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Published by BBYRA, 2017-01-16 18:11:28


SS Issue 140

SPEED&smartsDavid Dellenbaugh’s ™

The newsletter of how-to tips for racing sailors Nov/Dec 2016

ISSUE #140 Learning from the Olympics
One of my guiding mantras in sailing is that it’s always a good
THEME Learning at the Olympics .......1 idea to focus on learning. It is impossible to win every race,
TACTICS & STRATEGY ...........................2 but it’s not hard to learn something every time you go racing. I
CURRENT .............................................6 call this the ‘no-lose approach’ because learning makes you feel
RULES & PROTESTS.............................10 good, and it improves your chances of success in future races.
WIND EFFECTS....................................14
For this reason I occasionally devote an entire issue of Speed
I was very fortunate to be a part & Smarts to lessons learned at specific regattas. After spending a
of the US Sailing Team for the last lot of time in Rio last summer, I decided to write this issue about
two Olympic Games. In 2012 I the 2016 Olympics. That was a great opportunity to learn about a
coached our women’s match racing wide range of racing topics, for several reasons:
team. In Rio I was the team rules
advisor, and I also developed the 1) The world’s top sailors are at the Olympics. The best way
wind/current playbooks we used to learn is by watching how the best sailors do it. Yes, they make
for each course area. This gave me occasional mistakes, but we learn from those too.
a lot of time to watch the sailors
racing in Rio and to study the wind 2) There is a wide range of one-design boats at the Olympics,
and water behavior. from the slow Radial to the fast Nacra 17 cat. It’s very informative
to watch how speed and performance affect tactics and strategy.
Rio is a great place to sail! The
backdrops on the race courses are 3) Rio has lots of current! We all need to know more about
stunning, and the sailors have the what happens when the water is moving.
chance to compete in a wide range
of conditions – from the flat water, 4) Rio has many significant geographic features. There are
shifty wind and swirling current of islands, bays and mountains rising out of the sea near the race
the courses inside the bay, to the courses. A perfect lab for learning how these affect the wind.
big breeze and even bigger waves
of the ocean courses. I know every- 5) There were many protests during the Olympics. These
one who sailed there learned a lot, offer a chance to learn about the rules and, especially, about the
and that’s what this issue is about. procedures for protests, redress and reopening hearings.

Speed & Smarts #140 The Olympics – a great educational opportunity! Turn the
page for a detailed look at my take on all these subjects and how
they relate to racing fast and smart around the course.

US Sailing Team Sperry/Will Ricketson 1

LESSONS FROM RIO: Tactics and Strategy CurrentStarting in fair
or foul current
‘Closed’ or ‘Open’ course?
W hen the direction of the current
I n Rio the current was often quite strong and there were some is lined up with the direction
significant geographic features near most of the race courses. As a of the wind, as is usually the case in
result, the beats (and runs) were often ‘one-way’ affairs (see below) Rio, sailors face some particularly
where one side of the course was much better than the other. When challenging conditions on the start-
sailors were racing on a one-way (or ‘closed’) course, they had to sail ing line. It’s hard enough to get a
toward the favored side or they’d end up in the back of the fleet. good start when the water is not
moving anywhere. But when the
But not all Rio race courses were so one-sided. There were also current is pushing you directly over
a lot of beats (and runs) where, for example, the current favored or below the starting line, it’s tough
one side and a geographic feature favored the other. In these races to get your timing and position right
the leading boats often came from both sides, so we called these as you approach the line.
‘two-way’ (or ‘open’) courses. On a two-way course, the difference
between left and right is relatively small, so either side might work. With current, it’s even more
critical to have an accurate line sight
From a strategic point of view, one question is always worth and to make some pre-start practice
asking during a race: Is the race course ‘open’ (you can consider runs. The start is a critical part of
going left or right) or ‘closed’ (you must go to a favored side)? any race so you need to work hard to
Your answer to this question will be key in planning your strategy. make sure you won’t be early or late.
Check out the next page for more
At any moment in a race you have only two basic choices: 1) keep ideas on how to do this.
going straight; or 2) tack (or jibe). If the course is ‘closed,’ then your
decision is made for you; if it’s ‘open’ you can choose either option Flood
based on what you see at any particular moment. Here are some 020°
factors that could influence your decision:
‘Closed’ Course – Many things could make one side of a beat Ebb
or run much more favored than the other. These include: different
wind velocity across the course, a geographic wind shift, a persistent
shift in wind direction, variations in current, and so on. Each of these
would make you want to sail aggressively toward the favored side.

‘Open’ Course – Neither side may be strongly favored when:
the wind direction is oscillating, strategic variables are even/steady
across the course, the wind is unsteady or random, etc. In these
situations, boats may be able to win a leg from the left side, the right
side or the middle. They key is remaining flexible to take advantage
of what you see developing as the race goes on.

