April 14, 2015

Holly Crap! I'm In Front... Now What?

By Doug
Apologies for the delay - had the flu.
I wrote a post about how really good sailors can take the lead at the end of a windward leg by playing a persistent shift. And sometimes a middle or back-of-the-fleet sailor will just happen to get it right, and take the accidental lead.

Several readers asked an interesting question - how does this person hold on when they're not used to leading the fleet - when they're being chased by really good sailors.

Here's what happened to me once: I found myself on the top reach just in front of a fellow who later won the North American's. He screamed and yelled at me, I got rattled, and he passed me.

That's the bad news. The good news is that in all of my years of sailing, this has only happened to me the one time. The people at the front of the fleet are smart, friendly, helpful, and understanding that you might be way out of your league.

Experienced sailors in the front row know that it's better to cooperate to get away from the pack than to start messing with each other. It's not in any rule book, but you'll find it on most race courses.

So, you'll hear things like "nice going" and "let's get ahead of the pack."

As an inexperienced sailor, you actually have two advantages:
  • Many middle-of-the-fleet sailors have good speed but get bad starts. They end up sailing the first leg in bad air and they never recover. But put this person in the lead on a reach with clear air and they are often really quick. It's not unusual to see them continue to do well and even win some races.
  • You get to watch and copy the best sailors. You cannot read their minds or tactics, but you can see where they're sitting, how their controls are set up, how they play the pressure, etc. I learned how not to do this in race 3 at the Capetown Worlds and how to do this properly next year at the Chilean Worlds.
So when you're in the lead, watch, learn, and enjoy. As Pam likes to say, weather conditions are always better at the front of the fleet.

March 07, 2015

What Game Are You Learning To Play?

by Pam

I have always rejected the 'time on the water' teaching, believing that spending time perfecting a bad habit would just make me really good at being bad. I wanted to learn perfect technique first and then spend time practicing that. Was it really necessary to re-invent the wheel and go through the time and frustration of learning what does and doesn’t work? I'm now questioning my rejection of the 'time on the water' teaching.

At the Laser Masters Worlds this past September in France, I got to be a fly on the wall and watch the interaction of the sailors and listen to the chatter. There was so much talent there and everyone had an opinion. All this free advice was being given and yet many of the top sailors didn't appear to be paying attention or listening to each other.

I listened with interest to the advice of Steve Cockerill of Rooster Sailing as he described the choice between the full rig or Radial. Steve chose correctly for the conditions and went with the Radial and won his division. Al Clark, like Doug, chose a full rig and joked with Doug about how they chose the wrong rig but at least Al hadn't done it two years in a row. Brett Beyer won his division with all firsts and I listened as he talked about going head to head with Al Clark, knowing he couldn't beat Al on boat speed in the light conditions and had strategically split from him when Al didn't have to time react and follow. We spent time talking with multiple sailors who won their divisions. And many more who were former world champions. With 500 sailors there, it was a Who's Who type of event.

I can't recall specific examples or conversations but over and over again, I was struck with the impression of being surrounded by what felt like a humble arrogance. Confidence might be a better word. At that level, the guys don't learn much from each other. They talk at each other and share their experience about what is working but they aren't seeking advice from others or listening to it. They've learned there is more than one way to do the same thing. They've perfected their own techniques and they sail their own race. They know their competition's strengths and weaknesses and they sail tactically against them but they make no attempt to copy the techniques of others. I had never really been around so much confidence after racing. It was a real treat.

The Final Beat is an entertaining blog and an excellent resource for pointing a sailor to the best information and expert advice for a sailor to get better, quicker. I've often pointed out something on the blog to Doug and asked if he'd tried that. The answer is usually no. When various high level sailors have talked about technique, I've asked Doug if he has tried that. The answer is usually no.

What I didn't understand is that Doug's answer isn't arrogance. The response to most of my "have you ever tried …" questions is something along the lines of 'he's a better sailor than me in those conditions and he gets to practice in those conditions all the time and I'll never be able to beat him by trying to copy him.' Similarly, Brett Beyer would never attempt to copy Al Clark's techniques either. Training with them at the venue before the event is a different matter.

