November 07, 2016


by Pam
Doug and I split tacks this weekend with me being dropped off in Austin and Doug heading a little further south to compete in Wurstfest, the last regatta of the season. The common highlight of both of our weekends were two 17 year olds.

On my end, my brother's wife lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago, leaving my him a single father of a 17 year old, whose world had suddenly changed. A reality check for me on how fleeting life can be and how important it is to enjoy every moment.
Doug, on the other hand, found himself sideways with a 17 year old, two parents and a coach, which ended a little like how our US presidential debates and campaigning have gone.

Now really, which story do you want to hear about? The correct answer is neither. Surely, we’ve all had enough reality TV type drama with the US presidential election.

However, in hearing about Doug's weekend, compared with my own, my perspective was one of trying to find the good in the situation and I was surprised at how much good there was to be found.

So, yeah, there was a junior in the full rig fleet with a Rule 42 protest against him by the District 15 Secretary and Doug was called in as a witness. The protest committee ruled something along the lines of even though he jibed repeatedly and he did indeed come out of the jibes faster than he went in, he still didn't actually gain through the activity therefore it wasn't a violation. The District Secretary doesn't agree and will be appealing the ruling. Before the protest when Doug went to speak informally to the coach … well … things turned south. The coach, the parents and the junior did not agree with Doug’s interpretation of Rule 42 and vice versa. It will be interesting to see how the appeal turns out. There’s more to the story but you get the picture. Drama!

Here's the deal. That little disagreement was a cluster and there is fault to be found on the part of all parties. Here you have a junior whose parents and coach have done a good job of developing a talented sailor who is now competing at a level where he is a contender on the full rig course. That is to be commended. On the flip side, you have a Laser district with a leader who is looking to develop a competitive district that adheres to certain standards where everyone feels they are competing fairly and respectfully. That too, is to be commended. As the two merge, the junior into the full rig fleet, there are bound to be some bumps. If either handles the bumps too abrasively, they run the risk of discouraging and losing a talented sailor and/or ticking off an entire fleet. Neither has a good outcome that is for the betterment of sailing and competition.

But, you see, this regatta, for that kid, was his graduation. He had arrived. He was accepted as being on the same level as the adults. Getting called out was a compliment that says he's no longer a junior on the course and he no longer gets a free pass on his behavior because he’s a junior. His coach and parents have taken him to this point and now it's time to let go and let that oddly nuanced fleet polishing experience take place. That transition where he learns to play nice with a different peer group and somehow emerges a more humbled, respectful, experienced and confident human being.

Several years ago, Doug and I were sailing in the Sunfish fleet against a very young and talented Stewart Draheim. A name that I'm sure will be around in sailing and well respected for many years to come. Stewart was aggressive, highly talented and kind of an ass to sail against. I intensely disliked sailing anywhere near him. At one regatta, Doug finally had enough and decided to engage him. Doug spoke to Stewart’s mom and she gave him the green light. She knew that Stewart had to earn the respect of his peers and she seemed to recognize that even though he was pretty dang young at the time, he was essentially being invited to graduate from junior status and into a different peer group. The Stu that emerged in the next year was a sailor I respect, admire, trust and enjoy sailing against. He was always a good sailor and a good kid but the contrast from the boy he was then to the man he is now, is night and day. A coach and parents can provide the tools and opportunities but they really can't teach a kid that transition. It seems to happen on the race course and I couldn't even tell you how. It hasn't happened to me. I must not be good enough or tolerant enough to be "polished." I would, however, advise that if a young sailor has reached that level and is being invited to graduate, jump in with both feet and let the fleet do their thing and find the diamond within.

Once upon a time, I blogged about
A Father’s Gift of Sailing. The transition I’ve seen several times still puzzles me as to how it happens but maybe what happened this weekend with Doug is how it begins.


  1. I hope somebody warned the junior about his Rule 42 issue before protesting him. When I used to be a junior regatta organizer in NJ we could usually straighten the kids out with a quiet word.

    I have also been involved in a Rule 42 protest - as a protest committee member filed against two adult sailors in Laser frostbiting. The fleet captain protested them as he wished to maintain the standards of fair sailing in the fleet. We ruled against both of them, and we never had any more trouble in that fleet.

    1. There was no warning in this race but my understanding is that it was an ongoing issue that needed to be addressed.

      And well done on your Rule 42 protest. The racing is sooo much more fun when everyone is playing by the same rules.

  2. I am by no means a 'rules guy', but aren't there two issues:
    1. 42.2 (e): repeated tacks or gybes unrelated to changes in the wind...
    2. 42.3 (b): just after the tack or gybe, the boat's speed should not be greater than it would have been in the absence of the tack or gybe

    Whether the protestee gained or not, is not in the rules, I think (!)


    1. You are 100% correct, and both rules were explained to the jury. For everyone's benefit, the 'I did not gain' defense needs to be struck down.

    2. Dead right Doug/ Pam. The "I did not gain" excuse is widely used as a reason not to to do penalty turns for all sorts of rule infringements. There is no basis for it in the actual Rules.

  3. Hello everyone on this blog. I am a Full rig sailor that was at the event. Whether or not the junior broke rule is not the issue. The issue that I saw at this event was the improper handling of the situation on the witnesses part. As I was rigging my boat Sunday morning, I heard the exchange of words on both sides. It started when a junior in the Radial fleet went up to the junior in the Full rig fleet and asked how the protest went. The junior of the protest then stated the verdict of the hearing to the other junior sailor. The witness barged in on the conversation that the two juniors were having, describing the verdict as "bullshit" and that the junior was indeed coming out with more speed from the gybes. He then further stated that the coach of the junior was "terrible" and unfit to coach. The way in which the witness handled the situation was rude and unprofessional. I have much respect for the junior just stating in return that if the witness would like to talk about this further he would have to talk to his parents and coach.

    This is what I observed from this situation.

    1. Thank you for your observations and for being a friend to the junior who clearly wasn't ready for Doug's brand of polishing. Thank goodness Doug isn't a professional sailor and doesn't make a living from sailing. No, he is just an old fart who has seen this Rule 42 issue create problems for US sailors for decades. He has seen several generations of juniors work their way into the adult fleets and the resulting Rule 42 controversy that follows. At age 66, having sailed the Laser for almost 40 years, he certainly has had some time to try out different approaches when it comes to juniors and for whatever reason, when it comes to Rule 42, he has decided that taking a hard line produces the best result for all concerned. Might not be the popular thing to do but he's earned the right to chose his own methods and who's to say it doesn't work. He is respected among his peers, other old farts around the world, so he really doesn't having a problem doing the unpopular thing locally because in his mind it was the right thing to do. Maybe when you're 66 you'll agree with him ... or not.

    2. Absolutely. Once you are over 65 you are as GRANDmaster and you can act any way you want. You can be a kindly old uncle figure but most of us choose to be grumpy old geezers because it's more fun. I have zero sympathy with coaches who teach junior sailors how to cheat. And don't even get me started on the topic of Mommy Boats.


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