Course area Wind
210° 180°

Here’s a diagram showing the tracks of the top three men’s 470s on the One thing about racing in Rio is that the
first beat of their fourth race at the 2015 Rio Test Event. All the leaders wind usually lines up with the current.
came from deep in the right corner. It’s clear that this was a ‘closed’ or The current flows north into Guanabara
‘one-way’ beat – the top boats had to go hard right to avoid the strong Bay (flooding) or south out of the bay
adverse flood current on the left side of this course in Guanabara Bay. (ebbing), while the wind in the bay blows
from the south to southwest more than
2 90% of the time. As a result, the current
is almost always flowing directly with or
against the wind. This presents certain
strategic challenges during the start of
any race (and throughout that race),
especially when the current is strong.

Lessons from Rio

Don’t get stuck to windward of the Wind When you are sailing around before If your boat doesn’t tack well
the start, change your direction by (e.g. skiff, cat, board) and you
starting line when you are getting jibing instead of tacking. Tacking will like the right side, this is an OK
close to the start sequence. Do often take you too far to windward time to start on port tack behind
your training runs early, and of the line, especially in lighter air. the fleet because the current will
make sure you are back at FAIR quickly open up space between
the line with plenty of their sterns and the RC boat.
time to spare. NO!


A Barging!

If you like the left side Layline in currentOK YES NO!
of the course (or the pin Layline with current YES Layline without current
end is farther upwind),
it’s OK to start near this Do not make your final approach
end because the current anywhere near the ‘barging’ area to
will help you fetch the leeward of and outside the RC boat.
pin without pinching. With current setting the fleet to
windward, there will be a mess here!
With current pushing you over the line, you must know exactly where the
line is and how long it takes you to get there. Get two line sights – one
right along the line (A) and another from a ways below it (B). Do some
timed runs before the start to find out how long it takes you to get
from A to B. Then use this info to help plan your approach to the line.

Wind CURRENT When you are sailing around before I never recommend starting close to
the start, change your direction by either end, but adverse current gives
FOUL Tacking instead of jibing. Jibing will you a less risky chance to start near
often put you too far to leeward of the RC boat. That’s because current
the line, especially in lighter air when pushes the fleet to leeward as they
there’s a high risk of being late. luff before the start, so there’s
often a hole near the RC boat.

liaDifnonyetnw.hoWahtteirmteehnandkceeuiasryrroaetunbhrtoeafsptienitnwatlieitannhpgdp,atrenohsaepacenfhccleihaeoltlryLaylLinaeywliintheouwt ictuhrrcenutrreNntO! YES! YES Layline Layline with current
to leeward, there will be a mess of without current OK
boats here trying to make the pin. NO

Don’t get too far to leeward of the starting You need a good line sight whenever there’s current, and you must
line when your starting sequence is close, or also be able to see this sight as you approach the line. In adverse
you could end up not making the line in time, current, set up a little earlier on starboard tack and keep your bow
especially in light air. In adverse current, a poked just ahead of the boats that are luffing around you (so you
good rule of thumb is never to go more than can see the pin end and land beyond it). If you’re behind the front
a few boatlengths below the line. row of boats you will never see your line sight and you’ll be in bad
air, so there is a high risk of being late for the start.

Speed & Smarts #140 3

LESSONS FROM RIO: Tactics and Strategy

Playing a side: Get there first or ‘sit on top’?
S imply knowing which way to go on a beat (or run) the opposite side of the course. This delay in getting
is often not enough to make a good strategic plan. to the favored side could be significant.
You also need to figure out the best way to sail toward Strength of preference – Do you favor the left

that side. Will you position yourself on the leeward or right side by a little or a lot? This greatly affects

side of the fleet so you get to the favored side first? your decision about how critical it is to get there.
Confidence in your strategy – Are you 95% sure
Or will you be toward the windward side of the fleet

and ‘sit on top’ as you sail toward the favored side? the left/right side is better, or just 65%? This will have

Each has its pluses and minuses. Being on the a big impact on much you commit to a particular side.
Length of first beat – Is the beat long enough so
leeward side of the fleet gets you to the favored side

sooner, but it’s more risky because you may never be boats to leeward of the fleet will eventually be able to

able to cross the boats on your windward hip. Sitting tack and cross boats to windward? The shorter the

on top gives you more options, but the delay in getting beat, the more likely it will pay to ‘sit on top.’
Level of risk – How much risk are you willing to
to the favored side could be costly.

The best plan depends on a number of things that take in the race or series? It’s relatively risky to lead

are different for every windward (or leeward) leg. The the fleet toward a side, and more conservative to sit

key question is this: When you get to the favored side, on top of the fleet because you have more options.

would you rather be to leeward or to windward of the There is more than one way to get

fleet? This depends a lot on the existing wind patterns to the favored side, so think

and to a certain extent on how much you lose while about all these things

tacking (see next page for a discussion of both). when making a

Here are some other factors you should consider: strategic W
Bias of starting line – If either end is upwind by plan.

more than 5°, this could override any other factors

about where to position yourself early in the race.
Length of the starting line – The longer

the starting line, the more time it will ‘Sit on top’ – Boat W
take for boats at either end to reach is heading for the left

‘Get there first’ – Boat side of the course but
L is to leeward of the The examples on this page she is to windward of
the fleet. She will get
fleet and leading them and the next show boats on to the left side later
to the left. She will be starboard tack heading toward than the others, but
the first boat to benefit the favored left side, but the she will benefit from a
from any advantage of L same principles apply to boats right shift or pressure

being on the left side. on port tack heading right. that comes from above.

