Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sitting Down


I have had very few real sailing lessons and no doubt learned much more slowly and with many more bad habits than I would otherwise.

Yesterday, I had a lesson with Owen Bowerman, a young visitor from the UK who is on the Team GBR Podium Potential squad.

I was hoping to get some coaching on upwind wave techniques, which I struggle with, but the wind was too light, so we did roll tacks instead.

And I discovered that I had completely misunderstood what they are all about. I had thought the only reason for the roll is to set up the action of bringing the boat down flat and getting some movement. But I realized that the roll is just as much about bringing the boat around through the tack.

Owen identified several things I was doing wrong. First, I was sitting too far back and in the light winds I should start the tack sitting up next to the mainsheet.  Second, I was rushing the tack too much, using too much tiller too quickly, instead of a smooth curve with more leeward weight shift.

Third, my roll was not timed well with the boat’s turn.  So, after shifting my weight to leeward onto the balls of my feet and initiating the tack and sheeting in a bit, I learned to sit down quickly as the boat went head to wind, rolling the boat.  This made all the difference.   

Still lots of work to do, but I feel I understand what it is about now.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wall of Wind


Sailing in the UAE means we can almost always count on a land breeze from the south in the morning and sea breeze from the north filling in during the early afternoon – a large desert ensures that.
Last weekend it was a bit different – with a strong southerly wind continuing until about 2 pm and then weakening a bit, but still southerly at the time our race started a bit after 3 pm.  So, the race officer set a course accordingly with everything backward compared to our normal windward/leeward directions.   In addition, he set the gybe mark so that we went to it from the leeward mark instead of the windwark mark.

We started in mild winds which were weakening by the minute.  We managed to get around the windward mark and started down only to see the sea turn absolutely flat and hardly a breath of wind anywhere.  Boring, frustrating.   I managed to pass a couple of boats by letting the boom out past 90 degrees and heeling to leeward, occasionally catching a wisp of air by the lee.  But boring.  
Then, our top Kiwi sailor (who amazingly enough was actually behind me) said – “look up by the bridge” and I did and saw a dark patch all across the bay descending toward us.  Hooray – salvation.  This meant the course would be upside down, but who cared – we would be racing.  Those of us who saw the wind coming managed to tack agonizingly slowly to be prepared for its arrival.   Then it arrived – just like a solid wall bearing down on us – we were ghosting along at 1 knot at most then in a solid 13 or so, instantly – and it kept up that way the rest of the afternoon, building even a bit more, with gusts close to 20.  Woohoo – great fun !  And since the course was not the usual windward/leeward and had several reaches, it was a blast.   And I even did well, reveling in the screaming reaches and very glad to be on the water.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Laser Battle 2


My first Laser Battle post described a confrontation between Burton and Stipanovic.  Here is the followup.

Tillerman already knew the answer but gallantly abstained from posting a spoiler.

You can read the decision here (see Protest 36).  The following is my take on it.

The context is important. Going into Race 8, Burton was in first place with a score of 24 (after discarding his lowest score of 33) and Stipanovic was in second place with a score of 34 (after discarding his lowest score of 8). So, if Burton and Stipanovic both finished Race 8 with very bad scores, Stipanovic would profit since he would discard it and be stuck with only the 8 which was his next worst score, but Burton would be in trouble since we would have his previous 33 and the Race 8 bad score and would be stuck with one of them.

No doubt Stipanovic had calculated all this and realized that his best bet would be to try to make Burton have a very bad score, even it meant he had one also.

And that strategy is perfectly legal as long as it is done within the rules.

But the jury found that on the downwind leg, Stipanovic violated Rule 17 by sailing above his proper course. This is clear from the findings where we read that, after establishing a leeward overlap from clear astern, Stipanovic luffed and both of them sailed parallel for a minute and half, losing many places – clearly this was not Stipanovic’s proper course.

And, given that these were championship sailors, one can safely assume they were well aware of Rule 17 and, given the scores coming into Race 8, it was clear that Stipanovic forced Burton into having a bad score by intentionally breaking a rule.  Burton was also aware of this since he was cursing Stipanovic and yelling "Rule 17" (See Protest 37 and the last sentence of the Protest 35 decision).

