Men Behaving Badly

Men Behaving Badly

In this day and age of camcorders that shoot video and pics, cameras that shoot video and pics, iPhones that shoot video and pics, and a hundred other ways to record the action during a race, it’s astonishing to see people still try to cheat their way into a win. Fortunately, the days of protest room liars are numbered, and not thanks to better cameraderie, education, or outreach on the part of anyone who matters. No – what will ensure the validity of more and more protests going forward and will keep out the worthless ones is video, and more specifically, the public humiliation that follows when someone is busted and doesn’t immediately retire or exonerate themselves.. You see it already at numerous events – video from on board the race boats, from the media, and from RC boats is making its way into hearings – if not for the absolute truth of the facts alleged, then frequently to disprove some facts and establish real times and distances.

Case in point:

The Beneteau 36.7 Class is massive on the Great Lakes, with 28 or more boats in their last three North American Championships and a high of 47 in 2007 in Buffalo. It’s known as a drama class for some reason, much like the J/105 was in its hey day, with every B 36.7 NAC including plenty of measurement complaints and many, many protests. Hell, one douchebag walked by a competitive boat as the 2009 NAC event was kicking off last week and said in a whiny voice to the owner “If you weren’t cheating, why would you paint over the bootstripe?” Despite plenty of moaning from a small cadre of class members, and the class’s subsequent insistence on hauling and measuring keels on suspected offenders, all boats measured in. Meanwhile, the whiners did succeed in keeping one charterer who was interested in learning and perhaps buying a new 36.7 from sailing the event with his family – a brilliant move with the class’s decreasing numbers…

But the worst of the weekend came from Gary and Melanie Tisdale, the owners of the Youngstown-based “First Today.” On their way to a second place in the fleet, the Tisdales took the “owner/driver” weight credit, which was only available to owners that helmed their boat for every minute of every race. This has been a class rule since its inception, and has been enforced against other owners while Gary has been the Class Vice President. Just to remove all doubt about the rules, a technical clarification was posted on the notice board directly under the entry list for the entire event, explaining that an owner who takes the weight credit must drive the entire event.

Yet somehow, Tisdale didn’t think this applied to him. If he didn’t take the half-weight credit, his crew was overweight and could not sail. And if he did, he could not hand off the helm of to top Midwest match racer Adam Burns, who drives the starts and other high-pressure situations for many of First Today’s races. Yet Tisdale took the credit. And when we innocently videotaped Adam at the helm during a start, we started wondering. And when we looked at First Today’s weight declaration, we and at least one other boat protested them, and our skipper and tactician went to talk to Tisdale about it.

Instead of realizing he was busted, Gary played dumb. “The rules are in flux,” said he. And he, his wife, and his crew smiled as they collected their second place trophy and went on their way back to Lake Erie. The protest was accepted and scheduled as a raging battle went on in the SA forums about the mess, and more than a week later, Tisdale finally retired from all races quiet as a mouse, without publicly apologizing to his competitors for cheating or to the class for bringing it into disrepute, and certainly without resigning his position as Class VP – the only proper move as far as we are concerned. Tisdale’s withdrawal wasn’t the kind of honor that Paul Cayard displayed when he RAF’d for brushing the start boat at the recent 5O5 worlds, or the RAF from a class win for Thin Man last weekend when they missed a mark of the Vineyard Race course and only they knew about it. That’s honor; Tisdale is like a little kid who only says "sorry" after he’s caught, and if he doesn’t resign it will signal to existing and prospective members that the class tolerates this kind of cronyism and crap from their leaders.

The sad part is that, without a video camera proving that Burns was on the helm, this probably never would have gone anywhere, as witnessed by his post-race attitude toward the protest. But if that is what it takes to bring the cheaters in line, we encourage you to bring that little camcorder aboard, to keep that iPhone in your pocket instead of down below, and keep your Flip in the cockpit, ready to preserve the facts that others may skew or simply ignore in their quest to win at all costs. Liars must be exposed and punished at all costs, and if they do not mend their ways, they should be humiliated and driven from the sport. A self-policing sport has NO PLACE for liars. The monster thread starts here.

At least this episode, which never should have happened, is moving the Class to make some changes to the rule in question. But at the moment the Class retains its title as Midwest Drama Champion.