These Lasers have just started Sugarloaf L
a race in the ocean off Rio with
Sugarloaf Mountain in the back- US Sailing Team Sperry/Onne van der Wal W
ground. The Korean boat (L) is
to leeward of the fleet, leading Lessons from Rio
them to the left. Boat W is also
heading to the left but she is
to windward of the fleet.

Assuming the left side of
this beat is favored, which boat
will get to the windward mark
sooner? If L gets enough of an
advantage on the left that she
can tack and cross the boats on
her windward hip, then it was
better to get left first. But if
W can hang to windward and
ahead of the fleet all the way
to the left side, it was better to
‘sit on top’ of the fleet while
sailing to the left.


Consider the wind pattern 1

In the three situations diagrammed on this page, the left Wind
side of this first beat is ‘favored’ because it has more wind
velocity or an advantageous wind shift. If you were plan- ‘Get there first’ – The wind direction
ning a strategy for the start of a race in each condition, keeps shifting left as you get farther to
would you: A) start to leeward of the fleet (on starboard the left side. This pattern is typical with a
tack) so you can get to the left side first; or B) start to geographic or persistent shift. The best
windward of the fleet so you can ‘sit on top’ as boats strategy is to sail toward the left side as
sail toward the left side? early as possible – usually the boats that
get there first will be leading the race.
This obviously depends on a number of factors
(see page 4). The most important is usually the pattern
of wind pressure and wind direction across your racing
area. Where is the best velocity? Which way will the wind
shift? And how can you position yourself to be strongest
as the fleet sails toward the favored side of the course?

The answer is not always ‘just head for the better side.’
As you can see in these examples, there are times when it
is better to get there asap, and other times when it’s not.
The key is gathering enough information (both before and
during racing) to help you make the right decision on this.

Can you tack and cross? 2

The decision about whether to ‘sit on top’ or ‘get Wind
there first’ often depends on your tacking ability.
How much distance will your boat lose in a tack ‘Sit on top’ – As you go farther left, the
in the existing conditions? This determines how wind is stronger and its direction is shifting
far advanced must you be in order to tack and progressively to the right. This pattern is
cross boats on your windward hip. often the result of a geographic influence.
In this scenario you need to go left for
A boat that tacks well (e.g. a 470 in light air) better pressure but you want to be to
might lose less than one length in a tack. But a boat windward of the fleet going left so you
that loses a lot while tacking (e.g. a skiff in heavy air) can also take advantage of the shift.
might lose four lengths or more in a tack! The more
you lose in a tack, the more difficult it will be to cross
the fleet if you are sailing on their leeward side.


D Boat X must be at least
one length ahead of Y
Wind C before she tacks, or 3
she has no chance to
B Wind
A cross in front of Y.
‘Ladder rung’

▼ Can the Red boat (X) tack and cross ahead of the Grey boat
(Y)? If X is on the same ladder rung as Y (position A), they are
even in the race. Even if X tacks and loses zero distance in the ‘Sit on top’ – There is more velocity as
process, she will be bow-to-bow with Y. If X starts at position B (one you go farther left, and also more wind as
length ahead of Y) and she tacks without losing any distance, her stern you sail farther to windward. So the best
will be at Y’s bow (position 2). If X loses one length in a tack (e.g. a strategy is to be on the windward side of
Laser in light air), she must be at least two lengths ahead of Y (position the fleet going left so you have more wind
C) before she can tack and have a chance to cross. If X loses two than the boats going right and more than
lengths in a tack (a 470 in breeze), she must be at least three lengths the boats to leeward of you going left.
ahead of Y (position D) or else she won’t be able to tack and cross. If
X loses three lengths in a tack (a skiff in moderate air), she must be at
least four lengths ahead of Y (position E) before she can tack and cross.

Speed & Smarts #140 5


Current varies,
like the wind
E very morning in Rio our sailors
competing in the Olympics got
two forecasts: one for the wind and

another for the current. The wind

forecast was a prediction of wind

strength and direction throughout

the day – this kind of information

is important for any venue.

The current forecast included

predictions about the strength and

direction of water flow across each

course area every 15 minutes. This

information was critical for a place The mouth of Guanabara Bay looking west from the shipping channel
like Rio where the current is strong toward Sugarloaf Mountain. As you can see from the water flowing past
and greatly affected by geography. this buoy (located at point B on the chart below), current can be a major
strategic factor when racing in Rio. Everyone who sailed there learned a
The biggest factor in every lot about how to predict and race in variable, and often strong, current.
current forecast, of course, is the

gravitational pull of the moon and

sun. Current runs strongest when However, the current is not a large impact on water flow:
Rainfall – When it rained a lot
the sun, moon and earth are in line product of gravitational pull alone.

