Dongfeng Mainsail Replacement.

Comments in the Sailing Anarchy Forums have even spoken about a conspiracy regarding Dongfeng’s mainsail so I thought it was time to comment, with a few facts thrown in about the real picture.

1. The rules have always allowed the use of a replacement sail – from the pre-race sail inventory if none is available in the race sails.

2. Dongfeng had not potentially “put themselves out of this race” in the words of some less informed anarchists. Their mainsail damage was 100% the result of a mast breakage and the inability (danger to life and limb) of putting someone up the poorly supported remains of the mast resulting in loss of the top section of the mainsail and laminate damage to a significant portion of what was left. Unless of course you believe they deliberately broke their mast, retired from the leg and the resultant 8 points that earned them.

3. SCA’s damage was down to a broach in heavy weather so far more of a ‘racing incident’ than any damage caused to Dongfeng. Still unfortunate but…..

4. The Dongfeng ruling makes two clear points that the SCA ruling does not. A/ it was felt that Option 1 on the repair would have potentially given DFRT a performance advantage by having a less stretched top section especially in heavy air (there were skippers from 2 or 3 other teams present) THAT IS A DEFINATE NO NO. Option 2 would (OK – in the opinion of those present and particularly the IJ if you want to split hairs) would have left a sail that could give way in heavy weather that could cause a safety risk to the boat and crew which is NEVER acceptable.

This whole thing is rather like the footballer (soccer player for our American fans) who falls over in the penalty area. If the referee doesn’t give a penalty one set of fans will cheer, the others will boo him off the field. If he does give a penalty the opposite will happen. That, as I see it, is exactly what we see here.

I wonder if arguments in SCA’s favour, and against Dongfeng, would be quite so strong if gender was taken out of it and FDRT wasn’t a Chinese entry – just saying. I am sure much of DFRT argument was they didn’t want to unnecessarily spend 30 grand (the figure quoted in the North Sails damage report) or take the cheaper option that could put boat & crew at risk should the repair fail (North themselves reckoned that could happen – read their report)and the other skippers certainly didn’t want fresher sailcloth at the top of DFRT’s mast.

The talk here on the forum of DFRT getting a new mainsail, is of course complete fabrication (or total lack of understanding as to how much use the pre-race sails got). The pre-race sail, with the amount of training DFRT did before the race – Round Britain Ireland, half a Sanya-Auckland leg, a TransAtlantic and multiple long training stints means that the ACTUAL mileage between the sail destroyed at Cape Horn and the pre-race sail is far from what some people have suggested, if at all. New mainsail indeed!

The decision of the IJ has NOT handed DFRT an advantage which it was felt an Option 1 repair could have done although it could also be said that it simply didn’t hand DFRT a massive disadvantage had they ruled that Option 2 had to be carried out.  I freely admit to both being a fan and in complete admiration for what Charles has achieved with his crew including the Chinese (can hardly call them rookies anymore) sailors but I have tried looking at this situation taking into account the following

1. As someone on the forums mentioned, the undoubted integrity of the International Jury. I have mentioned my personal experience of two of the members and would back their ability knowledge and integrity 100% and it is a pretty safe assumption regarding the other jury members.

2. I have seen or read the report on the damage to both sails and agree damage to both sails is severe. However the top ¼ to 1/3 of a mainsail may be up the mast in the strongest of winds and that would not be the case for an FC0

3. We don’t know the strength of the arguments in each hearing however the presence of the other skippers in DFRT’s case would point to their concern regarding performance gains and it would appear the IJ have treaded the path between increased performance and reduced safety – not an easy job.

I would add that, Alvimedica apart, I know and/or admire people on every boat which leads me to wish everyone has a safe AND fair conclusion to what – thus far – has been one of the most exciting Whitbread/Volvos and I have followed them all and been involved on the fringes of a few. The decision is what it is and has been made now let’s get back to following one hell of a yacht race! – Shanghai Sailor.