Sorry, but this is a bridge too far

Published on January 27th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I’ve been an advocate for the 470 Class being in the Olympics. It’s a classic, technical dinghy that delivers performance, and because of its maneuverability and symmetrical spinnaker, tactics include reacting to wind shifts and not simply blazing to a side of the course.

However, the sailors and Class Rules are losing my love.

It begins with the Class permitting all forms of pumping, rocking, and ooching in winds over 8 knots. Rules like this occur when a Class culture allows the sailors to push limits hard, nobody protests, and there aren’t course judges to stop Rule 42 violations.

But really… 8 knots?

With the gloves off, the skill of upwind air humping was developed which finds the crew on the trapeze, thrusting their groin up and down to pump the mast and sails. Off the start line, with the amount of humping, it’s more brothel than boat race.

However, what’s going on downwind now has put me over the edge.

Offwind sailing is now a rock-fest, with full rolling of the boat back and forth to increase propulsion. Yes, they still gybe on shifts, but boat speed is king, and the activity in the boat is manic.

I understand this to be a recent class development, and as simple as it sounds to rock like mad, it’s hard to do well, which was well illustrated in the Medal Race of 2020 World Cup Series Miami.

Japan rounded the final upwind mark in the lead, ahead of the Spanish team by seven seconds, with one remaining downwind leg to the finish. No other team was close, allowing the Spaniards to show the world they are the rocking kings.

The Japanese could only watch as the Spanish flew by, winning by 15 seconds in a display of athleticism and skill that I hope never occurs elsewhere in recreational sailing.

As impressive as it was, and I give my full respect to the sailors for learning how to sail the boats within the rules, but they’ve lost my advocacy.

I got into sailing to use the wind and water to compete, to shape the sails for speed, give a pump or roll to catch a wave, but not for frenzied actions. There’s other sports for that, and these techniques are participation killers for all that can’t do it. Call me old, but this is now a bridge too far.

Judge for yourself… here’s video coverage of the Miami Medal Race downwind leg.

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