The learning process (or should I say training process) is more tactical. It's a matter of learning the strengths and weaknesses of their competition and then matching it against their own and finding a way to use it against them. That's a totally different game than I've been playing. Doug calls it sailing the course vs the competition. He decided long ago that he would rarely be the fastest around the course and there was a higher percentage of success in sailing strategically against his competition.

Long before Doug arrives at an event, he knows who will be competing, who is good in light, medium, or heavy conditions, who chokes, who pulls rabbits out of hats, who has been on the water the most, who is winning, and he usually has a pretty good guess of who will win the event. He is always gathering information about his competition, even during fun weekend sailing. His mind is always geared toward observing and finding the strengths and weaknesses.

Definitely a different game than I play. I just show up and hope for the best. 

February 23, 2015

Kingston, Here We Come!

By Doug
I was asked about my preparation for the next Master Worlds in Kingston, so here are the four things I'll be doing.

Lasers are sailed in three different conditions: light winds (up to 5 knots), medium winds (for me, 5 to 15 knots), and strong winds (for me, over 15). I do not know of a single Laser sailor who has world-class speed in all three, so we have to specialize.

We don't have to worry about light conditions because a race at a Laser Worlds will not start with winds under 5 knots, so this leaves medium and strong. As discussed here, your weight dictates your best conditions and what you need to work on:
  • If you're light, then you need to be fast in medium conditions and you need to work on being in great shape.
  • If you're heavy, you need to work on your medium conditions and you had better be in shape to do well in a breeze.
So, here's my own plan:
  • I'm light and my medium speed is good, but I'll brush up by (1) practicing at night. I have found that this is the best way to get a "feel" of what is fast in a Laser.
  • Kingston will probably not have many windy days, but some bad finishes like I had at the last Worlds at Hyères will kill any chances of doing well. So, I'm focusing on my (2) cardio on an elliptical machine and (3) strength on a hiking bench.
This plan is verified by the conditions at Kingston's airport:
"The wind is over 6 knots at 10 AM no less than 65% of the days, and from
noon to 1600 hours it holds above 6 knots over 85% of the days."
Translation: we can expect medium conditions.

This will be my final event as a Grand Master, so I'll be sailing a full rig. For the final preparations, I'll be (4) training on Italy's Lake Como with Roberto Bini (ITA), then competing with him at the Euro Masters, and then training with Mark Bethwaite (AUS) and others in Kingston before the Worlds start.

 It should be an awesome event!

February 11, 2015

Dave Perry on RRS 43.1(a) and 43.1(b)

by Pam
Dave Perry
Dave Perry is recognized worldwide as an authority and expert the Racing Rules of Sailing.  When I reached out to Dave for his assistance, I was pleasantly surprised by his willingness to go above and beyond in his reply as well as his willingness to continue the dialogue with answers to numerous follow up questions. Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to provide us with his interpretation of RRS 43.1(a) and 43.1(b) as well as sharing some insights into the history and purpose of these rules. 

For more on the rules, get Dave Perry’s two books Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing through 2016 (which includes the complete rule book) and Dave Perry’s 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes available at US Sailing, 800 US SAIL-1, or www.ussailing.org.

Posted with permission of Dave Perry:

I am happy to give you my personal opinions on the hypothetical questions you sent me. These are solely my personal opinions.

Rules 43.1(a) and 43.1(b) are independent rules which address two separate issues dealing with the wearing of clothing and equipment when racing.

Rules 43.1(a) is a stand-alone requirement. It clearly states that competitors are not allowed to wear or carry any clothing or equipment with the purpose or intent of increasing their weight. In other words, if part of the reason the person wore something was to increase their weight, that breaks rule 43.1(a)...period. This has nothing to do with the overall weight limit described in 43.1(b).

Rule 43.1(b) begins "Furthermore...", which means "in addition to the requirement in rule 43.1(a)..." Nothing in rule 43.1(b) is an exception to the clear requirement in rule 43.1(a).

Rule 43.1(b) puts a maximum weight on all clothing and equipment. The clothing and equipment referred to in rule 43.1(b) is clothing and equipment worn for purposes other than increasing the weight of the sailor (which is banned completely by rule 43.1(a)).

