Friday, August 03, 2007

Trick Play

Talking of mind games, one step further (perhaps one step too far) in the mental game of outwitting your opponents is the trick play. By this I mean a move that for a while tricks the opposition into thinking that something is happening which is totally different from what is really happening.

Take for example the "wrong ball play" as shown in this video.

Deceptive? Yes.

Successful? Yes

Unsportsmanlike? Maybe.

My question for you today, is whether some deceptive move along these lines is even possible in sailboat racing. The nearest I can think of is the fake tack when another boat is covering you. But a move in which the opposition essentially stops playing because they think the game is suspended or over, freeing you to make a huge gain against them? It's hard to imagine. My general recall fiasco (shouting, "General Recall!" just after the start when the RC hasn't signalled one) may be similar, but that was a mistake, not a deliberately deceptive play. Although it could be done with malicious intent. Hmmm. Should I?

And my other question is: If someone in sailing pulled a move as audacious as "wrong ball coach" would they be successfully protested under Rule 2... A boat shall compete in compliance with recognized principle of sportsmanship and fair play?


M Squared said...

Does falling off as a competitor crosses behind you to give the impression you can't fetch the mark qualify? It's intended to make the other boat sail farther (beyond the lay line) than they have to.

Pat said...

Each sport, hobby, or profession has its own particular rules and traditions. For example, in the era of fighting sail, a body of tradition governed the flying of "false colors". A ship and captain were excused for flying the flag of another nation as a ruse to escape close inspection. But, firing upon an unsuspecting enemy while flying false colors was generally condemned and would get the deceitful captain regarded as no better than a pirate and in all likelihood beached by his navy.

With the small fleets that I run race committee for, start lines are small enough and competitors are usually within clear hailing and signaling distance. There's no excuse for a competitor to not know whether the r.c. has signalled a recall. The committee boat is not likely to be obscured by other racers for more than a few seconds.

Chit-chat between boats should be confined to mandatory hails and establishing rights and obligations. (Starboard! Tack or Cross? Head up! You're Barging! No Room! Protest! Watch out! No Overlap! I'm on Proper Course!) No horn after the start, no new flags on the signal boat -- ignore the errant competitor until after the race.

A competitor would be rather foolish to take the word of another competitor against the signals or lack of signals from the signal boat, and my r.c. is entirely likely to protest the skipper who broadcast untrue info.

The results, and potential further action, would depend upon evidence and history.

If it was an honest mistake and didn't change race results, maybe it'd be no big deal and the protest hearing would mostly turn into an educational exercise for the benefit of all.

If, say, the same guy who yelled "recall" also had a habit of yelling "port" to intimidate novices with right of way into giving up their rights, and had a history of "bumper boat bashing", abusive yelling, hassling r.c. volunteers, etc., we could easily be looking at a Rule 69 hearing with very careful attention to fulfilling all requirements for conduct of hearings. In parallel, the club board could re-examine that sailor's membership status.

Pat said...

Response to the first comment: obviously under the "no hunting" rule you're in the wrong and in trouble if the competitor was keeping clear by ducking you and then had to alter course to continue to keep clear as a result of your actions.

Otherwise, so long as you give the competitor time and room to stay out of your hair, and other boats and obstacles (right of way boats, continuing obstructions, buoy room, etc.) aren't involved, you have a lot of freedom to maneuver and use your wind shadow and heading to herd the other boat, or pin or cover it, or generally make life miserable for the other skipper.

Aside from the caveats above, the situation m squared described just sounds like good, accepted tactics. It's not your job to help the competitor figure out where his lay line lies.

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