(when there is a new or full moon). After getting dozens of Rio current in the Rio area, the rivers that feed

The current is weakest when the forecasts and checking them on the into Guanabara Bay filled up and

sun, moon and earth form a right race courses each day, it was clear brought more water into the bay’s

angle (during a quarter moon). that other factors can also have a northern end. The result was more

trash, a stronger ebb flow out of

the bay and a weaker flood into the

bay, though it sometimes took 24

to 48 hours to see these effects.
Wind – The current strength

was also affected by wind velocity.

The stronger the breeze and the

longer it blew, the more it pushed

the water along with it. We saw

days when a sustained 20-knot

wind completely stopped the water

flowing out of the bay.
Ocean storms – The presence

of storm systems in the ocean off

Rio could also had a significant

impact on current. These systems

typically brought a surge in the

water height that strengthened the

flood current and weakened the

ebb. Often these effects appeared

as much as a day before the storm

hit Rio and lasted a couple days.

Many sailors think current is

A sample daily current forecast for Guanabara Bay. We had charts like this always constant and predictable
for every 15 minutes during race days, viewable by swiping on an iPad. The because it is a caused by the posi-
colors (and arrow lengths) represent current speed. The scale is boatlengths tions of the sun and moon. But we
per minute, using a boatlength of 4.5 meters which is average for Olympic re-learned in Rio that the current

boats. Most sailors find it easier to use boatlengths per minute while racing is affected by many other factors
rather than knots or some other measure of current velocity.
and can be variable like the wind.

6 Lessons from Rio

Set your practice schedule These were the phases of the moon as seen in the Southern
based on the moon phase Hemisphere during the Olympics in August 2016. The phases
seen in the Northern Hemisphere were exactly the same –
T he best way to get accurate, detailed info except the visible part of the moon was on the opposite side.
about current in a place where you will be
racing is to practice at that venue before your The rise and fall of the tides was greatest around the time
regatta. However, you have to be smart with of the new moon (August 2) and the full moon (August 18).
your training schedule. If you randomly show These ‘spring tides’ produced the strongest current in Rio
up at the regatta site, you may never see the (and everywhere else in the world) on those dates.
same current patterns that you will see during
the regatta. You have to pick days for training The rise and fall of the tides was least around the time
when the current will be just like the regatta – of the ‘first quarter’ moon (August 11) and the ‘last quarter’
this is what the Olympic teams did in Rio. moon (August 25). These ‘neap tides’ produced the weakest
current in Rio (and everywhere else) on those dates.
Since the time and height of tides is directly
related to the position of the moon, base your The Olympic sailing regatta ran from August 8 to August 18.
training plan on the moon phase. For example, The current on the first day was weak to moderate, and it got
if your regatta will take place on a day when the weaker each of the first four days. On the fifth day (August 12)
moon is full, practice on days when you have the current started getting slightly stronger, and it was at full
a full moon. If your regatta will take place on speed by the last day of the event.
days 4 and 5 after a new moon, practice on the
same days after a new moon (this also works if
you substitute new moon for full, or vice versa).

Training on days with the same moon
phase is key for two reasons. First, the heights
of high and low tide will be very similar, which
means you will be training and racing in the
same current velocity. Second, and more im-
portantly, the times of high and low tides will
be very close to the same. This is especially key
because it means you can train in the same ebb,
flood and slack water that you will see while
racing. (See the tide charts below for a great
example of how this works.)

RIO Tides – August 2006 High Height (m) RIO Tides – August 2016 High Height (m)
Time Low Time Low
High High
Wednesday, August 23, 2006 Low Tuesday, August 2, 2016 Low
New moon New moon

New moon +1 day New moon +1 day

New moon +2 days New moon +2 days

New moon +3 days New moon +3 days

New moon +4 days New moon +4 days

If you compare tide charts from the same moon cycle days in any two months or years, you will see that they compare
very closely. Here, for example, are the times and heights of high and low tides in Rio for similar days in August 2006 and
2016. Compare August 25, 2006 with August 4, 2016 (green boxes), both of which are two days after the new moon.
As you can see, the tide times and heights are very, very similar. No matter the month or year, every day that is two days
after a new moon will have similar times and heights. This is very valuable to know when you organize a training schedule.

Speed & Smarts #140 7


How important is current?

W hen you’re racing in current, this is almost
always a factor at the starting line and while you
are rounding marks. But how important is it from a
strategic point of view? The challenge in Rio, and any
other venue where you race in current, is to base your
strategic planning on an accurate assessment of how
current will affect the race. At the Olympics we had very
good data about current in Guanabara Bay, but this did
not mean we always followed it. There were many races
where it was much more important to play the wind, for
example. Here’s a discussion of some factors that could
affect the relative importance of current.

