taylor swift and f-bombs

This is part 2 of the Mall Cop article by Peter Huston we published yesterday. Enjoy.

At just about the same time, a guy who was probably about 100 yards away went into a typical hard roll tack and whacked his head pretty hard as the boat capsized.  I thought I heard it, but wasn’t sure, and then I thought I heard him say help, but again, I wasn’t sure, and I shifted my focus from the F-bomb guy to the guy in the water. There was zero wind, and the water was as flat as glass. 

I saw him swim around to the board, and it seemed like couldn’t get the boat righted.  I was just about to put the boat in gear and forget about our F-bombing friend when I saw a coach boat go over to assist. The guy got checked out ashore and was okay, thankfully.  

All the while, things have gone sideways very quickly just as Katie had predicted and it was suddenly a rockfest.  Our job was made easier because we knew the time limit was going to run out for some, and it did.  During the period between being F-bombed and the time limit expiring, I witnessed a match race break out right in front of us. While Katie and I kept saying “Nope, that’s tactical” about every tack in perfect coordination, there was nothing within the rules that allowed us to throw a flag, but to my eye, it was synchronized sailing between two guys who knew exactly what they were doing.  It was an exceptional display of talent.

While being F-bombed Katie told me about other judges with whom she works that have a hair-trigger finger on tossing a rule 69 penalty.  We discussed that a 69 is not something to be handed out for a pretty minor infraction.  Yes, I prefer to sail when things are civil, but the world has changed a bit since 1923, which is where some judge’s social attitudes seem to reside.

When Taylor Swift, the worlds sweetheart, has the massive hit song, an anthem actually, “All Too Well” with a line about “fuck the patriarchy” and every little kid in the world can hear it, maybe it’s time for World Sailing to join the 21st century and realize an F-bomb or two in a highly charged competitive environment does not warrant all the time and trouble a 69 becomes for everyone. One can only hope the sort of thoughtful judicial temperament displayed by Katie spreads through the judging community worldwide.

But there’s a good ending to the F-bomb story.  The next morning Captain F Bomb found Katie, apologized, admitted he was wrong, and said he was trying to work on controlling his temper.  My dude, if you are reading this and if talking will help, please feel free to call, I’m pretty easy to find.  Be happy to tell you about the times I let mental roadblocks limit my capabilities and how I work to fix that, constantly.  Everybody has a bad moment from time to time. The world needs your talent on the race course, with an improved attitude.

A note on coaches; during the skippers meeting on the first day, David Starck emphasized that while coaches often get a bad rap, we really need everyone to work together, and welcome their participation.  On occasion, the coach boats tended to get a little close to the starting line just prior to prestart with their gaggle of boats hanging on to them, which sometimes made us have to alter our course and compressed the available distance for other fleets to manage their starts, but every time we asked someone to move, without hesitation they all did. 

While some sailors complained about coach boat wakes, and while I could see wakes were a problem at times, I never saw a coach boat in a position that I thought was inappropriate.  They all tended to be pretty far outside the course, some of the RIBS are really big and heavy and will make a wake no matter what.  The cooperation with the coaches paid in spades with the guy who got hit on the head with the boom.  It was also very cool to see the coaches debrief their sailors post race, and overall be a beneficial part of the regatta.  If every coach behaved the way these coaches did, there wouldn’t be any more bitching about coaches.  Well done coaches, well done.

Every class as a certain culture.  The ILCA is known as a very aggressive class and some people take exception to the way the boats are sailed.  The starts are funny, it seems there are no rules from about 10 seconds before the start until about 30 seconds after.  If there was a protest for every beam-to-beam collision at the start, the protest hearings would go non-stop until Halloween. 

That’s not exactly the way I want to sail, but I am seriously impressed with the boat-handling skills on display throughout the fleet.  I’m a big fan of the Vakaros Race Sense system, at least in concept because I have yet to be in a race where it is used, but the concept is one whose time has come.  It has to help with reducing general recalls and maybe just as importantly it will help record finishes. While there are technical issues that have to be managed, I’ll bet in a couple of years they are all ironed out.  This weekend made me even more of a believer in Vakaros. 

Dave Sprague did an outstanding job as PRO.  Being from Toronto he has sailed Lightnings at the Canoe Club for probably five decades, so he knows the area and people well.  He is a “professional volunteer” who has served the sport very well for a very long time. He integrates very well with the numerous volunteers from the Canoe Club.  Of note, there were 8 high school-age sailors, all part of the BCC Junior Lightning program, who got their first taste of big regatta management. Some were on the RC boat, some on markset, some taking care of all the details that make a regatta happen. 

A big shout out to Ben Mazurkiewicz, Mason Howell, Molly O’Connor, Simona Esposito, Darrah Quinn, Quade Richards, Sabrina Starck and Jamie Starck.  All of these young adults sailed extensively this summer around the northeast in Lightnings, 420’s, 29er’s and probably other boats too. As a sport, it is critical we keep filling the pipeline with smart, talented young sailors to help run regattas in the future. Every one of them I had a chance to speak with during the weekend said they both enjoyed helping and learned from the experience.  Come back in about 10 years and one of these young adults will be taking over for David Starck as Regatta Chair.

For all the talk about yacht racing shrinking, and clearly in North America the number of participants isn’t what it once was, we should all take comfort in the fact there are hundreds, and probably more like thousands of really talented sailors competing in very challenging classes at a very high skill level.  When you have active world-class sailors running major championships for an Olympic class the level of talent is only going to continue to grow in every respect, and the sport will thrive.  This is obvious, even to a mall cop.  Peter Huston.