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The brochure

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 8 Nov 2021 21:00 NZDT
Sam Haynes' TP 52 Celestial © Bow Caddy Media

This one image from Crosbie and Dale Lorimer started the thought. They were out on Sydney Harbour for the start of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Flinders Islet race on the weekend. I had a smile. It was a bit wry, for sure, but still a decent smile, none the less. One thing is definite, however, and that is that it certainly wasn't a smirk.

After so long being cooped up, it seemed like Huey had tapped all sailors participating in the race on both of their shoulders with a magic wand. Blessed. I mean it does not get a lot better. Sun. Enough wind to have the tail on the rail. No moguls or speed humps, just the odd bobby thing that was so benign it could not even put water on the foredeck. Cracked sheets once out of the Heads, and even a few shy Bags for the latter part of the fleet. Hardly any Party Pants on display, and smocks were even more challenging to find. Watch it below...

All in all I seemed to think that every now and then it does actually come to pass that the weather portrayed in the brochure is not only possible, but does really occur... Like WOW! Who would have thought, huh? So many times whilst you clipped the kite gear up you wondered, 'Am I going to actually use this?', or 'Just how bad a beating are we going take?', let alone, 'I am sure the kerosene canary is a far better way to do this!'

Of course the exclamation mark was well and truly planted after I'd got through flicking the pages of said brochure, for once the fleet was back, and all tucked nicely away, heaps of rain and plenty of squirt arrived. Nice. That's what I call timing. Let's hope the gifts placed at the feet of Huey, and the incense was to his liking, for come 1000hrs next Saturday it's back on, when the fleet heads out for the Bird Island Race, and wouldn't it be nice if they could enjoy the same again. After all, it says so in the brochure, right?

Well said that man.

We received a note. Both our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine, and I were quite impressed. Yes, for sure we get plenty of notes, for which we are truly thankful, but clearly some thought had gone into it, and the sentiment was as accurate, as it was profound. So much so, that we elected to publish it here, for every dog has its day, and you don't get to win unless you do many things correctly, and eliminate far more poorly implanted things from your day out.

So, thank you, Morten Jakobsen of Thailand, for your efforts below, which you netitled, 'Unfair handicap', or 'Well done!'

Coming from a background in Lasers, and other one design craft, it has been a bit of a change to enter the world of handicap racing. I have a few suggestions, which could perhaps help us all to enjoy our racing a bit more.

When one design fleets race, it is a common practice to recognise the effort of the race winners. So many participants make the effort to sail by after the finish and say something like 'well sailed' to the winner. It is a sport most participants do for the love of it, and recognising others' good efforts, even if is between racers lower in the results, costs nothing, and makes it more likely that they will come and play again on the water.

In contrast, sailors under handicap rules often behave very differently. At times it seems that the highest praise the sailors under this system can get is that their competitors complain behind their back, without providing evidence, that they 'clearly' are cheating on the handicap, and the win was stolen.

Another common complaint is that the conditions totally favoured the other boat, so a win was inevitable. I don't find this a reasonable complaint either, as a great part of being a successful racer under handicap is to pick a boat that is suitable for the expected conditions, and perhaps optimise it further. Another key part is to fight to get reasonable results when the conditions are unfavourable.

There are people who recognise these issues. For example, we met the Chinese skipper of, Kata Rocks, at the prize-giving of the last King's Cup. They were the runners up. Now, rather than complaining over the clear differences in favoured conditions between a 3/4 tonner optimised for light wind, and a boat which loves the opposite conditions, he congratulated us on the win, and said they noted that we had made very few mistakes over the weeklong event in mixed conditions.

So can this good sportsmanship be replicated more generally in handicap racing? Could we perhaps have a code of behaviour at handicap racing which includes:

  • No bickering over handicap numbers without proof. Either put in a formal protest or stay silent. (Could this be a rule 2 / sportsmanship infringement?)
  • No complaining over weather conditions favouring other boats; every dog has it day.
  • Remember to recognise the likely winner after each race. The reward comes the first time your competitors reciprocate.
And a bit of analysis after each event is also good idea. Whilst complaining over other boats does not help, it is productive to ask yourself:
  • Were your sails and sail-trim as good as the event winner?
  • Were your starts as good, or did the winner habitually cross in front first time you met?
  • Did you get the tactics and strategy right as often as the winner?
  • Could your team have beaten the winners if both sailed in the same one design class?
  • Is your boat suitable for the prevailing conditions and optimised to the rating rule.
Working on improving your weak spots is far more beneficial than moaning over the winner in the long term.

Have fun and keep racing - Over and out.

By way of reference, the author's sailing CV includes 40 years of racing, an Asia Pacific Laser Championship, over 10 Thai mono and multihull championships, and two King's Cup monohull wins as skipper. He's now also an occasional race coach. We also not that like many people, Morten uses the word handicap to describe a rating under a measurement rule, and we have left the author's words as delivered. This text is not referring to arbitrary numbers placed against craft and crew for a season or event, like PHS or EHS.

Please avail yourself of the plethora of information on the group's sites when you can.

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Finally, many thanks for making Sail-World your go-to choice. We're always here to keep pumping out the news. Stay safe, and enjoy your time on the water.

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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