Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mark Rounding

The Skip asked for more information on the mark rounding incident that I mentioned in my post Sunset. So here goes.....

Basic situation. Large Laser fleet on a run approaching a downwind gate in about 5 knots of wind. I am in the middle of the fleet. All the boats in question are on starboard tack approaching the left hand (looking downwind) gate mark so must gybe before rounding.

Ahead of me are two boats -- let's call them Alphonse and Bertie. They are overlapped, basically side by side with Alphonse on the inside. They are about a boatlength clear ahead of me.

So obviously I must keep clear of both boats and Bertie must give Alphonse room to round the mark. I don't want to end up overlapping outside either or both of them so plan to round on Alphonse's transom if Bertie goes wide; or on Bertie's transom if he rounds behind Alphonse.

I glance back and see Cedric a couple of lengths behind me as I enter the two-length zone though sailing a hotter angle than me. He's out of the equation (I think) so I concentrate on Alphonse and Bertie and making a good rounding.

Alphonse makes his gybe and starts rounding the mark. Bertie gybes too and is clearly not going to go outside Alphonse so I plan on setting up to go behind Bertie if he does a tight rounding or on poking my bow between him and the mark if he screws up and gives me enough room to do so.

I gybe and end up overlapped a tad with Bertie as he approaches the mark. I luff a bit to slow down as he executes a nice tight rounding slightly inside of Alphonse. Then I follow him as close as I dare, sheeting in fast and passing within inches of the mark myself.

So far I'm pretty proud of myself.

Then Bertie shouts, "Are you talking to me?"

I look puzzled. I hadn't said anything.

Then I hear Cedric from astern shout, "No -- this guy 999." (He calls out the last 3 digits of my sail number.) "He completely ignored me and shut me out."

Hmmm. What's all that about? As a rule, I avoid getting into shouting matches with fellow sailors during a race -- especially after an incident is over -- so I carry on sailing and ignore Cedric's remark. As far as I can tell he's not protesting me so I guess it's no big deal to him either.

I cross the finish line several boatlengths ahead of Cedric. He gives me the evil eye so, in the interests of fleet harmony and being a non-confrontational guy, I sail away and start eating my tween-race snack of a Clif Bar and drinking my Gatorade. He follows me.

"Sorry I don't know your name?" he opens the conversation.

I tell him. It then dawns on him that we did race committee together a couple of weeks ago.

"Oh -- people look different with clothes on," he replies. In different circumstances that line would be funny but I guess he's saying that he didn't connect today's grey-and-blue-neoprene-guy with red-goretex-guy from two weeks ago.

"So... at that mark rounding," he begins, "you were lined up like this," he lets go of sheet and tiller and starts flapping his hands about, "and I was here," more incomprehensible gesticulating, "but you didn't give me room."

"Excuse me? I was clear ahead entering the two-length zone."

"No. No. No. There were three boats lined up bow to stern. You were the third boat. So you were outside the zone."

"I don't think so. I was to windward of the second boat. I never left the two-length zone after entering it."

He repeats his earlier description his voice rising and with more hand waving.

"Well it seems that you and I have different recollections of what happened," I say in an attempt to avoid getting him even more riled up.

"Why didn't you respond to my hail?"

"Sorry guy. I didn't hear any hail."

He sits there looking angry and apparently waiting for a response. What does he expect? That I withdraw from the race? Apologize? Tell him to f*** off? Give him a Clif Bar?

In the end I decide to give him one of those political non-apology apologies. As in, "I'm sorry if my use of the N word offended any of the members of the other party who might be particularly sensitive on that subject due to their ethnic heritage."

Or, "If the publication on the Internet of the photos of me having sex with the intern caused any pain to my wife and family then I regret it but it was never my intention."

"I'm sorry if I screwed you Cedric but I don't think I did."

He rolls his eyes and sails off.

And then the nagging doubts start. Cedric is a sailing industry pro and a champion in other classes. I guess he is just doing Laser frostbiting to stay sharp over the winter. If his description is right then I was supposed to give him room to round inside me. Given his experience should I trust his judgment over my own? Is he just trying to give some friendly rules education to someone he perceives as a novice and a klutz, not to mention deaf too?

On the other hand I have heard him yapping today at other sailors. He has all the symptoms of someone having a frustrating day who is trying to overcome his anger at his own performance by heckling other sailors.

I don't know him well enough to make the call as to which explanation is likely to be correct. Of course, both could be true.

So what did I learn?

1. Make sure I don't go outside the two-length zone once I've entered it.

2. Tell other boats I am not giving them room -- even if I think it should be obvious to them.

3. Get a hearing aid?


the skip said...

Thanks for the detail Tillerman. My initial reaction, before reading one of your conclusions further down to the same effect, was that of someone having a bad day and taking it out on you.

Very tough call. You checked to see if there was overlap to stern...and from the sounds of it you were clear astern and clear ahead . Based on your description of the hailing boat and your angle does not sound as though he had a clear view of the overlap and may not have had a skewed perception of the circle.

Your offensive tactic was a played nicely around the mark. Cautious but still agressive. I don't know man...Given the circumstances presented, I would have followed through the same way. Probably would not feel badly about it even if the facts turned out in your opponents favour. Ther was no intent to cheat. Besides... If he was really serious he should have protested instead of confronting you later on. Just my two cents.

I will definitely keep my eyes astern next season. Thanks again for hashing the details on the blog.

the skip said...

Sorry meant to say:

"Based on your description of the hailing boat and your angle does not sound as though he had a clear view of the overlap and may have had a skewed perception of the circle."

Carol Anne said...

Since the other guy didn't take any action that (at least out here in the desert) counts as a protest -- putting up the flag immediately and filing the paperwork immediately after getting off the water -- I'd agree with the skip. Cedric was having a bad day, and you had the misfortune of being in the danger zone when he blew up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tillerman, I'm at this post because you refered to it in a more recent posting so I am commenting quite a while after it was first posted.

I thought I would add a bit of advice I picked up last year about mark rounding and that is to start a conversation with nearby boats well before entering the two boat lengths area.

First off is to establish if an overlap exists on not, this is not so diffiult to do.

Then when the two boat lengths is reached there has to be agreement that it has been reached and if it has then unless the overlap situation has changed, it becomes clearer as to who has right to room.
This is far easier to do that trying to sort it all out at once.

The other interesting thing I picked up is that if you are sitting half way down your boat then the two boat lengths point is reached when YOU are 2 and a half boat lengths away from the mark. It seems obvious but do we take that into account when working out when we have reached it?

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