Is it that someone with a boat 90 grams underweight wins a championship?  No, that's not the worst.  The worst thing that can happen is that competitors lose confidence in the class and it's administration, confidence that the boats they are sailing against are legal IOMs and are playing fair, according to the rules.  That damages the sport of Radio Sailing, the one we all have invested time and money to complete in.

What is the solution when clearly 'Inspecting-in' compliance before the event is just a charade?  Well, since that 2019 experience and in talking to some experienced people, it's clear that the only way to fix this is to check a few boats during a regatta.  In-race inspection hasn't happened for donkey's years, but a respected elder Statesman told me that this used to be done and that people had been penalised.  Some reading this may recall it.  The very real risk that boats could be checked at any time would be a game changer.

From the International Radio Sailing Association (IRSA) website.  Questions and Answers

IRSAlogo"The freedom granted to the owners to alter equipment is balanced by their responsibility to ensure that their boat complies with the class rules when competing at an event. It follows that equipment inspection at an event ... is the only way to monitor correct compliance with the class rules. ...

Should a boat be found not to comply with the weight and dimensional limits the responsibility lies clearly and solely with the owner for failing to ensure compliance. Altering the boat and failing to take steps to ensure continued compliance with the class rules might be taken as a breach of RRS 69 by a jury."

So, back in Australia, it's the second and last day of the regatta and yesterday two boats were scrutinised after Race 3.  Everyone was talking about it last night.  Out of the blue, as they retrieved their boats, they were directed to take their boats to the Measurer, 'over there'. (Let's pretend anyway)

"Bloody hell!  Let's have a think about this shall we?  I could get a place if I sail well so do I risk using that cool new-tech 21 gram battery instead of the old 84 gram one today?  Ah, no.  Should I put back that velcro'd-in corrector weight?  I think I will, let's play safe shall we." 

Corrector weightsCorrector weights are to be fixed to the hullGood choice.  Just not worth it is it?  This better outcome also does not need massive time wasting before the event.  It's not the routine measuring that matters, it's the risk of checking happening at any time that is way more powerful.

But there are two very good reasons check inspections have not been done for years.  The first is that most regatta locations simply do not have the ability to weigh a fully-rigged IOM accurately.  Some that could check, don't anyway.  The second is that most Race Committees deliberately avoid their responsibilities, sadly.  They simply do not want to be responsible for DSQ'ing someone, they want to be seen to be 'friendly', anyway it's easier that way. 

"Who wants to disqualify someone, particularly a visitor who has travelled for hundreds of kilometres to get here, the poor bloke, that would be so sad don't you think ... and everyone's honest anyway right?"

If you believe that, I still have that bridge if you are interested?  No?  How about a gold Rolex then, $20.  Yeah of course it's genuine!

If you are one of those who would not buy the bridge or the watch, maybe it's time to look at the bigger picture again, for the good of the sport.


The Editor



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