While in Australia I noticed that all of the Lasers owned by local Australian sailors had boat names on their transoms. In the USA, and in the UK as far as I can recall, hardly anybody bothers to name their Laser. Strange local custom, I thought.
But apparently it's not just a custom, it's a rule. According to a post on the Laser Forum by Tony B, Yachting Australia in an addendum to the Racing Rules of Sailing has specified that the boat name and number have to be on the transom in letters at least 50mm high and 8mm thick.
TonyB goes on to say, "At most regattas no one really cares, but the measurers have cracked down on it at the Nationals a couple of times. I've never seen them get the calipers out to measure letter thickness though, so I wouldn't worry too much. They normally just want to make sure that the boat name and number are legible from a couple of boat lengths behind, in case someone wants to protest you and can't see the number on your sail."
Hmmm. I guess I kind of understand the advantage of having the sail number on the transom, but it still doesn't explain why they want you to think up a fancy name for a 14 foot long chunk of fiberglass.
Many of the Aussie sailors at the Worlds seemed to have responded to this rule with typical Australian irreverence. I chuckled when I saw "Cheetah" on the race course. But the boat next to mine in the boat park had a name that puzzled me. It was called "The Rich". I asked the owner what it meant.
He explained that he had a friend with a boat named "The Famous". Then when the results were read out after their local club racing, the race officer would announce the place for "the famous Joe Bloggs" or whatever his friend's name was. Apparently my neighbor's wife liked the sound of "the rich Mick Lynch" and had insisted on him naming his boat "The Rich".
But the name I liked best was somewhat longer. It was scrawled with an indelible pen on the Laser's transom and I don't think the letters were 8mm thick. The boat's name was "This Australian rule about boat names is totally ridiculous".