The history of 43.1(a) is that for a long time (up through 1972) sailors, such as Finn sailors, increased their body weight by wearing extra weight in the form of sweat shirts and other water absorbing garments that, when wet, would weigh up to 100 pounds. In 1973, the IYRU (former ISAF) decided that was unhealthy due to back and knee injuries, and instituted rule 22.3(a) (a ban on wearing clothing and equipment for the purpose of increasing weight) which was word for word the same as current rule 43.1(a). But then they added rule 22.3(b) which said “A class which desires to make an exception to rule 22.3(a) may do so, but the total weight of the clothing and equipment cannot exceed 20 kilos. The racing rules continued this way (prohibiting the wearing of clothing and equipment for the purpose of increasing weight, but allowing it *if* the class rules allowed it) but shifted the maximum weight down to 15kg, unless the class stated a lesser or greater weight, in which case the max weight was set at 20 kilos.

I was part of the first Laser generation (first hull was #931) that wore water bottles in the 70’s when we raced. I think the Laser class max was set at 10 kilos (which was basically two water bottles, a t-shirt, a PFD, pair of shorts, watch, socks and Aigle boots). My back is now permanently injured with two degenerated discs.

In 1997, ISAF completely banned the wearing of clothing and equipment for the purpose of increasing the sailor's weight, again for health reasons. That ban is currently rule 43.1(a). The way they completely banned it was to remove from the rule the exception clause that had been in the book from 1973-1996 which allowed the classes to permit the wearing of clothing and equipment for the purpose of increasing weight. Note that rule 43 cannot be changed by class rules or the sailing instructions (see rule 86.1).

The answers to your four Cases therefore are (and this is without studying the current Laser class rules other than what you quote in your blog, which I read in its entirety):

Hypothetical Facts
Case 1:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that has been specifically designed to allow for the insertion of lead weights and weights are inserted, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7.5 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which was strategically calculated to be just below the 8 kg limit imposed by RRS 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 2:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet solely for the purpose of adding weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 3:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet for the primary purpose of warmth with the added benefit that it also adds additional weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 4 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 4:
Sailor A, due to financial limitations, wears technical sailing gear that is old and outdated and made of heavier materials, therefore the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 8.5 kg as measured according to Appendix H, which is in violation of the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 1 - yes, because the purpose of wearing the clothing and equipment is to increase the sailor's weight.

Case 2 - yes, for same reason as Case 1.

Case 4 - clearly the sailor breaks 43.1(b) unless the class rules permit a higher weight or the sailor is on a boat required to be equipped with lifelines (see rule 43.1(c)). Whether they also break 43.1(a) depends on the reason they wore that gear.

Case 3 - this is the tricky one, because it becomes a gray area between wearing a garment for warmth or protection, and wearing it for the purpose of adding weight. Setting aside the issue that some people will try to take advantage of this gray area by "saying" the gear was for warmth or protection but "knowing truthfully" that they are wearing it to increase their weight, the answer to whether Sailor A is breaking rule 43.1(a) is in the truthful answer to this question: why did the sailor choose to wear that garment?

Case 89 is the only ISAF Case on this, and stemmed from a situation in, I believe, the 1996 Olympics where a top finishing 470 crew, I believe, was wearing a camelback garment with a water bottle inserted, with a drinking tube attached. The crew was protested for breaking rule 61.1(a) (equivalent to rule 43.1(a) in the current book). The crew claimed the purpose of wearing the garment was to provide hydration during the race which otherwise was very difficult as the crew was on the wire most the race. The protestor claimed the purpose of wearing the garment was to increase the sailor's weight. The Jury could not bring itself to DSQ the boat, but soon after the Games, Case 89 was published, with the intent to ban the wearing of clothing or equipment that had the effect of increasing the sailor's weight when it was not otherwise necessary to wear that garment. ISAF's opinion was that crews could find a way to put a water bottle in the boat and get drinks from it during the race without wearing it. ISAF also realized that windsurfers could not realistically drink water while racing unless wearing it, so they are allowed to, by exception to the rule in their Appendix B.

Case 89

Question: Does rule 43.1(a) permit a competitor to wear or otherwise attach to his person a beverage container while racing?

