We've had a good
Some agreed with me, that the "mommification" of our sport has gone too far. The practice of certain sailors having Mommy Boats bringing them warm coats and hot drinks between races, and of course towing them to and from the course area, is undermining the spirit of independence and self-reliance which is the very essence of our sport of single-handed sailing.
Others pointed out the unfairness of a competition in which only a few competitors have Mommy Boat drivers to provide them with physical and moral support, not to mention passing on information obtained by radio from other Mommy Boat drivers of what the wind is doing around the course.
Of course access to a Mommy Boat gives a sailor an unfair advantage. That's why, at the highest levels of competition, the major international Laser regattas, almost every sailor has a Mommy Boat. You can't hope to compete at that level without your Mommy to help you. US Olympic hopeful Clay Johnson reported that at the Laser World Championship in England last year there were over One Hundred Mommy Boats and, in a wry understatement, that the chop from all these Mommy Boats "doesn't help". Crazy!
And it's getting worse. All these Mommy Boats get in the way of the competitors and interfere with the racing. Sometimes race organizers try and write Sailing Instructions to keep the dratted Mommy Boats away from the race area but it's not working. A case in point was an incident that happened at Sail Melbourne a few weeks ago. There was an SI (#14 here) that specified that Mommy Boats must NOT be in the race area after the first prep signal of the day. In spite of that the following incident (as reported by the International Jury) happened...
When starting in the afternoon on Charlie Course the Laser Standard class and their coach boats caused problems by going through 2 course areas whilst earlier fleets were still racing. The jury were requested by the Charlie Race Officer to assist in clearing the boats, especially near the inner loop gate.
This was done but numerous competitors were intransigent and the jury were moving close to one Laser when a fast moving coach boat came towards the jury boat and Laser. The driver had to make an immediate fast turn to port to avoid a collision which would have ended in damage. In doing so, the other judge who was sitting on the sponson talking to the competitor ended up in the water under the hull. The driver responded very quickly in turning off the engine preventing serious injury.
There is another account of the same incident as reported by one of the sailors (and which differs in some details) at Unruly.
It's bad enough that some Laser sailors were "intransigent" in not responding to requests from jury boats to clear the course area on which another fleet was already racing. It is unforgivable that their Mommy Boats were on the course at all, in clear violation of the SIs. And it is absolutely shameful that one Mommy Boat driver almost caused an accident that could have seriously injured one of the judges.
What can be done to deal with this menace? Clearly it is not enough to state in the SIs that Mommy Boats must not be on the race area after the first prep signal of the day; in this case the Mommy Boat drivers just ignored the SIs. What sanctions can be used to enforce such a rule? Can the Mommy Boat drivers be penalized if they are not actually competitors in the race? Can the sailor associated with a badly behaved Mommy Boat be penalized even though he or she is not directly responsible for the misbehavior? Can SIs be written in a way that will keep these damned Mommy Boats off the race area and stop them getting in the way of competitors?
Seriously. This is beyond a joke.