WIND ‘imFapsotr’tabnot asttrsatvesg.ic‘aSllloy wfo’r bbooaattssth–aTthaerecugroreinngt is more
slowly than
for boats that are going fast. When a boat is traveling slowly
through the water (i.e. when the current velocity is a greater
Skiff percentage of her boatspeed), she will spend more time
Current sailing in whatever current she has. That makes it more

important for her to be in better current.
There are two primary reasons why a boat may be going
fast or slow. The first is wind velocity. In light air boats travel
Current slowly, so current is usually a critical strategic factor. In heavy
air, however, boats go much faster, which means current has
a relatively smaller effect on their performance. The lighter
Laser the wind, the more likely it is that current will matter.
Slow boat The second reason why boats may travel at different
speeds is because they are different types of boats. At the
Olympics there were a bunch of ‘fast’ boats including the
Fast boat skiffs, cats and boards. There were also some ‘slow’ boats
including the Laser, Radial and Finn. The strategic value of
current was different depending on boat type.
The skiffs, for example, were very quick and therefore
didn’t care so much about current. The Lasers, on the other
Boats going fast don’t hand, were much slower and therefore looked for even the
care as much about slightest differences in current across the course. On certain
current because they Rio race courses, it was not uncommon for one side to be
spend less time being favored if you were racing a fast boat and the other side
affected by it. to be favored in slow boats, for precisely this reason.

Upwind vs. Downwind – The value of sailing in current also varies by wind angle.
As a strategic factor, current is generally more critical upwind than downwind. That’s
because when you are in better current on a beat, you also usually have more wind
velocity (because the better current creates additional pressure). In other words,
Slow boat you get a double benefit by finding better current when sailing upwind.
Fast boat The same is not true downwind. When sailing in ‘better’ current on

a run, you actually have less wind velocity (because the current detracts
from the wind pressure). So your choice is: 1) better current with
less wind, or 2) worse current with more wind. This makes the
Laser decision less critical – even if you don’t find the best current
WIND you will at least have a little more wind.
WIND This extra wind velocity is especially helpful for
fast boats, which generally benefit more from
Current Current small increases in pressure. That’s why in Rio

8 On a run, worse Skiff the faster boats (skiffs, cats, boards) spent
current at least gives less time worrying about current on runs
and more time looking for pressure.
you better wind

Lessons from Rio

Wind or Current?
Which strategic factor will be more critical in
your next race or leg – wind or current?
WIND Weigh the value of each, and don’t
place undue strategic empha- WIND
sis on a variable that has Light and steady
only a small chance
of affecting
Strong and shifty your race.

Current Current

‘Wind Race’ – The wind should be your strategic focus ‘Current Race’ – The current should be your strategic
when it is strong and/or variable compared to current. focus when it is relatively strong and more variable than
In these conditions there is a lot more to gain (or lose) the wind. In this condition there is a lot to gain (or lose)
by playing the wind correctly (or incorrectly). by playing the current correctly (or incorrectly).

It’s likely to be a ‘wind race’ when: the current is weak; It’s likely to be a ‘current race’ when: the wind is light
the current is even across the course (so there is not (and the current has a correspondingly large influence);
much to gain on either side); the wind is strong (so the the wind direction and velocity are fairly even across the
boats go fast relative to the current); or the wind is shifty course (so there’s not much to gain on either side); the
and puffy (which means gains or losses due to the wind current is strong; or the current is variable across the
could be quite large). course (so there are gains and losses to be made).

Where you’ll find more current Where the current changes first

Guanabara Bay Narrows Guanabara Bay Flood Ebb
Beginning ebb

Point D

RIO C Point RIO Schhipapninnegl
Point B
Deep Shallow



A Flood

Current strength is largely a function of geography. It Current changes In Rio the current runs strongest in the
runs strongest where the water is deepest (i.e. where there deep shipping channel that goes up the middle of the bay.
is least friction with the bottom), but it also accelerates at Once the current is running at 2+ knots, it takes a long time
other points where the flow is constricted. These include to slow. As the end of the tide cycle gets closer, the water
places where the water must pass: 1) through a narrow gate must eventually start flowing the other way. This begins in
such as the entrance to Guanabara Bay (A) or the mouth the shallow water at the edges of the bay where there is
of a river (E); as the water flow compresses into a smaller much less resistance from the dying flood. In Rio, as in
area it also speeds up; and 2) around points that stick out many other venues, you frequently see new flow gaining
into the water flow (B,C,D). At these places the water flow strength at the edges of the bay while the old flow is still
speeds up as it compresses around the points. quite strong going the other way in the middle.

