In polite society it's called "regatta coaching."
Most ordinary sailors refer to the phenomenon as "Mommy Boats."
Whatever you call it, there is no doubt that at major regattas in certain classes, especially Lasers, it has become commonplace for some sailors to have people driving around in powerboats in order to provide those sailors with such services as carrying their snacks and drinks and spare clothes, towing them to and from the course, and even providing them with advice on how to sail better in the regatta. Not only is this grossly unfair to the sailors who don't have Mommy Boats, the drivers of the Mommy Boats often behave very badly, getting in the way of the other sailors and interfering with the racing.
I've been ranting on about the evils of Mommy Boats on this blog for almost six years now.
But more recently it's not just this crazy old geezer Laser sailor who has been drawing attention to the problems caused by Mommy Boats and arguing that they need to be better controlled or banned altogether. Real people who are actually respected in the sailing world, real people who actually have some authority are also speaking out.
At the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta in 2011, Gary Jobson (at that time President of US Sailing) took to the air in a helicopter and observed Mommy Boat drivers behaving badly.
A group of Mommy Boat drivers (Jobson diplomatically calls them coaches) would take off to one side of the course and create waves that would "dramatically affect" the boats on that side of the course. Gary was bothered seeing how the waves from the bad Mommy Boats would cause the racing sailboats to lose distance and speed as they pitched through the waves.
A few days later Terry Bischoff wrote an excellent piece on this topic on Scuttlebutt. (See second item headed PUSSES AND WUSSES.) In the article Terry describes his philosophy of banning parents and coaches from the course in junior regattas, and explains the reasons for his thinking. He also added...
"If you need a coach to help you at your Championship, I don't think you're ready to sail in it! One more layer of cost to a struggling program. What's happened to self initiative?"
At Sail Melbourne in 2012, the inconsiderate and dangerous behavior of Mommy Boat drivers came to the attention of the International Jury who reported...
"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."
And in Scuttlebutt today, professional sailor and sailmaker Dave Ullman reveals his feeling about professional coaching during regattas...
"When a regatta gets inundated with coaches and support boats, the result is a divisive environment of haves and have nots. For all types of racing short of the grand prix level, the emphasis should be on fostering a community atmosphere. I am not even sure there is enough value in event coaching to outweigh the expense."
It's not just me.
Real people who know something about sailing, real leaders in our sport, people who are respected see the problems that Mommy Boats cause.
So when are we going to do something about it?
Ban Mommy Boats NOW
One Hundred Mommy Boats