Monday, May 12, 2008

I See Stupid People

A learning experience for our group writing project via email from IC...

I am a high school sailor from up in Maine. While I do race Lasers a lot in the summer, it's 4twinkie season for me right now. While I'm sure I, as with most seasoned sailors, could write a book on our learning experiences, there is one experience (yesterday, in fact) that jumped off the top of my head.

So I was at a high school regatta yesterday, the second of a two-day regatta. On the first day I was posting top-5 finishes with the exception of two races, which were in the back third of the fleet because of two ridiculously blatant fouls at the start. I get off the water on Saturday and find out that those two bad finishes have dropped me down to 8th, certainly not where most of my finishes had been. Sunday comes, and I'm mad. Those darn other boats keep fouling me! I'm not letting that happen today- I'm going to protest foulers!

Well, Sunday didn't go well. I didn't sail as well, and was fouled some more. One instance in particular really irked me: I was about to round the windward mark in 2nd, and the 1st place boat stalled out, stopped, tacked, and forced me to gybe around and go at the mark again. And he was still there, clogging up the layline! and if that weren't bad enough, at the leeward mark in the same race the same boat (we were now in the back half of the fleet after that little incident) sailed 2 lengths past the mark before rounding, forcing me way outside and letting 3 other boats in on top of us. I vowed to take it to the protest room.

Both my protests were dismissed. Turns out, on Saturday they both wouldn't have been, but by Sunday the protest committee was fed up with protests and looking for reasons to dismiss them. One they decided was "iffy" (the sailing-past-the-mark issue) and they said the other boat didn't sail enough past the mark to constitute a foul. Ya, okay. Then the other incident there was a procedural issue, my fault, but the committee said I would have won if it had gone through.

So here's the learning experience (bet you thought I'd forgotten that part in all my bitching, didn't you?): first of all, protest committees never do anything good for you. Even if you win, you can't get redress for a foul at the start that puts you in the 3rd row. There's just no way to make up for it. And people are going to do stupid things on the racecourse. Incredibly stupid, idiotic, blind-sighted, pointless things that you would never expect any decent sailor to do. And whenever those people do those stupid things, if you're involved at all, it's a lose-lose situation. No matter what. And if you keep getting involved in them, even if you're right every single time (I totally was ;)), your bottom-third finishes start to look ugly next to your top-5 finishes and you find yourself closer to the middle of the fleet, through no fault of your own. So my lesson from this weekend? Learn to think far enough ahead to avoid stupid people and the stupid situations they create entirely, before you find yourself in the thick of them.


Tillerman said...

This lesson is so true. One thing I noticed sailing Sunfish on the lakes in New Jersey was that the top sailors weren't just fast, but they were never ever ever in trouble with other sailors. They avoided the stupid people (like me).

Litoralis said...

Sounds like Tacticat/SAILX.

Derek said...

Depending on the importance of the event, I think you often find that sailors who are consistently near the front want to avoid issues. Particularly early in a series or race, rather than being short sighted and playing with the one boat in front of you or the one boat behind you, focus on the bigger picture.

If you are near the front at mark 1, let the other boats mess with one another and lose ground - often boats in a group will only move as fast as the slowest boat in the group. Your objective is preserve a good race and give yourself a chance to win the race or series later on. However, when going for the race victory you need to weigh the risk; winning the series rarely requires you to win all (or even one) of the races, consistency pays in the long run.

Later in a race or series, bigger risks or more aggressive actions might be justified because you may determine that only one or two boats are truly competition for the overall victory. Or if you stayed out of trouble and extended during the race, a risk that might cost you two boat lengths towards the end of a race could result in no loss of boats. However, if you did a similar thing at the start of a race you will be likely to find yourself at or near the back.

The long and short of it is that it is better to stay out of trouble, and definitely more fun. Isn't "fun" what it is really about?

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