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SCUTTLEBUTT #233 -- December 9, 1998

When I found out that NBC was doing a show about sailboat racing, I simply could not leave town without letting you know about it. And as long I was going to issue a "Bonus 'Butt" there was no reason not to include a couple of other items. And now I'm off to the airport to catch my 'red eye' to St. Thomas for the Marriott Frenchman's Reef International Match Race series.

Dateline NBC, the Emmy Award-winning television news program, will air a lengthy story on Around Alone 1998-99 tomorrow - Wednesday, 9 December - during the program's evening broadcast (check local listings for time and station).

The story will focus on the race, communication with the fleet, and the web site, and how all this technology is used for the safety of the skippers and for keeping the media and the general public informed about the race. Using Viktor Yazykov's self-surgery as an example, the story will elaborate on the drama that unfolded and how the race's safety and communications equipment and partnerships helped Viktor through and people abreast of this ordeal.

Crews from Dateline visited Cape Town to talk with Viktor, Boston to talk with Dr. Carlin of the World Clinic, San Francisco to talk with representatives from Quokka Sports, and Charleston to film at the Race Operations Center and to talk with COMSAT personnel. - Dan Miller

I followed the recent ISAF conference via the daily web reports. The November 6th report at URL: says that US Sailing's, "...Tom Ehman and Pease Glaser ... had [a submission on changing racing rules regarding "hunting"] ...removed from the block voting of the [Racing Rules Committee] recommendation to the council. And when it was voted upon separately had spoken eloquently and strongly about the possibility of collisions that might occur if the rule was to be retained in its present status. The vote of the Council was 14 for rejecting any change, and 14 (including President Paul Henderson) against with 9 abstentions."

It is my understanding that following the tie vote on the hunting issue at the council, the matter has been referred back to the ISAF Racing Rules Committee. Since this issue remains unresolved, and will be reviewed by the ISAF Rules Committee, now is as good a time as any for sailors to discuss what they want, and comment to ISAF and their national sailing authority.

The current rule allows a starboard tack yacht to "hunt" a port tack yacht by altering course towards the port tack yacht, provided starboard (ROW) leaves enough room for port to escape. The row yacht is limited by Rule 16, which reads:

"16 CHANGING COURSE When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear."

Two definitions are needed:

"Room -- The space a boat needs in the existing conditions while manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way."

"Keep Clear -- One boat keeps clear of another if the other can sail her course with no need to take avoiding action and, when the boats are overlapped on the same tack, if the leeward boat could change course without immediately making contact with the windward boat."

This is a distinct change from the racing rules of sailing prior to 1997, when starboard (ROW) was more constrained in altering course to make port's life more difficult once port was altering course to avoid starboard. Obviously, port was still required to keep clear, but did not have to expect that starboard would maneuver to make that more difficult, while port was altering course to avoid starboard.

This rule change has led to hunting in high speed planing dinghies, with closing speeds in excess of 15 knots. The resulting maneuvers can be quite dangerous. Imagine a port tack dinghy bearing off to duck a starboard, and accelerating as it bears off. Starboard bears off - and accelerates - to hunt port, and force port to make a further alteration in course. Within the limits of "manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way" (whatever that means exactly), port has to respond, presumably by bearing off rapidly to avoid starboard. The current rule results in close calls, collisions, and protests to argue whether a maneuver was "manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way". The old rule limited ROW's ability to alter course, and made it possible for the burdended yacht to avoid the ROW yacht without having to consider that the ROW yacht could alter course forcing the burdened yacht to make further rapid alternations of course to avoid collision.

I have read arguments claiming that starboard tack yachts hunting port tack yachts will not normally happen in fleet racing, as the starboard tack yacht loses distance on all other competitors. While I agree that I have not seen much hunting in my racing, I believe that is rather more due to the competitors not being comfortable with the implications of hunting, rather than it not being an advantage to the right-of-way yacht. I believe that I could easily develop a technique of "initiating a hunt" whenever a port tacker was within range..a maneuver designed to scare the port tacker into a crash tack, a very fast bear away and duck, or some other rushed maneuver. This technique would require only a slightly larger alteration of course than I might make when normally planing over or around waves upwind, such that I am losing negligible distance to windward with respect to the rest of the fleet. I expect I could push most port tacker into losing significantly more distance than I do, as they have to rush their response, and will not know how far I will take my maneuver, so have to overcompensate. Consider that high performance dinghies are typically planing upwind at considerable speed, and can easily make a substantial alteration of course - perhaps in excess of 30 degrees - in under one second, if the sailors are prepared to do so.

If successful, such a technique would make sailing on port tack in a large fleet a harrowing experience. In the 100+ boat fleets my class sometimes gets for major events, competitors would have far fewer opportunities to tack to port on first beats, fundamentally altering the tactics of upwind racing early in the race.