Speed & Smarts #140 9

LESSONS FROM RIO: Protests you get it, you are allowed reason-
able time to prepare your defense.
Don’t overlook protest hearings
Is the protest valid? – If you
Olympic sailors spend a lot of As rules advisor for the U.S. are filing a protest, make sure you
time training to sail faster, get team, I spent a lot of time hanging meet all the requirements for it to
better starts and improve their around the jury room after racing. be valid. If you are being protested,
boathandling skills, but few spend Here are some of my take-aways: look over the other party’s form to
as much effort learning about rules see if they met the requirements.
and protest procedures. That’s a bit Look for evidence – ‘Evidence’ A written protest, for example,
surprising because rules often play is the key to proving your case in a must identify ‘where and when the
a big role in high-level events – hearing. It could be testimony from incident occurred’ (rule 61.2c). In
when there’s a lot at stake, sailors your crew or a person on another Rio, two protests were found to be
seem more willing to protest even boat who saw the incident. It may invalid because they had the wrong
the smallest infractions. be video or a tracker replay of your race number (the protestor listed
situation. You can present all of the race number for that day in-
In the 2016 Olympic regatta, these things at the hearing. Look stead of the overall regatta)!
for example, there were 109 protest for this evidence before your hear-
hearings spread across ten classes. ing; if it was available before the Check the notice board –
That’s an average of 11 protests per hearing but you didn’t get it, you The official notice board is the
class! There were sailors who won can’t use that evidence to defend ‘bible’ for any information you
medals because they played by the yourself or to reopen the hearing. need to know about protests, so
rules on the water and/or did a check it often (even if you don’t
good job in protests ashore. And Ask for a copy of the protest – think you’re involved in a protest).
there were other sailors who lost This is a simple step that many At least two Olympic boats were
medals because they took risks on sailors forget. Before the hearing, disqualified from races because
the race course or did a bad job in you have a right to see a copy of the they did not see their names
protest hearings. other party’s written protest, but posted on the notice board and
you must ask the jury for this. Once failed to show up for the hearing.

Be prepared and precise If you believe that you followed the rules during
the incident, therefore, you must convince the jury
It would be great if every protest decision could be that your story is the correct one. This requires care-
based on what really happened in the race, but that is ful preparation and accurate presentation (see below).
not the case. Because a protest committee hears only When you explain the incident with model boats, for
the testimony presented by two sailors, it can be diffi- example, be very precise about wind direction, boom
cult for them to figure out the ‘truth.’ In many cases, angle, distance between boats and so on. Be confident
their decision is simply a best guess based on what about details, time and distance, and show that your
each sailor says and does in the hearing. version is clearly consistent with math and science.

1 The moment when USA 2 The moment when USA
helmsperson last saw BRA helmsperson first saw BRA
through window in mainsail. behind the mainsail leech.

Here are two diagrams that we created to defend a port-starboard protest at the Olympics. These were drawn
on graph paper so we could show precise boat dimensions and spacing. Our sailors used these for guidance during
the protest hearing. We also submitted them to the jury 1) to keep our version of the incident in front of them,
and 2) to show the attention to detail that went into our race and protest defense. We won this protest because
(fortunately) a jury member witnessed the incident and testified that what he saw was similar to the diagram.

10 Lessons from Rio

Notes on reopening 1
a protest hearing 2
W hen you disagree with the decision
of a protest committee, you have
two options. You can file an appeal, or
you can request the jury to reopen the
hearing. At the Olympics, or at any
event where there is an international
jury, appeals are not permitted. In that
case your only option is reopening.

According to rule 66 (Reopening
a Hearing), a protest committee may
reopen a hearing when ‘it decides that
it may have made a significant error, or
when significant new evidence becomes
available within a reasonable time.’ Any
party to a hearing may ask for a reopen-
ing no later than 24 hours after being
informed of the decision. That’s what
we did in the Finn protest (see below).

Twelve hours after the hearing we
found a video showing the incident.
In order to get the hearing reopened
we had to convince the jury see that
this evidence was both ‘substantial’ and
‘new.’ The jury agreed it was substantial
because it could potentially reverse the
decision they had made the day before.
And the video was ‘new’ because it was
not reasonably available to us at the
time of the hearing. Therefore they
agreed to reopen the hearing.

Here are five still shots from a video
4 that shows the start of Finn Race # 6
in 20 knots of wind and 10-foot waves.
The US boat is sailed by Caleb Paine
who crossed the finish line 2nd in this
race. But CRO protested Caleb, claiming
he (CRO) had to bear away hard to miss
hitting the aft quarter of USA.
We guessed there might be video
of this incident, but despite a fairly
thorough search we could not find it
before the hearing early that evening.
With only the two boats’ testimony as
evidence, the jury disqualified Caleb for
not keeping clear of a starboard tacker.
5 Fortunately, a friend happened to
find the video shown here early the next
morning. We immediately brought it to
the jury and requested that they reopen
the hearing, which they agreed to do.
Caleb then presented the video at
the reopened hearing. Based on this
new evidence, the jury changed the
facts to say that Caleb had in fact kept
clear of CRO. The protest was dismissed,
Caleb was reinstated in 2nd place, and
he went on to win a bronze medal!

