Keeping the big picture in focus

Published on November 2nd, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Despite the perception of year-round sailing in Southern California, the beginning of November in California is a good time to pursue off the water activities. The winds tend to be weak, unless there is a storm, and those don’t occur often. Sorry… that part is true.

But there I was, a year ago competing in a particularly painful pursuit start race. Light air reaching and running is a weak point for our Alerion 28, and this 12 nm random leg course had a lot of it.

As we approached the last turning mark before the final leg toward the harbor finish, the Race Committee was on station, having shortened the course at the mark. With the harbor glassed off and an adverse tide, finishing was unlikely for our end of the fleet.

While the decision earned some grief from those ahead of us and able to finish, and required math skills to re-score a race based on the pre-defined course distance, we were appreciative. After a long afternoon, with no chance of success, battling an occasional thought of quitting, all we wanted to do was finish, and the shortened course allowed that.

This race comes to mind when considering the actions of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, in which the Royal Malta Yacht Club Race Committee chose to invoke an alternative finish line as per the sailing instructions, despite the bulk of the fleet having already finished.

With a formidable weather system possibly making the harbor entrance too dangerous, preventing the back end of the fleet from reaching the inside finish, the decision shortened the 606nm course by 13 nm, completing the race at coordinates in which all earlier boats had crossed and recorded their time.

There has been a lot of discussion about the appropriateness of this decision, particularly as the rescored race changed the provisional standings, dropping the JPK 1180 Sunrise from the overall lead to second behind the VPLP/Verdier designed 100 foot racing maxi Comanche.

While the purpose of racing is to create results, not everyone wins, and if there is insufficient value for the rest to participate, they won’t. George Greer (USA), who was racing his Arcona 380 Kiboko Tatu, shares his view:

“I am owner of one of the under 40-foot boats that finished at the new finish line. I am also new to ocean racing so perhaps a bit naïve, but I was pleased that the race committee made the decision to shorten the course based on concerns for safety of the boats that has not yet finished.

“While it is unfortunate that this change had an impact on the overall race outcome, I’m surprised at the backlash against this decision and the casting of it as something malicious. So while I do feel badly for Sunrise, I fully support the decision and am sorry to see the level of cynicism from a number of those opposed.”

Take away the finish and what’s the point of starting?

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