I have not developed or tried to use the above technique because I do not have the stomach for it. That is not what I want my racing to become. I suspect most other high performance dinghy sailors are not comfortable with hunting as currently allowed by the Racing Rules of Sailing. Quite apart from the possibility of high speed collisions resulting in injuries and significant damage, I can just imagine the protests over burdened yachts not altering course enough to satisfy the right-of-way yacht, and burdened yachts claiming the right-of-way yacht went too far and did not give them the room to avoid a collision, or forced them to capsize in efforts to avoid a collision.

As I understand it, the rules were originally created to reduce contact by making it clear which yacht had the right-of-way in any possible situation on the water. The burdened yacht was responsible for avoiding the right-of-way yacht, but this task was made easier by limiting the right-of-way's yacht to alter course so as to make the burdened yacht's task more difficult (I realize that the text - and therefore the exact requirements placed on each yacht - has changed over the years. Also, the old luffing rule was an exception, as leeward (ROW) was not constrained, except by "mast abeam").

Writing a rule which allows the right-of-way yacht to "play chicken" with the burdened yacht which is trying to avoid them is contrary to the above. I also believe it is contrary to what we want racing to be.

Consider a newcomer to dinghy racing learning that not only do they have to sail the boat, but they have to be prepared for every starboard tack yacht they come near to forcing them to make a rapid alteration of course to avoid a collision. I do not looking forward to explaining to sailing/racing newcomers that that is the way the sailing game is played.
-- Ali Meller


In September, Nick Trotman and Mike Mills were winning the 505 Worlds on the East Coast, while the ULDB 70 Taxi Dancer owned by Don Hughes and RP Richards was winning the Sled Class at the Big Boat Series in San Francisco. There is a lot of difference between a Reichel-Pugh 70 and a 505but there was one common thread. Both boats had a full inventory of Ullman Sails. This is a great time for you to improve the performance of your boat--the winter discounts still apply:

Letters may be edited for space (250 words max) or clarity or to exclude personal attacks.

>> From Alistair Murray, Australia -- G'day Tom, I have been fascinated to read your Scuttlebutt and the content leads me to suggest that you and your readers simply have to attend our first ever International Sailing Summit. It will be HUGE! And any surplus generated from the Sailing Summit will be directed to a Boating Industry Fund for promoting junior sailing.

Why? To get the world leaders in the sport and the industry together to begin to come up with an action plan to promote sailing and increase participation levels.

When & Where? Jan 19 and 20 in Melbourne, Australia. Immediately following the '99 Worlds which is the largest regatta ever held in the Southern Hempisphere. 14 World Championships, 7 of which are Olympic classes.

Who? A star studded cast, including Randy Repass (West Marine), Buddy Melges (no intro necessary), Hans Fogh, Paul Henderson (ISAF President), Frank and Julian Bethwaite, to name a few.

Topics? Include entry level sailing, the state of the industry, sponsorship, marketing on the internet, major events, class, club and event management, coaching.

How Much? Only $350 Australian dollars for 2 day conference including dinner. That's only about USD220 (plus accommodation and airfare of course.)

Who to Contact? The Boating Industry Association onax 61 3 9328 4898 or email

What Are You Looking At?

Upwind and down, your eyes are the most immediate source of critical data. Exercising a rhythm when gathering data will keep all the pertinent information flowing as needed. As you sail upwind check these areas one by one in succession, when you get done start all over again. The actual order is up to you, but discipline yourself to check in on all the areas. Your eyes should be constantly on the move.

UPWIND 1) Luff of jib, check the telltales and keep them flowing. If you're fast maybe burn a little by pinching just a touch, if your feeling sluggish (the boat that is) then foot just a bit.

2) The Horizon; cross checking the angle of heel with the feel of the boat will keep you going fast. Every boat's taste for heel is different, learn what is fast for yours and maintain it with body weight, steering and sail trim.

3) Water; look out for puffs, lulls, flat water and choppy water. Keeping tabs on this information will allow you to make good tactical decisions and will assist you in making slight adjustments to course as you work your way through the waves.

4) Look Up; the leech of the main, make sure it is trimmed to perfection, this is the throttle, work it.

5) Look In; the boom and traveller setting. This should just be a quick check to make certain all is well.

6) Scan; quick check for other boats, right of way boats are one thing, clear air is another.

7) Leech of Jib; if your boat is set-up so you can see it easily from where you are steering, check it out. A telltale 75% of the way up with a window in the main is very handy for checking if the jib has flow.

DOWNWIND 1) Luff of Spinnaker; same as the jib, keep it flowing

2) Horizon; check that angle of heel

3) Water; keep looking for puffs, lulls and waves; this time, however, a quick look over your shoulder will help in assessing the best possibility for the next puff.

4) Look Up; check the mainsail, sheet tension and vang tension to make certain you are keeping that top batten parallel to the boom, adjust that vang to do so.

5) Scan; look for other boats and make certain your air is clear.

-- Submitted by the Coach at

You absolutely must check out Sharon Green's Ultimate Sailing website. Great photos along with some very neat holiday gift suggestions that you can order online. And Sharon promises that if you order by December 18, the goodies will arrive before Christmas:

If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.