Always(?) Playing by the Rules: The Racing Rules of Sailing are meant to bring order to the chaos of a race and launch a thousand (occasionally heated) conversations at the bar. They give sailors the tools that they need to police themselves and each other, but they’re only useful when they’re applied in every situation. Right?
In a recent post on the website Racing Rules of Sailing, which is a great online resource for any racer, Chesapeake Bay sailor and J/105 owner Angelo Guarino talks about a trend that he’s observed in club-level sailing over the years -- the uneven enforcement of the rules across the fleet.
If you’re wondering why that’s a problem, Guarino addresses that right up front by reminding everyone that there are two ‘Basic Principles’ at the very front of the rule book and the first one is 'Sportsmanship and the Rules'. It states:
“Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.”
Guarino notes that this Basic Principle shows that “following the rules and enforcing the rules are paramount in the RRS, and are of equal importance. Next, the RRS requires us is to police ourselves and to take our penalty when we know we have committed a foul, regardless if we are protested or not.”
It’s fair to say that we all know this -- we’re supposed to do the right thing, take a penalty when we don’t, and hold competitors that break the rules accountable. But… we don’t. Not always. Come on, admit it.
So, even though it’s right there at the very beginning of the rule book, why aren’t we better about enforcing the rules on ourselves or others? Guarino posits that we often fall into the trap of asking one of these questions of ourselves:
- Can I ignore my foul because my competitor let me go by saying, ‘You owe me one!’?
- Did the foul affect MY score or standing?
- I am not in contention for silver, so why ruin a top boat’s chances?
- Will I get a reputation if I keep protesting boats that foul me?
The full post is definitely worth a read. Just a guess, but you’ll probably find yourself agreeing and disagreeing with Guarino. There's also a host of other reasons that trend is happening and many of them are well-meaning. If you're looking for a rabbit hole to go down the next time you're at your club or local watering hole, this is a good one. Like he says in his conclusion, there’s no “silver-bullet to address this, but I think a first step is to shine light on it and start the conversation.”
Consider that done, Angelo.