Is there cheating in sailing?

July 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

Extreme Kinetics“Is there cheating in sailing?” asked the nationally acclaimed basketball coach.

An odd question, I thought, but logical. He lives in an ultra-competitive world.

“Sure”, I said, “boats can be improved illegally by subtracting weight.”

The Sports Psychologist added that on the race course there are opportunities to cheat when judges can’t see the action, and that there are rules against kinetics that can be hard to enforce.

We were together at the start of the All Instructors Symposium of the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound. I was to speak on mentoring.

Coach Jim Perry is a revered basketball coach, an expert on teams, and has chaired the National Coaching Council.  He was to give a talk about the culture of teams.

Jessica Mohler has a PhD in Sports Psychology, advises at the Naval Academy, and would speak on the matter of hovering parents in youth athletics.

Ms. Mohler added that in match racing, there can be more judges than sailors, in part to make sure that every rule is followed and every infringement is penalized. After saying it, I’m not sure she was altogether pleased about it. I envisioned a cop for every citizen.

There was a pause.

“But sailing has an antidote to cheating,” I said.

The coach looked a bit confused. “What’s the antidote to cheating?”

“In sailing,” I explained, “friends can meet at the sailing center, grab a couple of boats, pick teams, set their watches, and agree to sail out to a bell-buoy and back and take their own times. The losers might be on the hook for a round of pitchers (beer for the adults, root beer for the kids), so these are serious stakes. The winners had better be counting every second.”

The doc smiled knowingly. She’s a sailor.

“We even have a word for it. Sailors call it ‘Corinthian’ when competitors act honorably while still competing. Sadly, it seems as if it doesn’t happen as often any more. As we become more litigious, less communicative, and more dependent on others to organize our fun, we tend to become less trustworthy.”

We all seemed to be wondering the same thing. “How do we get it back?” posited Ms. Mohler, aloud.

“If a mom or dad and a daughter and her friends are on one of the boats, and the other team is a group with kids and a mentor, like a teacher, then you’ll usually see it happen on its own. A mentor ‘calls bad behavior’ for what it is; a lesson in how not to act, even if it results in a win.”

“… because it is the right thing” added Ms. Mohler.

Again, we seemed to be thinking the same thing; good leaders don’t let emerging leaders cheat.

Head nods all around.

“Sailing is indeed special” noted the coach.

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§ 6 Responses to Is there cheating in sailing?

  • E says:

    The reason for umpires in match racing is to make sure that the winner is the boat that crosses the line first in the last race of the event. Prior to on the water umpiring, race results could be overturned in the protest room.

    And umpires are not referees. Like cricket umpires, they give rulings in answer to requests from the competitors. If the question isn’t asked, an answer isn’t given*

    * excepting a few umpire initiated penalties. Hitting a mark, for example.

  • ndhayes says:

    Thanks for the comment. There’s good in the instant reply and an extra set of eyes.

  • fiftyace says:

    Yacht Clubs need to become better mentors, with regards to sailboat racing. Some choose to expand and grow the sport by allowing boats to bypass rules and regulations, which promotes a false viewpoint and disrespect for the Corinthian spirit and current RRS that is detrimental to the sport.

  • Bruce Brown says:

    When sailing becomes a profession rather than a sport, the winning can become more important than the sport itself to those seeking to gain. In my opinion, match racing provokes pushing the rules to gain advantage rather than following the rules to promote fair sailing.

  • Sadly, yes. We were at a regatta in Canberra, Australia recently (there were about 100 Optimists competing). At the time, I had no idea what was going on in the photo as I was just shooting the kids going around the marker, but when I got home, I was shocked to see the detail. Fortunately, the kid sailing this Opti wasn’t one from our club….he was a local to Canberra.

    or, photo #2 in the gallery:

    • ndhayes says:

      Here’s hoping that a kind adult, coach, or peer mentor reaches out and explains why this isn’t a great idea, and then everyone moves on to better things.

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