There has been a whole lot of discussion in the comments to my post calling to Ban Mommy Boats NOW. In the interests of fairness, I am also posting this email from James Barton who seems to know a lot more about the practices at major US Optimist championships than I do...
Tillerman may be being a bit tough on our current crop of Opti sailors.
For those of you who have never been to an Opti Championship, here's how it breaks down: Most big regattas require that every sailor have a coach or a parent on the water, remember these are little kids, often 8 or 9 years old. Most of the kids are members of a Yacht Club Team, or other Racing Team of some sort, that already has a coach. Teams over 9 or 10 sailors sometimes have two coaches. Small teams some times "join forces" as there are two or three races going on at the same time.
I am not aware of anyone at this years team trials who had a private coach, although I have seen it at other regattas. There is absolutely nothing wrong with coaches taking wind readings and passing them along to the team before the start. Although at the Team Trials I have attended, the race committees were very communicative and broadcast all race committee activities on VHF radio for everyone to hear. If you want to know the wind direction at the weather mark, all you had to do was listen to your radio.
These coaches are rarely highly paid and perform a great service to the sport by teaching the kids, respect for the rules, and respect for each other. To think that any of them are teaching the kids to cheat is ridiculous.
Thanks James. Always good to hear well reasoned arguments from both sides of the issue.
I guess I have no real objection to the use of coach boats at Optimist and other junior regattas if, as you imply, all sailors have equal access to support and information from the coaches (which does not seem to have been the case at the event covered at Youth Coaching which triggered this whole current debate.)
I'm still not convinced that it's fair at any regatta for only some sailors to have this advantage. And I am totally against the use of Mommy Boats at events for REAL Laser sailors such as Laser Masters events. Ban Mommy Boats NOW.