Beware of the Hot Tub Time Machine

Published on November 26th, 2018

The concept of one design racing is about minimizing the variables so competition is a pure test of skill. Each class determines the degree at which they want to level the playing field, with one of the speed factors being crew weight

Some classes don’t have a weight limit and prefer to allow the boat and venue wind conditions determine what is needed. This is the simplest approach but opens the door for teams to change crew for the conditions. This can be disruptive to those teams that like sailing with certain people, thus impacting participation at venues with extreme conditions.

To keep teams sailing with the same people regardless of venue, class rules come up with a reasonable maximum total crew weight. However, this requires an additional measurement step at championship events to weigh the crew, and that’s where problems occur.

There are three basic approaches to crew weigh in:
• Check all crew weight before the regatta only.
• Check all crew weight before the regatta and mid-regatta.
• Check all crew weight before the regatta with random checks during the regatta.

The Melges 24 Class, which has a maximum crew weight, recently changed their approach. Alan Field, who was second at the 2018 Melges 24 Worlds, offers these thoughts on the change:


I feel as though the Class is participating in a remake of the movie, “Hot Tub Time Machine.” For those who have not seen the movie… when you step into the hot tub you’d get transported back in time.

A bit of history is needed here. Some years back, the Melges 24 Class decided to up the maximum crew weight and change the weigh-in procedures to include random checks due to health and regatta fun factors. The Class determined that the then current system of one time weigh-ins before the regatta encouraged unhealthy crash dieting and dehydration by the teams to meet Class weight limits.

That “Dip” method lead to many teams not enjoying the days leading up to the regatta and often teammates feeling ill with diet/dehydration hangover symptoms for the first day of racing. Many teams complained it was too hard to control the weight while traveling to regattas (too many fast-food restaurants) as well as not being able to enjoy pre-regatta parties.

So, in order to discourage teams from practicing that unhealthy “Dip” method, the Class voted to increase the maximum crew weight by 20 kilos. That change allowed all existing teams to forgo their dieting/dehydration dance before the regatta and weigh in at their normal healthy walking around weights. And to further ensure that all teams not play the “Dip” game anymore, they then also required a random weigh-in during the regatta.

Problem solved… but not according to recent thinking as the Class recently decided to remove the stipulation for random crew weight checks during the regatta.

Now, even with the increase in weight, evidently not everyone got the memo, so in order to gain an advantage some teams just increased everyone’s target weight and continued to play the game by the old rule. They then complained and got the Class to drop the random weigh-in portion of the new rule, stating that “they could not enjoy the parties due to weight concerns.”

Somebody please help me out of the Hot Tub as I starting to feel ill again….


Comment: Having competed in classes which have not had limits, and those which have utilized the various crew weight approaches, I can say each option has its pros and cons. If classes have weight limits, then odds are it is an advantage to be at max weight, and how a class manages it depends on how the sailors approach the rule. – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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