we hate to say…

I have just read the article about Iker Martinez on the front page  and the article “Is it one of the biggest scandals in the history of boating?” is clearly written by someone not aware of some of the real scandals that have occurred in our sport.

I also wonder if the original article that appeared in a Danish sailing magazine would have contained as much clear angst if it had been a Danish sailor or the event (over a year ago) not been in Aarhous, Denmark.

It is indeed sad that a double Olympic Medallist, 2 times Volvo skipper and even a former World Sailing ‘Sailor of the Year’ should have been found to have an altered boat in a very strict one design class and then found to have “not told the truth” to the jury. It should be noted that, as any lawyer would tell you, that “not told the truth” and “lying” are considered more than just subtly different.

Readers should also be aware that the requirement for certainty in a Rule 69 hearing is more than the normal balance of probability in a normal rules hearing and in a case as high profile as this would most likely have involved the appointment of an investigator(s) as per RRS 69.2( c)

I, as one individual who wasn’t there, certainly wasn’t involved in the decision but it wasn’t the actual case that stuck in my throat.  

Here is an event, the 49er World Championship held in Auckland being covered LIVE by one media outlet, SKY SPORTS while another writer for a magazine many won’t even have heard of tries to make a name for himself by disparaging our sport, its rules and its processes.

To prove and punish under the RRS Rule 69 needs a very high level of proof and any punishment is commensurate with the actions and not being 100% truthful is taken very seriously. Having said that the writer of the article attempts to make World Sailing unique in the decision making world with his statement “ONE single person, in his own little world”. 

How is this any different to a District Attorney in the USA or the Director of Crown Prosecutions in the UK, (or similar officers in most jurisdictions) making a decision and putting their name to it? 

Indeed in virtually every court in the world, a judge having head the verdict of a jury, “ONE single person in his own little” – or big – courtroom handing down a decision ( a sentence) which often has much more impact on an individual than on this occasion.

I would neither attack nor defend Iker Martinez. For a start I don’t have clear details of what happened BUT I do know the findings of the International Jury (they were published), or who the “ONE single person, in his own little  world” is (he probably wasn’t in his own little world by the way).

The magazine also quotes a ’former member of the Racing Rules Committee’, (so former that a full search of World Sailing produces no article quoting his name and he does not appear on any of the World Sailing officials databases) as saying ”I simply cannot believe that this is anything but a deliberate blackout procedure for unpleasant cases”. 

This “case” is far less “unpleasant” than iPunkt’s water containers, attempts toprove akeel wasn’t Australian, lead where it shouldn’t be, AIS where ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ or officials not being invited back because they (rightly) protest an organiser’s or sponsor’s son or daughter.

It is such a DELIBERATE BLACKOUT that full details of the hearing findings are on multiple websites and from reading these findings any suggestion that the sailor in question got away scot free are dispelled when one reads those details. The sailor was found guilty of a Rule 69 infringement for      a) having a deliberately altered boat and b) not telling the truth in hearings.

He was then reported to World Sailing and that ruling will stay on his record for a period of time.

That alone damages his reputation, potentially with current or future sponsors. Add to that he was excluded from the event and had his accreditation for the event revoked which also has a potential impact on current and future sponsors. Is this likely? Well it may be completely unrelated but he was skipper when Mapfre was penalised 2 points for an unauthorised repair mid-ocean and in the latest Volvo Ocean Race Iker Martinez was not on board alongside his long time sailing partner Xabi Fernandez (one of the sailing world’s nicest guys you could meet) 

Did he do wrong? From the hearing findings- Yes! 

Was he punished – most certainly both actually and by reputation.

Did he deserve further punishment? That is a matter for conjecture based on experience and severity of cases that have gone before – just like in the wider world’s justice systems and case law.

One thing is certain, and that is ill-informed articles such as this does not do the reputation of our sport of sailing any good. In fact it is a piece of writing that, at the very least, ATTEMPTS to bring an element of the sport (the due process of the governing body) into disrepute.

Perhaps it is the writer of the article who should be “69-ed”.Sailors will know what I mean, will he?

PS – to save you looking I have included a copy of the Rule 69 Hearing findings and I can’t see how anyone could read that and feel the process wasn’t thorough. – SS.