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?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Shooting the Line


In yesterday's race I successfully shot the finish line - something I have read about but never really done before.

The rest of the race was nothing to write home about - a poor start and then to pile ignomy on top of that, I started to go toward the wrong mark at one point.  Not glorious.

But, back to the positive note.  As I was on the last upwind, heading for the finish. I was coming in on port with a colleague to my left and slightly ahead.  I saw the opportunity and hiked for all I was worth, which gained me a bit but I was still not where I needed to be, so I decided to try shooting the line.  I did so, bearing off just a tiny bit to get a last bit of speed and then luffing up as late as I dared, hoping I had timed it right - I had and I finished about a half a boat length ahead of my colleague. 

Wow, that felt good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Protest or Not


PROTEST !
As I get more and more into the world of judging, I wonder about the role of the Rules/protests/hearings etc. at the Club level.

In our Club we have no history at all of protests/hearing. There is occasionally a bit of high-volume discussion on the water and then a rehash of the event over beer after, usually with a consensus about who broke the rule.

Is that the best course? Some say we should have more real protests as a way of learning and gaining experience with the whole process.  Others are happy to just let things continue as they have been.

I have mixed feelings. I certainly don’t want our Club to become confrontational and tied up in acrimonious disputes.  On the other hand, I do think it would be a very good learning experience for our members to be more attentive to the Rules and understand them better.   Due to my interest in the rules and the judging experience, members come to me for advice and I am glad to give it, but that is not the same as a more formal hearing – which doesn’t have to be a really adversarial proceeding, but which would let people see how difficult it may be to determine what happened.

What does your Club do? What is the best approach?

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