A frustrating day and a good question...
Today was one of those frustrating days for sailboat racing. For the competitors... and for the race committee I suspect. First of all there was drizzle and no wind. Then a light northerly set in. We launched. We sailed one race.
Then the wind died. And shifted to eastish. And went patchy. And more shifty. We waited around. After an hour and a half or so the RC sent us in to the shore. It was a long slow sail to the shore. Eventually most of us were towed in.
After a short stay on shore, the RC told us to launch again. Another long slow sail out to the course. By now the wind was from the south but still very light.
One start. A general recall. Eventually the second race started around 4pm under a black flag. There was a right shift but we completed the race. Afterwards there was pizza. And beer I heard, but I never found the beer.
Just one of those days. But during the long wait after the first race, one of my friends made a very interesting (at least to me) comment...
It's always tough for a race officer to make the call as to whether to race in marginal conditions such as we had to today. Is it better to give the the competitors a bad race or no race? A bad race would be one in light shifty winds, with big holes in the wind around the course, unpredictable shifts and puffs, a total crap shoot, one of those races where you just know that some of the good sailors are going to be at the back of the fleet, and some bozo like me is going to be in the top five (woo hoo). That's what it would have been like if we had held some more races in that long wait in the middle of the day.
Of course it depends to an extent on the event. If it's the Olympic Trials, absolutely you want good fair races in reliable winds. There's too much at stake to race in "bad" conditions. But if it's just Wednesday night club racing then maybe most sailors would prefer to get some races, even if the winds are fluky, patchy and unpredictable.
Today was somewhere between those two extremes. New England Laser Masters Championships. A big deal for some guys. For most of the fleet probably their only chance to sail this week.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming the race officer. He is the best in the world. Literally. Last month he was PRO at the Olympics. Today he gave us two pretty decent races in the best winds that were available all day.
But my friend's comment made me think. During the long wait in crappy winds after the first race he said, "Tonight I'd rather be pissing and moaning over a beer and pizza about how unfair the second race was, than pissing and moaning about how we never even got a second race in."
What do you think. Is it better to have a "bad" race than not to race at all?