Speed & Smarts #140 11

LESSONS FROM RIO: Protests FINN RACE 3 Finn fleet Start
on first beat
Requesting redress Almost all the Finns Finn windward Synchronized Synchronized
sailed to the right of and offset marks scale location
In Finn Race 3, the windward mark was a the rhumbline as they (Red) Pai
little hard to find. The first beat was long approached the top Island
and the waves were big, plus there were mul- mark. The wind was
tiple marks to windward. It turns out that the a little right of the
Laser leeward gate marks had been placed posted Finn mark
surprisingly close to the Finn course – this bearing, and some
and the similar colors (dark orange versus thought the Laser
red) confused at least a few sailors. gate mark was their
windward mark.
In sailing, a boat may be entitled to some
form of redress if her finish position in a race Start LASER RACE 5
is made significantly worse, through no fault
of her own, by an improper action of the race Laser fleet The Laser fleet was sailing a
committee (rule 62.1a). That’s why several on first beat trapezoid course just to the
Finn sailors asked for redress in Race 3. northwest of the Finns. The
Laser gate marks gate marks on their outer
In order to get redress, a sailor has to (Dark orange) loop were dark orange and
demonstrate several things: positioned fairly close to the
Synchronized time Finn windward and offset
1) His finish position in the race was marks, which were red.
made ‘significantly worse.’ In other words,
his finish score was made worse by a signifi- Pai
cant amount and this was directly as a result Island
of the race committee’s error; and
Using the synchronized time Laser marks
2) His finish position was made worse and location, the two races Finn marks
‘through no fault of [his] own.’ That is, there and courses are laid on top
was nothing the sailor did that contributed of each other to show the
to his worse finish score; and relative positions of the
Finns, their windward mark
3) There was an ‘improper action’ by and the Laser gate marks.
the race committee. In this case, the sailors
alleged that it was improper for the RC to Lessons from Rio
run a race with a second set of similar marks
so close to their windward mark.

In Race 3, the Finn sailors had to show
that the RC made an error and that this had
a significant effect on their score. The jury
found that the Finn RC had placed their
windward mark in the correct place, so they
decided not to give redress in this case.

We were lucky that Amory Ross, who was
working on media for the US Sailing Team,
could help us with the presentation of a case
for redress in Finn Race 3. Amory started by
getting the GPS tracker info for both the Finn
and Laser fleets. He took a screen shot of the
Finns when they were getting close to their
windward mark (top), and then took a screen
shot of the Laser fleet (middle) at the same
exact time (13:20:55), using the same scale.
These races were in the ocean off Rio, but
luckily there was a piece of land (Pai Island)
in both shots. Amory used this geographic
reference to overlay the two screen shots
exactly on top of each other (bottom). The
result was a very accurate picture showing the
Finns and the position of their windward (and
offset) mark plus the Laser gate marks. This
was shown to the jury in the redress hearing.


Beware of port-starboard situations!

I think it is safe to say that there are more protests PS
involving rule 10 (On Opposite Tacks) than any CASE 50
other rule in the rulebook. At the 2016 Olympics, for
example, at least 28 protest hearings involved a port- World Sailing
starboard situation. And the port-tack boat was dis-
qualified in about 75% of those! Not very good odds “When a protest committee finds that in
for the boat trying to cross ahead. a port-starboard incident S did not change
course and that there was not a genuine
Even at a high-level event like the Olympics, many and reasonable apprehension of collision
sailors do not have a sound plan for managing port- on the part of S, it should dismiss her
starboard situations on the race course. Before any protest. When the committee finds that
major event, every sailor should think about their S did change course and that there was
port-tack philosophy. In other words, when will they reasonable doubt that P could have crossed
go for the ‘cross’? Here are some things to consider: ahead of S if S had not changed course,
then P should be disqualified.”
• How likely is the other boat to protest? This
depends on the crew’s personality, their history of Before you decide to make a close cross in front of
protesting, the culture of the class in which you are a starboard tacker, read this appeal! The rules do
racing and the level of the event. The bigger the event, not place any specific onus on a port-tack boat, but
the more rule 10 protests you tend to see. World Sailing Case 50 says she will be disqualified if:

• The wind and wave conditions. As the wind 1) the starboard-tacker changed course; and
velocity and wave height go up, starboard tackers 2) there was reasonable doubt that P could have
become increasingly apprehensive about boats cross- crossed ahead if S had not changed course.
ing close ahead, and they are more likely to protest. In almost all starboard-port protest hearings, the
starboard tacker says two things: 1) she had to bear
• How much risk are you willing to take? At off to avoid hitting P; and 2) if she hadn’t borne off
any point in a race or series, you should have a good she was worried that she would hit P. In other words,
idea about the level of risk you are willing to assume. S almost always says the two things that Case 50 lists
More often than not, making a close cross on port tack as conditions for disqualifying P. In the absence of
is a risky move, so don’t do it unless you’re willing to other strong evidence, a jury that hears this kind of
accept penalty turns or a possible DSQ. testimony will almost always penalize P.

