There is a group of old members who think that some of the newer members are breaking rule 42 on a regular basis. The new guys for the most part think that they are just sailing their boats athletically but legally; nowhere does it say you have to sit like a statue in the boat.This whole issue has been rumbling around for years, ever since a new guy joined the club and the old guard thought that he was doing roll tacks that were way to good, not to mention pumping the sail too often and even doing a bit of body pumping to flick the leech. This fellow, let's call him Hurley, is not the only one accused of cheating in this way but the suspicions and accusations seemed to have started with him. He's actually a really nice guy, warm, friendly and easygoing, always willing to help with club activities though perhaps a little forgetful at times. But the grumbling about his sailing style goes on year after year, and nobody brings it to a head.
To try and educate the membership on this topic, during the winter I and another member gave a talk at the club on the illegal propulsion rule and held a discussion with the members on how to deal with it if we saw fellow sailing club members breaking the rule. The general advice was to give the offender a warning first, but if he or she persists, protest him.
Locke and Sayid (not their real names of course) were on race committee for day one of Wednesday night Sunfish racing. Locke is a well-respected senior member of the club, quiet and thoughtful. Sayid is a younger man, well-spoken and friendly, but ruthless on the racecourse. After the first race, Locke called all the racers - about ten of us - over to the committee boat and said that the race committee had seen violations of rule 42 and that this was our last warning.
After the third race, Locke called me over to the committee boat and asked me if I would serve on a protest committee after racing. Uh oh. I could see what was coming. I noticed that Hurley had missed the third and fourth races so when I arrived back at the club after racing and ran into him I asked him what was going on.
"Locke tossed me for doing an awesome roll tack," he explained and said he didn't think it was fair. I explained to Hurley that as we discussed at the winter meeting, the race committee cannot disqualify a sailor for a rule 42 violation. They have to protest him and hold a protest hearing.
"Whatever dude," says Hurley, "he protested me, same difference," and walked off. Hurley's girlfriend Libby, who was listening to our conversation, suggested in something of a sarcastic tone that perhaps we should hold that rule 42 seminar again.
While packing up my boat I was chatting to Michael, one of the other sailors. Michael is one of those guys that everyone likes, partly one suspects because he's a middle of the fleet sailor who rarely presents a threat to any of the top sailors. He was astounded that Hurley had left the course and bagged races 3 and 4 over a stupid thing like this.
I assumed that Hurley had effectively retired from the race in question but apparently not. A protest committee was assembled, Jack and me with Ana-Lucia as the chair. Jack, last year's commodore, is one of the club's natural leaders with a lot of skills useful in a tricky situation. Ana-Lucia is a forceful young woman, quite capable of handling any challenges from male members of the club on and off the water.
Locke and Sayid came over to present the protest that Hurley broke rule 42 in the second race, but Hurley was still messing about near his boat. Ana-Lucia went across to talk to him and then came back and said he refused to attend the meeting.
So Sayid described what happened. Blatant, persistent pumping on the beat as Hurley approached the windward mark in the second race. I asked a question or two about the wind conditions to see if there was any possible explanation for his actions. In the absence of any defense or explanation from Hurley we had little choice but to disqualify him for a breach of rule 42.2(a).
Afterwards I couldn't help pondering what all this meant. Why didn't Hurley just retire from the race, why refuse to attend the protest meeting? Was he sulking? Did he think that Locke was out to get him from day one of the season? Did he believe the protest committee was stacked against him? Is the end of all this rule 42 nonsense at the club or the start of a bitter feud?
All these thoughts were going around in my head as I drove home. The other sailors went off to our usual inn for beer and pizza. When I arrived home, my wife was watching some program on TV with a host of characters and a confusing plot, but my mind was still on the protest and surrounding issues and whether the protest was being argued over again at the inn by all the sailors.
It must have been just before 10 o'clock, while I was half dozing on the sofa in front of the TV, when Michael got hold of a gun and shot Ana-Lucia and Libby and then turned the gun on himself.
Wait. I'm lost.