UPDATE: In response to this story and the volume of emails received by Key West Race Week organizers, Amendment No. 1 (NOR 2.4) permitting elastic or wool bands for spinnakers has been withdrawn. Kudos to all of you who reached out to them, and for Peter Craig for doing the right thing; it’s up to all of us to make sure our own regattas follow suit. Even if you don’t take it seriously, note that the USCG does, and just one photo of a banded kite will land you a DSQ and a good chance of a nasty fine. Your competitors aren’t going to let you get away with it either; if their hoists are tougher because of Rule 55, yours had better be, as well.
Key West Race Week Chairman Peter Craig last week further cemented his reputation as the most out-of-touch race officer we know, issuing a NOR amendment that directly contradicts the kind of environmental responsibility so embraced by not only ISAF, US Sailing, the America’s Cup and basic common sense, but by dozens of the sport’s newest sponsors and supporters.
We’re talking about Craig’s amendment last week of Rule 55, the prohibition against tossing trash into the water that ISAF clarified earlier this year as including sail stops – rubber bands or wools. NOR Amendment No. 1 suspends this ban, specifically allowing both “elastic and wool bands” to be discarded into the pristine, federally-controlled No Discharge Zone of the Florida Keys.
There’s been plenty of discussion of Rule 55 already, but even the most pollution-loving dickbag would agree that tossing dozens of rubber bands into some of America’s most environmentally sensitive waters ain’t the right thing to do. And biodegradable wool stops are no solution at all; maybe suitable for racing out in the ocean, but a few dozen big boats just a couple of miles offshore throwing dozens of wool stops into the sea at every mark rounding is not only nasty for the reefs; it’s against both Federal and Florida Law, with major fines and penalties. We’ve all seen the required pollution placards on our boats, specifically telling everyone that trash doesn’t go in the water; did you really think the laws that keep you from throwing coffee grounds or orange peels into the sea somehow allow you to toss rubber bands or rope strips into the same water? And what does the USCG think about all this? Is it really possible that KWRW included this info on their Marine Event Permit?
The biggest new source of sponsorship for the sport worldwide is coming from either clean energy/green manufacturing companies or businesses looking to associate themselves with the environmentally friendly image that sailing represents. And here comes Key Waste, screwing not only the reefs, but also the hundreds of events, classes, and organizations that have worked so hard to create awareness and educate sailors and the public on being good custodians of our playground on the water.
What do you think of this policy? Should we just tell the reefs, wildlife, EPA, and USCG to harden the fuck up, or does Key West Chairman Peter Craig need to man up and tell his competitors to learn to set a kite without training wheels? You can comment here, or e-mail the organizers here.
UPDATE: SA’er dcsheb notes that other races aren’t much better; for instance, the Sydney-Hobart similarly alters Rule 55 to allow ‘banding/tying of spinnakers’, and while open ocean distance races may cause less environmental impact than buoy races next to coral reefs, we still don’t understand how, in this day and age, anyone thinks tossing rubber bands or synthetic fiber over the side is any different than a cigarette butt or a plastic wrapper.