Truth About Distance

Published on October 17th, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Being the Curmudgeon comes with responsibility, which occasionally means you need to stand up on a box and yell, “Stop confusing the planet.” This rant is directed at any distance race that struggles with the truth about distance.

In fairness, I think there are times that people just struggle with the difference between miles and nautical miles. There is a big difference, and some time ago we needed to bring it to the attention of the Chicago Mackinac Race.

Race organizers had a habit of calling itself “the world’s longest annual freshwater distance race”, except it wasn’t. They would refer to their race in miles, as in 333 miles. However, that converts to 289 nautical miles, which was less than another race in the Great Lakes. Now the Chi-Mac refers to itself as “the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world“. Victory.

There are other times, when referring to race distance, clever writers are just trying to simplify the plot. Saying miles is a lot simpler than saying nautical miles. Most people know about miles. We drive them. We walk them. Most people have no clue about nautical miles.

However, the sport we are discussing is sailing, and the distance reference that matters is nautical miles. So whenever I read about a race that references miles, my bullsh#t warning light comes on. That happened when the Volvo Ocean Race was stating how the “600-mile Fastnet Race” would be a qualifier for their 2017-18 edition.

But 600 miles converts to 521 nautical miles, and the infamous Fastnet Race in the UK is 603 nautical miles. So there is a difference.

When discussing distance races, distance is one of the most vital references to communicate. Let’s do it right… rant over.


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