Answer: No. Except on a windsurfer or a kiteboard, there is no necessity for such a practice, and therefore its primary purpose must be considered to be to increase the competitor’s weight. (Note that rules B4 and F4 modify rule 43.1(a) for windsurfing competition and kiteboard racing.)

So back to your Case 3, if the sailor truthfully wore the extra layer so their weight would be increased, then they broke 43.1(a). But if it was necessary for them to wear the extra layer to stay warm, and the additional weight of the extra garment increased their weight, that to me doesn't break rule 43.1(a). But, if they intentionally wear that extra layer on the outside of their other gear, and they let it get soaked such that it increases their weight when they could have worn it inside a waterproof spray top, etc., then I'd be more inclined to say the sailor wore that extra layer for the purpose of increasing their weight, and broke rule 43.1(a). Otherwise they would have made the effort to keep that layer dry in order to stay warmer.


The Case 3 grey area causes me concern. It seems that two sailors could be wearing the exact same clothing but for different reasons and one would be legal and the other illegal. So ... following a suggestion by Dave, I joined the Scuttlebutt Sailing Club (an organization that is a member of US Sailing) and have asked them to submit a revised set of hypotheticals to US Sailing for an official interpretation. Not only is anyone seeking membership with Scuttlebutt automatically accepted, but membership is free. My kind of sailing club. And when I asked them if they'd be willing to submit the hypotheticals to the US Sailing Appeals Committee on my behalf, they immediately agreed to help. To be continued ...

February 05, 2015

Persistent Shifts for Dummies

By Doug

Roberto in Italy sent us this interesting chart. It shows four boats going upwind - the first 2 sail in a steady breeze while the other 2 sailing in a breeze that slowly shifts to the right:
  • Black-left bangs the left and takes 16m 58s.
  • Black-right bangs the right and takes the same, 16m 58s.
  • Like most of us, red likes the lift but has to come into the mark on a big header, taking 17m 52s. This is 54 seconds more than the blacks because red is on the outside of a persistent shift.
  • Green does something unusual - it sails on a header and then comes into the mark on a big lift, taking just 16m 9s. This is 49 seconds less than the blacks because green is on the inside of a persistent shift.

This is simple geometry - playing the shifts correctly means sailing a shorter distance which takes less time. But guessing when a shift is persistent is tricky - most people will stay on a lift like red and go the wrong way. It takes a lot of courage to recognize the shift is going to be persistent and take an early header like green to go the correct way.

The first time I learned about this was from Frank Bethwaite who was the Australian meteorologists at the 72 Olympics. Frank told me how amazing it was to watch Rodney Pattisson (GBR) who was the only sailor who recognized the long, persistent shifts at Kiel. Pattisson was the defending gold medalist and would start a leg going the wrong way on a header. This got him inside a persistent shift which only paid off at the top of the windward leg. Pattisson again won gold.

So Roberto's diagram is great because it quantifies the amount you can win or lose by not reading a persistent shift correctly. It's also great that most sailors don't sail at places like Kiel that have persistent shifts to worry about.

Actually, that's not true - we have persistent shifts all the time [Dummy alert - the following is simplified to make it a little easier to understand.]

The definition of a persistent shift is when the wind shifts one way and does not come back. In Roberto's diagram, the wind starts in a neutral position and goes right. If a shift cycle has 4 parts (go right, come back, go left, come back) and a leg takes less time to sail than a 1/4 of a shift cycle as shown in the diagram, then whatever the wind is doing is persistent. So it would make sense that the shorter the windward leg, the more likely the the shift will be a persistent shift. So the shorter the leg, the more you want to take an early header to get inside the shift.

So, how often does this happen? (Drumroll). Every windward leg! As we get closer to the windward mark, the remainder of the leg gets shorter and shorter. So, you guessed it, the top part of every leg has a persistent shift.

Some fun with numbers: Roberto's diagram has red losing 54 seconds and green gaining 49 seconds.
  • If the wind completes one complete shift cycle (go right, go back, go left, go back) on a windward leg, then the top 1/4 of the leg has a persistent shift. This means that starting that part of the leg on a lift (red) means losing  54/4 or 13 seconds and sailing on the header (green) that gains 49/4 or 12 seconds - a total of 25 seconds!!
  • If there are two complete shift cycles on the leg, green gains half of that, or 12 seconds on red.
How many times have we had good upwind speed only to round in traffic 12-25 seconds behind the leader who is in clean air?