Stipanovic's actions were the type of behavior that will trigger Rule 2 – the sportsmanship rule.

Rule 2 Fair Sailing

A boat and her owner shall compete in compliance with recognized principles of sportsmanship and fair play. A boat may be penalized under this rule only if it is clearly established that these principles have been violated. A disqualification under this rule shall not be excluded from the boat’s series score.

So, the jury found that by violating Rule 17 in these circumstances, Stipanovic violated Rule 2 and disqualified him with a score of DNE – which, as provided in Rule 2, means this disqualification cannot be excluded. Bad news for Stipanovic.

So, crime does not pay as shown by Stipanovic’s DNE, but what about the victim of the crime? Here, there is a solution through redress. Burton requested redress and was granted it under Rule 62.1(d), which provides that redress may be granted if “a boat’s score in as race or series has been or may be, through no fault of her own, made significantly worse by … an action of a boat… that resulted in a penalty under Rule 2….”

This means that if either Rule 2 (or Rule 69 Gross Misconduct) hurts an innocent person’s score, the jury may adjust the score. In this case, although Burton finished Race 8 in 31st  place, the jury adjusted his score to 21st, apparently taking into account the number of places lost during the luffing episode.

Bonus question - as Tillerman rightly noted, the other grudge match I was referring to was between Ben Ainslie and Robert Scheidt. It was in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  They sailed a private match race with over 30 tacks as the two boats danced a synchronized pas de deux over the course, with Scheidt being disqualified in the jury room and Ainslie taking gold.  I couldn't find the jury decision, but here is a newspaper account:


Ainslie induced Scheidt to collide with him just before the gun, causing the Brazilian to take a 720-degree penalty turn. Ahead, and with both their fates in his grip, Ainslie clamped his boat in front of Scheidt's, tacking every time he did. There must have been 30 tacks, perhaps more, and their synchronicity was so perfect it looked as though the two boats were attempting to perform in unison. The eye contact was intense as Ainslie sailed the opening upwind leg looking backwards as much as forward.
Scheidt committed a second foul at the windward mark. As Ainslie blocked him out, Scheidt gybed around and came up underneath the Briton with right of way. Scheidt's head was pressed into Ainslie's sail as they collided but he had altered course so suddenly the Briton had no opportunity to keep clear.
Still, the outcome was far from settled. In the last two legs, Scheidt recovered to 22nd place. If he had made it to 21st, he would have tied with Ainslie and won gold with four race wins to two.
Ashore, both men protested. "I think he did a good job," said Scheidt, his praise a shade grudging. "The only problem was that some rules were broken."
Ainslie believed that, too, but was sure the only person at fault was Scheidt. Five hours after finishing the race, Scheidt was disqualified by the race jury and Ainslie confirmed the winner.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Laser Battle


There was an interesting battle between two of the world’s top Laser sailors, Tonci Stipanovic from Croatia and Tom Burton from Australia, at the Sailing World Cup regatta a few weeks in Hy√®res.

Going into the 8th race, Stipanovic had a total of 42, with a worst score of 8, which he could exclude, and Burton had a total of 57, with a worst score of 33, which he could exclude. So, if Burton ended the 8th race with a bad score, Stipanovic could be well placed, even if he also had a bad score.  
Going downwind, Burton and Stipanovic were both on starboard with Burton clear ahead. Then Stipanovic established a leeward overlap with Burton. Stipanovic luffed and Burton responded and both boats sailed parallel courses for about a minute and half, both losing a significant number of places and Burton yelling "F** off, proper course" to Stipanovic.

At the finish, Burton was 31st and Stipanovic was about the same. Burton protested and requested redress.
Without peeking at the actual case, can you guess what rules, if any, were broken and what the jury did with respect to Burton and/or Stipanovic for the protest? 
What about the redress?

Bonus points - can you name a big Laser Olympic grudge match where match racing tactics were also a factor in deciding the winner?

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