The Right Call in Ho­bart

SAIL - - Under Sail - By Adam Cort

There are few things out there that’ll ruin any game faster than not fol­low­ing the rules. Not only that, but when it comes to a game like sail­boat rac­ing, not fol­low­ing the rules can also get peo­ple hurt, or even killed.

I found my­self think­ing these thoughts while re­view­ing video of the port-star­board in­ci­dent be­tween Wild Oats XI and LDV Co­manche shortly after the start of last De­cem­ber’s Rolex Syd­ney Ho­bart Race. In the end, Wild Oats XI was pe­nal­ized 60 min­utes for not ad­e­quately giv­ing way, which in turn, caused the team to for­feit both its dra­matic come-from-be­hind line-hon­ors victory over LDV Co­manche and a new race record. This, of course, elicited a storm of wail­ing and gnash­ing of teeth, in­clud­ing ap­par­ently by at least one mem­ber of the Wild Oats XI’s crew—although not, I’m happy to re­port, by the boat’s long­time skip­per, Mark Richards, who said he re­spected the jury’s de­ci­sion.

Still, what I want to know is, what ex­actly are these com­plain­ers think­ing? And for that mat­ter, why did Richards and the rest of the Wild Oats XI crew ever al­low things to get that close in the first place? These are, after all, mas­sively pow­er­ful boats fully ca­pa­ble of be­ing tick­eted for speed­ing in a typ­i­cal res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood. They’re re­mark­ably nim­ble for their size, but not that nim­ble. We’re not talk­ing col­le­giate 420s here.

I get it, you want to be com­pet­i­tive, but there’s all the dif­fer­ence in the world be­tween be­ing ag­gres­sive and reck­less. When in doubt, get the hell out of there. Even when rac­ing in­shore, a sin­gle tack or wind­ward-lee­ward sit­u­a­tion isn’t go­ing to

make an en­tire re­gatta.

Un­for­tu­nately, in to­day’s “ex­treme” sports en­vi­ron­ment, there are all too many who be­lieve that if you don’t have on ei­ther a hel­met, Kevlar body ar­mor or ski gog­gles you aren’t tak­ing things se­ri­ously. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s OK to be wan­tonly dan­ger­ous. You get caught push­ing your luck too far and things don’t go your way in the com­mit­tee room af­ter­ward, that’s too damn bad. Be a sport about it, take your lumps, the way Richards did. And if it causes you to lose the race, the re­gatta or a line­honors record, well maybe you’ll be a bit more care­ful next time around.

I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber a heavy-air race in Chicago when a 40ft PHRF boat ab­so­lutely re­fused to give way after get­ting caught early at the line. I’m sure the skip­per thought he was sim­ply giv­ing it his all as he went reach­ing to­ward the pin end ac­com­pa­nied by a cho­rus of an­gry bow­men to lee­ward—at least un­til he was hit by a right-of-way boat that hadn’t seen him com­ing in the melee.

To all those who think Wild Oats XI was judged too harshly, this is sail­ing, not Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing. Again, when in doubt, get the hell out of there be­fore it’s too late, and live to fight an­other day.

As for LDV Co­manche’s line-hon­ors victory, not only did she come by it fair-and-square, her victory was as honor­able as any victory out there—not just be­cause she’s a hell of a fast boat with a hell of a crew, but be­cause she played by the rules. For com­plete re­sults, go to rolexsyd­ney­ho­

A se­ries of video stills shows just how close it was; note how LDV Co­manche is forced to luff up in the fi­nal frame to avoid hit­ting Wild Oats XI’s tran­som

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