Perhaps now we know why.

January 26, 2015

Reaching Tricks

By Doug

Green has just rounded the windward mark in first place and red is just behind, and there are lots of others following. Red heads up, sails faster, and tries to pass green. One of two things will most likely happen:
  • Green says, "hey, let's head straight for the mark and get ahead of these others." Meaning, let's make sure we come first and second, and we'll decide who wins later (another example of how the game is played at the front of the fleet). Consider yourself lucky if you hear this on the race course.
  • Green defends against red by also heading up. 
The first example is a rare treat because it means that green is experienced and is good at percentage sailing. This post is about the more common second example.

Would you rather be green or red?

I prefer being in red's position because green almost always defends by also heading up, so at the end of the reach it has to bear off to head for the mark. The more green defends by heading up, the better red will be at the end of the leg. This is how I won a national championship last year in another class.

In this case, green was being sailed by a very experienced, very fast, multiple national championWe were tied in the standings and a pass would give me a 2-point gain on him (which turned out to be the winning margin for the championship).

Even though greed was well ahead, it defended by also going so high that we were almost on a run as we approached the mark. This gave me the advantage, the pass, and the win.

So if red has the advantage, how does green defend?

If there are waves, the one best one at catching them will most likely win. But what if it's flat water or the boats have the same speed? This is when it gets really tactical. Green winning depends on two things:
  • keeping track of the apparent wind, and
  • playing the different changes in the wind pressure that can be seen on the water.
Let's go back to the moment when green has make the decision.

If green bears off, it immediately slows down while red is picking up speed.

Looking at the wind shadows, green is already in trouble because of its lost speed plus less wind.

Trying to escape by bearing off more just slows green down more.

Advantage red, which gets and easy pass. But green bearing off is actually a winning move if done properly:
  • Green can use the technique described in this post to determine exactly where the apparent wind is coming from. It's not coming straight down the course but has shifted forward.
  • But this is still dangerous. For this to work, green still needs a little more speed.
  • To get this, green waits for a little more pressure that can be seen ahead on the water.
  • With the pressure, green and red both speed up and the apparent wind shifts further forward.
  • If green bears off slightly now, it has a little more room to work with before it's affected by red's shadow.
  • Bearing off in pressure has another advantage. Because green is going more with the wind, the pressure will last slightly longer, so green gets more time in the pressure. Some call this "stretching" the puff.
  • If the red starts to roll green, green heads up to even the speed, shift the apparent wind a little forward, and hold its position.
  • Each time green has a little extra pressure, it bears off slightly again.
  • While this is happening, red might have its hands full from boats right behind it, and red may have to head up just to defend against them. Advantage green.
  • It's tricky, but if done properly green can get low enough so that red's wind shadow is minimal and green can sail its own race.
If green is able to sail lower it gets more separation, clearer air, and more speed.

At the end of the reach, green is in a great position because:
  • it's on a closer reach and going faster,
  • it has clear air because its apparent wind is way forward, and
  • it has all of the rights against the red boats because its the leeward boat at the mark.
The key to this working is knowing and feeling where the apparent wind is coming from and using the slight differences in the wind pressure. It's tricky and something that we all get wrong occasionally, even at the national championship level.

January 14, 2015

Sailing the the Middle of the Fleet - Dirty Air

By Doug
Another question from Pam: how can I tell if I'm in dirty air? It's a simple question with a simple answer - the wind creates waves, so look at the direction of the waves to see where the wind is coming from.

The waves are coming straight towards us, so we must be looking directly into the wind. So white is creating dirty air for green, right?

Actually, the answer is no. In fact, green is in clear air and can easily hold this position. The reason is because both boats are moving, so what we call the apparent wind actually shifts forward. The faster the boats go, the more the wind shifts.

Here's the position of a boat sailing in dirty air.

And looking at the wind shadow, you want to be in green and not red.

So, what we see can be very misleading.

