Good humans needed for Sailing

Published on July 23rd, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The Nextdoor app seeks to keep residents informed of the latest in their neighborhood and help build stronger communities around the world, and while I see some of that, I also see people with a lot of time on their hands commenting on their deteriorating communities.

A favorite topic is kids on their electric bikes as these rides seem to have empowered the mischief of this age-range. They can certainly escape faster, but the comments tend to also get directed at the poor parenting of this upcoming generation.

Raising children these days has become quite competitive, and while parental involvement has trended pretty high in some categories, it does seem like human decency is not on the upswing. It is all likely connected, and this does not bode well for a largely self-policed sport like Sailing.

In reaction to an incident at the 2023 Etchells World Championship, the Class created a Code of Conduct to reinforce standards that should have been drilled in to children, but perhaps that assumption is no longer safe and this document provides support for the Class to lean on.

However, World Sailing International Judge John Doerr, who is a past chair of the World Sailing Racing Rules Committee and an Olympic Jury, has his reservations. Here he explains:

I totally understand why the Etchells Class have written a Coed of Conduct. However, the only element that is not already included in Racing Rules of Sailing 69 and its associated Cases is the attempt to apply the code to volunteers and professional staff.

I say ‘attempt’ as there is only provision for competitors to acknowledge the code. Most organizations include provisions for the conduct of their staff and volunteers and have their own procedures for managing issues arising of this nature.

The Racing Rules of Sailing, and specifically rule 69, provide full procedures for dealing with misconduct. Reporting, investigating, deciding to call a hearing, the constitution of the deciding panel, the standard of proof, the available penalties, the right of appeal, are all included in rule 69 and are supported by a detailed guide for the application of the rule. Almost none of these appear in this Code of Conduct.

So, in my opinion, while well-intended, the Code just muddles the waters at best and confuses the role of rule 69. A statement that there has been unacceptable behavior and the Class intend to ensure that rule 69 is used in the future, and will appoint members of protest committees that will not avoid using rule 69 when appropriate, would be more effective.

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