An anonymous poster reading Doug's sailing notes from the recent Worlds commented that Doug did something illegal and suggested he withdraw from two races. This has given rise to some discussion and reflection. I generally encourage Doug to refrain from addressing such accusations. I'm sort of protective that way.
Doug follows three basic rules when sailing: don't get greedy at the marks, do your circles and avoid the protest room at all costs. I imagine most of the front of the fleet guys have their own simplified version of the rules that keep them out of trouble most of the time and, when in doubt, they can spin on a dime and not lose anything they can't get back.
The Worlds are Doug's main sailing event each year but he doesn't get the least bit nervous anymore. For him, it's about staying fit, seeing old friends who he's sailed with for decades and meeting new ones and he loves going head to head with really good competition and learning and trying new stuff. He has no desire to cheat or do anything illegal in an effort to gain any unfair advantage. I'm pretty sure he only skimmed SI's for this event. They were in small print and he's still having problems with his eyes and he just assumed they said what they always say.
During the postponement on the first day we were talking with Brett Beyer and I mentioned the yellow bracelet everyone was wearing. Doug told me it was to get him into the various events and mine was a cloth one since I wasn't sailing but I had seen a sailor with a cloth one and was confused. Brett started laughing and asked if Doug was serious. He explained that Doug was supposed to put the bracelet on the check-in board before sailing and then remove it when he returned or he'd receive a 6 point scoring penalty for the day. Good thing we had a postponement and talked with Brett.
When Doug got to the first mark leading in the first race, he turned to Roberto Bini (ITL) right behind him and asked if they were sailing the inner or outer course. Doug was confused because the fleet in front was on the inner course and previous Worlds alternated inner with outer. It was indeed the inner again. When they returned to shore, Roberto came over and asked if Doug really didn't know or was just messing with him. This is classic Doug. Absent minded professor type, good guy, talented sailor, not sweating the details, lucky as can be, and usually surrounded by really good people.
So, to the illegalities, the rule of thumb is that if you are fast, you don't change a thing but if you are slow, you keep trying different things until you are fast. In the tune up event Doug found he was slow so he experimented with equipment, rigging, technique, clothing, etc. A few things he tried were: a new light air mainsheet in the practice race, a rolled sail, a hastily broken in sail that he stretched the heck out of on shore, a new rigging system for his outhaul that wouldn't tweak his rotator cuff which is still healing, sailing with and without a compass, a new knee brace, ankle boots, ankle support wraps for his feet in place of ankle boots, a different starting technique, sailing the course vs. the fleet, sailing on the less dominant right side of the course vs. the left side, a new lightweight wool top, and the alleged illegal heavier warmth layer on one particularly windy day that added weight when sailing.
Rule 43.1(a) states: Competitors shall not wear or carry clothing or equipment for the purpose of increasing their weight.
Bottom line, Doug was not aware of this rule and probably would not have tried a 'heavy when wet' warmth layer if he'd known about it. However, it did not provide him with an advantage. He was dead last at the 3rd mark in the first race that day and he was so far back in the second race that the rib I was on could not wait for him to finish. He edited his post to add warmth over weight so as to not wrongly influence others who might read the post later and also because it was equally true. This lengthy post is ensure the subject is not dismissed out of hand but given proper attention and focus for others in the future.
So, was trying a heavy when wet warmth layer illegal? Personally, I don't think so. Doug added one 'heavy when wet' shirt. He generally wears less gear than most competitors (no boots, wet suit shorts - not pants). Any reasonable person would be cold in his usual gear. On top of that he bangs and scrapes his knees and feet on everything and bleeds all over the place and he usually doesn't feel the cold or see the blood or missing skin until he's between races or when he gets to shore. If he would just wear the gear I've bought him, he'd be much heavier and injury free at the end of the day. Despite the warm temperatures, Doug returned to shore most days and was wet, cold and shivering. He does this often (which really sort of ticks me off) and when he went with the heavy warmth layer on the day the wind was up, part of the reason was actually because he began to wonder if he might be making mistakes because he's cold (to which I say, duh?). Even though he was warm that day, the results appear to show that his Canadian brain does better when chilled. Actually, I think he's just a creature of habit and the less he has on, the more connected he is to the boat and the more he can feel the changes in the wind.
Should he now withdraw from the two races? Well, one was his worst race and was already discarded. If he withdrew from the second, he'd move down 5 places. Sure, he wants to do the right thing but he also feels like one heavy layer worn one day as an experiment by someone out of the top 10 who did horribly that day just isn't that relevant. I could point fingers in other directions at things that others at the front of the fleets are doing that is relevant but, really, does it matter? They pay for the trip, they pay to sail, and they sail for fun and fitness. When they win, they only receive a tiny little cube, not money.
Doug does his best to sail clean and fair and to be very open about what he's doing (not many publish a race-by-race account) His results in this regatta were what would be expected of someone of his talent with a weight disadvantage. He rose to the top in the light stuff and fell back in the heavy stuff. Everything was as it should be. A blog post that emphasized one aspect of a selected layer is shaky grounds for accusing someone of illegal behavior and asking for his withdrawal from races.