Here's a trick to accurately know where the apparent wind is and if you're in dirty air:
  • Look at the breeze and feel it on your face.
  • Now, close your eyes and move your head back and forth slowly. The sensation of pressure on your face will move slightly from side to side.
  • If the wind is light and you don't feel any difference, splash some water on both of your cheeks and move your head back and forth again to feel a slight change in the temperature.
  • When the pressure or temperature you feel on both sides of your face is the same, open your eyes. You're now looking directly upwind.
  • If you're looking directly at a boat, then you're in its dirty air. The closer it is, the more it will affect you. To get into clean air, tack or bear off.
When you get good at this, you'll also be able to feel when you're in dirty air because your boat will feel different, sort of like when a car is misfiring and not running smoothly. Sailing is similar because you'll feel the turbulence of the dirty air from the boat to windward of you.

So there you have it - rely on what you feel and not not what you see.

January 01, 2015

2014 - Those Who Inspired Me

By Doug

I keep reading that people who appreciate things live longer, happier lives so since 2000 I've kept an appreciation journal. It's pretty simple - every day you write down 5 things that you appreciate, but there's a catch because you cannot write the same thing twice. This makes you more aware of what there is to appreciate. Most days are pretty easy - a smile from a cashier, an unexpected call from an old friend, synchronized traffic lights in rush hour, a plumber showing up on time, etc. But some days are much tougher and I find myself struggling to think of just one good thing. These are, of course, the days when an appreciation journal does the most good.

So, here are some of the people that I appreciate who inspired me.

Wild Oats has just won the Sydney to Hobart Race a record eighth time. This year it was different because of Comanche, a brand new super-maxi from Jim Clarke skippered by Ken Read. These are amazing boats as you can see as they start. So, what's it like to sail a super-maxi and what does this have to do with Lasers? Vanessa Dudley (AUS, GM winner at the Oman Worlds and kicker of my butt) sails a super-maxi and has just completed her 19th Sydney to Hobart. How impressive is that!

It always amazes me how the cream rises to the top. The Hyères Master Worlds had a record turnout with amazing competition, but Mark Bethwaite (AUS) and Keith Wilkins (GBR) won again bringing their combined total to an astonishing 21 Laser World Championships. While they're both Great Grand Masters, Mark sailed a full rig while Keith sailed a radial. I'll be joining them as a GGM in a year and will have to choose which one to compete with. Either way, it will be competition at its best.

Brett Beyer (AUS) gets a special mention. I watched him in Oman coaching sailors at the Senior Worlds and then practiced with him for the Master Worlds. Just before our competition started, he got a call from home telling him that his dad was very ill. I was with Brett and his immediate reaction was to go home to be with family. Twenty minutes later a second call came telling him that his dad had passed away. Brett was on the next flight back to Sydney. Family first, no Worlds. With his busy schedule, he had little time to practice for Hyères, but again, the cream rose to the top. In the largest and most competitive fleet, he still won with an astonishing 9 bullets to win his 9th Worlds (you can see how he sails in these conditions in the right column and also here). Would he have won in Oman? I have no doubt, but family comes first.

In my Grand Master fleet, Andy Roy (CAN) should have won but in the last race he did not transition from rules at the front of the fleet as we sailed into the back of another fleet. I too have lost a World Championship by a single point and hope that I had the grace that Andy had in Hyères.

Every class needs an Ellen Burks. In this part of the world, she's known as the Sunfish Mama and is personally responsible for promoting the Sunfish class, a great Texas circuit, getting juniors into the class, and great after-sailing sessions. Back surgery prevented her from sailing this year but did not stop her from supporting all of the events. I wish we had a Laser Mama for our class.

We have blog readers in 150 countries and over 2,000 locations. The top cities are London, Sydney, Auckland, San Francisco, and Melbourne. Some of our readers may remember an anonymous comment that accused me of cheating in Hyères when he/she read my worlds journal. I like to share what I learn and comments like this remind me of the Chinese saying "when you open a window for fresh air, a few flies will come in." So I choose to appreciate all of the comments we receive both public and private. And then there was Pam.

