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Earlier this winter, coaches from all over ICSA met in Utah to discuss the new year of college sailing. What resulted was a number of changes in the rules and regulations that apply to all the teams and events within ICSA, and it seems this year was the year of rather progressive and drastic changes. It is clear by the tenor of some of these changes that college sailing seems to be going the route of the NCAA, with stricter time restraints and even rules regarding sailor eligibility. This shift is admittedly extremely gradual, and will inevitably have its perks and downsides, but the most important thing for this season is adjusting to the rules that will apply right now. This article, therefore, is a response from me and others involved in college sailing to the most dramatic changes in the 2014 seasons.
The rule change that stood out to me the most at first is the new policy in which there will be a 10-race limit per day in college regattas. This means that after both divisions have sailed 10 races, no more races may be sailed on Saturday. By nature Sundays often have much fewer races because of the “no sail after” time, which is now 3 pm for most events. At first, this new rule seems like a bit of a hindrance. After all, the ultimate goal of any regatta is to get as many races as there are teams, because the more races there are the fairer the results become. But, upon further consideration, I think that this rule will provide a lot of benefits to sailors in certain venues. Everyone has sailed that regatta: 2 fleets of boats so breaks are minimized, or maybe even rotations on the water so you never get a break. When they do bring you in for “lunch”, you have just about enough time to viciously struggle out of your dry-suit and dash to the bathroom before they are calling for your division to get back on the water, where you will likely keep sailing until after sunset. These regattas, while noteworthy because they usually accomplish the desired number of races, often leave the sailors fatigued and dazed beyond recall. Your coach will ask you about an instance in the race and you find yourself drawing a blank because the entire day has blended into an endless loop of a W-4. With a 10- race limit, timing becomes more relaxed. If the sailors need a 30-minute break for lunch because the conditions are particularly brutal, they can take it because the race committee is only trying for 10 races, not 16. Also, this rule means that Saturdays will likely end earlier, giving college sailors (who are also college students) time to unwind and do work before they have to get up in the morning and sail all day again. This is particularly important for venues like Navy, which hold big inter-conference regattas that require most teams to travel far from home by van or even plane. These events absorb entire weekends, so having the spare time that the race limit can provide to do even a few regular student things will be of the upmost value.
The theme of some other proposed rules was increasing the safety precautions for the sailors. Concussions within college sailing have been increasing steadily over the years, and understandably so with a big pole made of metal hovering a couple of inches over your head whenever you are in a boat. One proposed solution was making helmets mandatory for all sailors; but this did not pass. The cost per school would be very high, and it did not seem like the most reasonable solution to the voters (and, more likely, all of the sailors who refused to wear helmets.) Some more experimental methods have been proposed, and have started to be tested. For example, Fran Charles (head coach at MIT) has proposed that all booms be made of carbon fiber, so as to reduce the weight of the boom and therefore the risk of serious head injury. All of the FJ’s at MIT already have carbon fiber booms, and they seem to sail as well as the normal collegiate FJ’s. The only difference is that they do not have a track to feed the foot of the sail through, and so a clew strap is necessary. These often break, and so present a sort of nuisance to the sailors right now, but if this flaw gets perfected I think that the carbon fiber booms are an excellent solution to the safety problem. Harvard has gone another route; two of the boats in their fleet of FJ’s have booms that are about 6 inches taller than normal. The masts are also longer, so there is no change in the sail area, but this is still the more controversial method because it may have a more influential change in the way the boats sail. 8 other schools are following suit with this, and have been approved for use for these new masts. Only testing of the two methods over the season will tell which is more effective.
Overall, it seems that the committee is trying to change the dynamics of college sailing to better fit the health of the athletes that compete in it. “At the NEISA annual meeting it was encouraging to see how healthy the conference is,” says Peter Bailey, Brown University Junior and Undergraduate Vice President of NEISA, “the leaders are taking steps to make college sailing more safe and competitive.” The more the rules change to be mindful of the sailors, the more that college sailing will start drifting towards the standards of the NCAA. I think I speak for all of us when I say it will be extremely interesting to see how the sport will develop in the near future.
Here’s a LINK to the official ICSA Procedural Rules
College sailing in my day was very competitive, but we had a lot of fun. I have the best memories of those years. Today’s college sailing is much more disciplined. I hope they are having as much fun and making memories.
I consider college sailing the best because it is many short races, one design, rotating boats. Your skills must be sharp.
My post today is the result of some of these photos being sent to me by Henry Bossett. It is moments like this when one stops and counts the years. It is now a long time ago. 1970? We won almost everything. We had a good time doing it, or at least I did.
I had a conversation today with another college sailing mate, Bill Johnson, we were reminiscing about bygone days on Salt Pond. If you haven’t remarked yet; we look a little rag tag, certainly compared to today’s college sailing.
THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN BY CHRIS LOVE. I would be curious to understand the circumstances surrounding this post in “Sailgroove”. We did not get to a point where this kind of thing happens overnight. All sports have been heading towards this for quite a long time. I remember reading not long ago about an Optimist regatta (children 7-12 years old) where the complaint was that there were too many coaches on the race course.
I was desperate to learn more when I was growing up, learning to sail. I probably would have embraced the idea of having a coach following me and telling me what to do; up to a point. I am able to look back at my time on the water with the best of memories, especially in college.
I look forward to understanding more about these events. For me this is a reflection of our times. I recognize that we can not turn back the clock, to a simpler time; but we always need to consider where we are going. I would enjoy hearing opinions from those of you who might like to express their thoughts.
It’s not the least bit uncommon for a baseball umpire to stand toe to toe with a manager, mask in hand, shoulders relaxed, stoically taking an earful of harsh words and a fateful of spit as the coach reams him out for a call he doesn’t like, only to burst to life, dramatically point to the dugout and yell “you’re out of here!” It’s generally part of the ceremony for the coach to kick some dirt, insult the man’s mother, saunter back down the steps to the boos or cheers (or both) from the crowd and hand off the clipboard to the assistant manager so the game may continue. Not uncommon at all–in fact, it’s one of the sport’s great traditions.
But compared to the barbaric sport of flying balls and dirty mitts, sailing is a gentleman’s game. Coaches and sailing officials would never interact in such a crude and brutish way. A combination of complicated litigation and cocktails at the bar is enough to solve our differences. No need to shout or make a scene by kicking someone off the water, right?
Well, in collegiate sailing this weekend, a scene was made. Two coaches were asked to leave and/or not return on the second day, per a sailing instruction that has been on the books at MIT for some time. It basically says that if a coach says something negative to an umpire, they may be banned from the premises for the rest of the regatta. This was the first time it has been utilized. Without getting into the unpleasant business of who said what to whom (and I honestly don’t know as I wasn’t there myself) I think this incident opens up an interesting and potentially positive discussion for collegiate sailing. Is this a good rule and should it be implemented more widely? Is it necessary and is it effective in its goal to protect ICSA’s staff of volunteer umpires?
You can’t argue the fact that being a sports official is hard–no matter what you’re going to piss people off, even if you’re right all the time (which isn’t possible either given the limitations of powerboats as vantage points for the complex game of team racing.) There should be some level of shielding for these kind souls who give their weekends away accepting this thankless job for no compensation. But is removing a coach a necessary measure in our sport? What must someone do to need to be removed from the premises?
Have your say, but please don’t turn this thread into a firing range on those who were involved in this particular incident.