Wednesday, February 09, 2011
I didn't want to write this post. I don't like the conclusion it's going to reach. But I'm an anal-retentive, analytical bastard and I have this incredibly annoying habit of following any argument to its logical conclusion no matter how unpalatable it is or who it upsets. Just ask my wife.
I've written a couple of posts recently, Fairness and We The People... about how the high price and low durability of the official class-legal Laser sail are driving the sales of much cheaper replica Laser sails from other sources, and how more and more local fleets are allowing the use of these sails for their club racing and even in their regattas. The most popular supplier of such sails in North America is Intensity Sails.
But there's a right and a wrong way for such fleets to do this. They can't just add a sentence in their sailing instructions saying something like, "Competitors are allowed to use Intensity sails." And not only because the Laser class might not like it. Such a change to the SIs is actually not allowed by the Racing Rules of Sailing.
Rule 78 says that a boat must comply with class rules. And if you are running a Laser fleet or a Laser regatta that means the Laser class rules, which say that your sail must be manufactured by a licensed builder.
And Rule 87 says that sailing instructions may change a class rule "only when the class rules permit the change, or when written permission of the class association for the change is displayed on the official notice board." (Good luck with your application for such permission.)
Bottom line, you can't change the SIs to say Intensity sails are allowed because that is a change to a class rule and the Racing Rules of Sailing don't allow you to do that.
But what could go wrong, you say? We're all friends. Our fleet voted by a large majority to allow Intensity sails. We'll just do it.
Well, it only takes one asshole to ruin your plan. What are you going to do when someone sailing with a one-year-old worn-out legal class Laser sail protests everyone who beat him using a nice crisp fast Intensity sail, and he argues at the protest hearing that your change to the SIs to allow Intensity sails is invalid and null and void because of Rules 78 and 87? Or maybe he files for redress under Rule 62 to have his finishing positions adjusted ahead of everyone using Intensity sails because of "an improper action of the race committee or organizing authority" i.e. aforementioned incorrectly written sailing instructions. Or maybe he does both. And if your friends on the protest committee reject his protest and request for redress, he appeals to US Sailing. It only takes one asshole to ruin your plan.
Can anyone who understands the Racing Rules of Sailing better than me tell me if there is a flaw in my logic above?
But fear not, my friend, even if my logic above is correct there is an easy solution. You need to create a new class. Let's call it the Intensity 7.06 Class. (Full rig Laser sails are 7.06 square meters in area.) You write some very simple rules for what equipment is allowed under the Intensity 7.06 Class Rules. In the SIs you say that your regatta is being sailed under the rules of the Intensity 7.06 Class.
End of problem. (I think.)
There are a couple of precedents for this approach. That inventive chappie Steve Cockerill, owner of Rooster Sailing, came up with a larger rig for the Laser. He called it the Rooster 8.1. They hold Rooster 8.1 regattas. They even held a Rooster 8.1 UK National Championship last year. As far as I can tell it's all perfectly kosher and compliant with the Racing Rules, because there is a Rooster 8.1 Class Association. Membership is free, and you are allocated a membership number when you buy a new Rooster 8.1 rig from Steve. Or if you buy a second-hand Rooster 8.1 sail you can apply for a membership number by email. Very simple. Very cheap. (Free is cheap, I think.)
College sailing in the US also went down this route. You might think that college sailing regattas are sailed in Larks, or FJs or 420s. They are not; many colleges modify their boats so that they no longer comply with class rules. Worse than that, college sailing allows certain kinetic moves such as ooching which are not allowed in Rule 42.
But Rule 87 says that SIs can't change the class rules. And Rule 86 says that the SIs can't change Rule 42. How do they get away with it?
Simple. They created a new class. All college sailing in the US is sailed under the rules of the Collegiate Dinghy Class. And, by the way, it is legal for class rules to modify Rule 42. So they did. Simple! Matt Knowles at his excellent rules blog Unruly has more on this at College Sailing & Rule 42.
So, I think it's inevitable that, sooner or later, the increasing number of folk who are racing Lasers with Intensity sails are going to form a class association, if only so that they can have correctly written sailing instructions that comply with the Racing Rules of Sailing and so that they avoid the risk of that asshole protesting half the fleet. It might be me. (Only joking.)
I don't much like the prospect of an Intensity 7.06 Class (or whatever they call it.) I think it's a bad thing for Laser sailing for all sorts of reasons. But this post has gone on way too long already, so I'll save that discussion for another post.