I love Pam as a stand-up-when-others-sit-down kind of person. She addressed this anonymous comment, spent days researching the rules, and she contacted the ILCA, ISAF, US Sailing, and two judges. The people who did get back told her there was nothing illegal in my actions, but Pam is still trying to get a clarification on the various rules that seem ambiguous. This will help us all. Pam also designed the Team USA shirts, took great pictures and videos in Hyères, supports me, has helped me as I regain my vision, found a way for me to recover from a torn rotator cuff without surgery (shared here), and has done all she can to support Bruce Kirby.

I'm inspired by Bruce Kirby for designing our favorite boat, but most of all, at the age of 85, for continuing to fight for his rights. 

RRS 43.1 - Clothing Weight

by Pam
As a follow up to one of our most commented on series of posts:

Hypothetical Facts

Case 1:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that has been specifically designed to allow for the insertion of lead weights and weights are inserted, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7.5 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which was strategically calculated to be just below the 8 kg limit imposed by RRS 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 2:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet solely for the purpose of adding weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 3:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet for the primary purpose of warmth with the added benefit that it also adds additional weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 4 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 4:
Sailor A, due to financial limitations, wears technical sailing gear that is old and outdated and made of heavier materials, therefore the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 8.5 kg as measured according to Appendix H, which is in violation of the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Applicable Rules

RRS Rule 43.1(a)
Competitors shall not wear or carry clothing or equipment for the purpose of increasing their weight.

RRS Rule 43.1(b)
Furthermore, a competitor’s clothing and equipment shall not weigh more than 8 kilograms, excluding a hiking or trapeze harness and clothing (including footwear) worn only below the knee. Class rules or sailing instructions may specify a lower weight or a higher weight up to 10 kilograms. Class rules may include footwear and other clothing worn below the knee within that weight. A hiking or trapeze harness shall have positive buoyancy and shall not weigh more than 2 kilograms, except that class rules may specify a higher weight up to 4 kilograms. Weights shall be determined as required by Appendix H.


Opinion of a US Sailing Judge:
Cases 2, 3 - Legal
Case 1, 4 - illegal

Opinion of senior Laser Class Representative:
Cases 1, 2 - DSQ
Case 3 - Legal
Case 4 - was not presented for opinion

Interpretation by ILCA, ISAF and US Sailing:
No response


I attempted to find an official interpretation of RRS 43.1(a) and (b) by going both up and down the chain of command and learned the following.  Individual members of US Sailing and ISAF are not entitled to ask for an interpretation of the rules. ISAF will only acknowledge an International Judge or a national authority on such matters. US Sailing (a national authority) will only acknowledge a club or organization on such matters. A US Sailing Judge can apply the rules, as he/she understands them, to a protest situation but cannot provide an official interpretation of the RRS (only the Appeals Committee can do that).

I asked a senior Laser Class representative to submit the hypotheticals, on our behalf, to US Sailing's Appeals Committee (RRS 70.4) and the request was refused, saying this was a non-issue and there were more important things for the class to be focused on.  I begged and pleaded and even threatened to sign up for the 4.7 Worlds in Canada and test out each hypothetical each day and encourage someone to protest me so I could appeal and get an official interpretation. The representative didn't budge.  Non-issue … move on. 

Since neither the US Sailing Judge nor the Laser Class official can render an official interpretation of Rule 43.1, I have not named them since I felt they gave me their opinion merely as a courtesy and not in an official capacity. 

However, the Laser Class representative is presumably entitled to some official capacity regarding Doug's issue in Hyeres and I am of the opinion that I was told to quit wasting the time of the Laser Class on this non-issue. Doug will not seek to withdraw from the two races (one of which was dropped anyway) where he wore an extra shirt for warmth that was also heavy when wet. Specifically, because he would see it as a nuisance to do so and also because he feels he's been told by a Laser Class representative that it's a non-issue. 

Rooster Sailing has an interesting write-up about the changes to the rules over time regarding the weight of a Laser sailor's clothing and the challenges of staying within the weight limit and also staying warm:

I am unsatisfied with the answers I received and will probably continue to seek an official interpretation but it appears this is going to take some time and effort. I challenge anyone with the time and desire, to press your class or club officials to seek an official interpretation from your national authority and then from ISAF on the hypotheticals above. I didn't want to stop at receiving the answer I wanted, but rather when I received the official answer, so one day (or year) I will update this post. 
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