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.
SAILING ON TELEVISION
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
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
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
GUEST EDITORIAL - by Ali Meller
I followed the recent ISAF conference via the daily web reports. The
November 6th report at URL: http://sailing.org/98november/november6.html
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
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
VIVA LA DIFFERENCE
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 TO THE CURMUDGEON
Letters may be edited for space (250 words max) or clarity or to exclude
>> 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
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
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
TIP O' THE WEEK
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
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 Sailweb.net.
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:
THE CURMUDGEON'S OBSERVATIONS
If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.