Sunday, February 28, 2016

And then it happened!

Only last Wednesday I wrote about Room at a Mark while Team Racing. On Saturday it happened. Two incidents that illustrated the way that the culture operates and how it needs to change.

In one incident at mark 4 a boat with no right to room came inside another boat who protested. I penalised the inside boat and was told that it was a stupid decision, there was no contact and no way was he taking his turns. So he ended up black flagged, disqualified and docked an additional half a race win for dissent.

The problem was that he was correct, there had been no collision and the outside boat had not come up and hit him, and I will never know why the outside boat did not come up. However, there was no doubt in my mind that the outside boat could, and should,  have come up but there was not the space to do so because of the presence of the inside boat. Therefore, the inside boat had infringed 18.2(b) and that is the reason he was penalised. The outside boat acted quite properly in not coming up and forcing a collision but protesting.

In another incident at mark 3 a boat with no right to room tried gybing inside another boat. It wasn't a particularly good gybe but the outside boat came up anyway and the boats locked together with the inside boat practically capsized on the outside one which was pushed over over and filled with water. The inside boat received a penalty, but was able to complete that and then get ahead of the outside boat going up the final beat because the outside boat had filed with water during the incident and was still waterlogged on the last beat. The inside boat sought redress. Redress was refused because there was no physical damage.  It was also possible that had she avoided the contact she would not have filled with water, so there was little sympathy for her case - not that this has anything to do with the rules or the decision.

The problem is that boats will chance going inside, and they are entitled to do so "at their own risk" but just because there is no collision does not mean that they do not infringe by doing so. My interpretation is that if the other boat could have used the space they are occupying then they have infringed. It is only if the outside boat was unable to get to that space or use it, while sailing a proper course, that they are in the clear.

The outside boat has to be in a position to use the space that the inside boat is occupying, and there were incidents where protests were dismissed because the outside boat couldn't get anywhere near the boat risking the inside path but the idea that there has to be contact is what needs to change. Deprive the outside boat of Room and you should be penalised, if they were entitled to that Room.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Talking of Culture

There were a couple of new Team Racing Rapid Response calls published on the World Sailing site recently.

One to the effect that if two boats overlapped at the zone attempt to push inside a boat that got to the mark infront of them and over which they have no room then both boats should get penalised. The other said that if the inside boat pulls out and has to do a turn in order to get round the mark then this is not a penalty and so the incident stays "live" and a boat can be penalised.

Much of the idea is to discourage boats from barging in and crashing together - keeping the sport as a non-contact activity. However, for Fireflies and students sailing in the UK this requires a massive cultural shift.

It lead to discussions as to whether every contact should be black flagged - as there is the possibility of a penalty under Rule 14, if there is damage. However, the thinking was that there is no time limit on the black flag - so a penalty can be imposed when the damage is discovered - which will be after the race. That begs the question of what sort of penalty and opinion seemed to be that half a race win would be appropriate. I don't think that this is going to be popular but how else do we prevent boats being trashed?

Safety as a Culture

I spent almost thirty years running the School Sailing Base at Farmoor, Oxford. We were regularly inspected by AALA and I never really understood what the inspector meant when he said "I'm not really worried because you have a culture of safety here"

I am now retired and have moved to South Wales. I now understand what he meant. The organisations I am now involved with do not have The Culture. What has really surprised me, and prompted this article is the way in which I now find that I don't care as much about safety. I find myself in a situation where I can cut a corner and it is only a little less safe. In the past I would have waited and done it safely. Now, I can't be bothered it's not unsafe - no one else cares, so I get on with it.

So where does it start - with the paperwork. These organisations have the paperwork - but the operators aren't aware of the requirements. No one actually speaks to anyone about the things the paperwork requires - and if they do the attitude is either don't worry about it or it doesn't matter. And there are reams of paperwork and requirements all very properly in place but meaningless.

Then there is the willingness to act. No one is prepared to actually make an unpopular decision. Someone gets it wrong and it is just "one of those things" No one confronts the person and suggests further training or perhaps not taking on at particular role in future. Similarly, noticing a problem are they prepared to do the work to correct the situation or do they just report it and do nothing, including not worrying when nothing is done despite the report.

Then there are the little things that must be done the way they say - even when it is impractical. eg Petrol must not be stored on site. The gates must be kept locked - that the emergency services would not find it easy to attend doesn't matter. No listening, no flexibility - just this regulation must be complied with, just a few random regulations.
So now I understand what he meant by culture. What I don't understand is how you change a culture - but then does the culture encourage me to even try?

Originally published on the NSSA Website but I don't think it was sufficiently "Child Friendly"