• How badly do you need to cross ahead on
port? There are occasional times when crossing a
starboard tacker can make a huge difference in your
race or series, but most of the time it doesn’t matter
so much. Don’t make the mental mistake of going for
a risky cross that is not essential to your race.

Speed & Smarts #140 US Sailing Team Sperry/Daniel Forster


LESSONS FROM RIO: Geographic wind effects Windward When beating toward an
mark object that casts a large
How land affects the wind wind shadow, the best
strategy often depends on
T he race courses in Rio are surrounded by islands the location of the mark.
and mountains that pop up out of the water and Wind
create a spectacular backdrop for racing. It’s a land- shadow
scape that provides a perfect laboratory for studying
the effect of land on wind. Nowhere else have I seen
the velocity and direction of the wind vary so much
across a small area due to geographical effects. Here
are some of the local effects that sailors had to deal
with during the Olympics.

Wind shadows – Hills, mountains, islands and
Wind buildings block the wind, of course, and leave shadows
shadow of lighter air in their lee. Wind shadows usually extend
directly to leeward of an object, so they move whenever
Wind shadows extend to WIND the wind direction shifts. The higher and wider the
leeward of objects, so their object, the longer and more severe its wind shadow.
location changes when the
wind direction shifts. Pai Island (shown here) is 100 meters high and about
a kilometer across, so it creates a substantial wind block.
The severity of a wind shadow is also related to wind
velocity – the lighter the wind the longer it takes for air
flow to re-establish on the back side of the object, so
wind shadows are more severe.

The best strategy, of course, is to stay in areas of best
pressure and avoid, or minimize your time in, sailing in
wind shadows. That is not always so easy to do when
marks are positioned near shore.

Wind ‘Compression’ CToramnps(mirtWeioosrinseni(dozwleonissnnshadewar)ed(iPnaoduwf)fy)

‘Compression’ WIND WIND

Compression effects – When there is a wind shadow, Sugarloaf Mountain
look for a corresponding area of more pressure on either 1,400 ft
side (or both sides) of the lighter air. The wind that was
blocked by the island (or any other object) has to go Identify the transition zone – Strategically, it’s usually
somewhere, and much of it goes around (or over) the good to sail in the area of compression where there’s
object. As the wind on the windward side of the island more wind, and it’s bad to sail in a wind shadow where
bends to go around the side, it meets up with wind that there is less wind. In between these areas is a ‘transition
was already flowing there. The result is an area of com- zone’ where the wind goes from lighter to stronger. This
pressed air flow with increased velocity. You may see this zone is characterized by puffs and shifts. Once you see
on both sides of the island and extending to leeward. the wind becoming inconsistent, you are on the border
between compression and wind shadow; in this case it
usually pays to sail away from the wind shadow until
you get into more solid pressure.

14 Lessons from Rio

© Sailing Energy/World Sailing Here’s a typical Rio race
course set near steep
islands and mountains.
The breeze is fairly steady
for any boats, like these
Radials, that are on the
windward side of this
island. But on the leeward
side sailors have to deal
with a big wind shadow
that has light and shifty
wind. When boats are
abeam of the island they
are likely to find even
more wind because the
breeze compresses as it
flows around the sides.
The taller and steeper the
island (or mountain), the
more significant are these
geographic effects.

Friction effects – When the wind blows across the Wind over land Wind over water
surface of the earth, it encounters surface drag, or
friction, with the land and water. This makes the wind Southern Northern
(at lower heights) flow a little slower and changes its
direction. In the Southern Hemisphere, surface drag Northern Southern
makes the wind veer (i.e. turn to the right). In the
Northern Hemisphere, the opposite is true: friction Wind over land Wind over water
makes the wind back (i.e. shift left). Northern Hemisphere

The rough surface of the land (trees, etc.) usually Area (omfocreonwivnerd)gence
creates a lot more drag than the relatively smooth
surface of the water. The greater the friction, the more
effect it has on wind direction. The wind, therefore,
tends to bend more over land than it does over water.
This is important to sailors whenever they are racing
near land (see below).
Convergence – When the wind is blowing along
a shoreline, you may find an area of convergence
with more wind pressure close to shore. This occurs
when the surface drag of the land area causes the
wind to shift and blow toward the nearby body of
water. This wind blowing off the land converges
with the wind over the water and creates more
wind where the two breezes meet. You’ll find this
in the Northern Hemisphere when you are facing
the wind and the land is to your left. It occurs in
the Southern Hemisphere when you are facing the
wind and the land is to your right.

Divergence – At other times when the wind is Southern Hemisphere
blowing along a shoreline, you may find an area
of divergence with less wind pressure near shore. Area(loefssdiwvienrd)gence
This occurs when the surface drag of the land area
causes the wind to shift away from the nearby body
of water. This wind blowing over the land diverges
from the wind over the water and leaves an area
with less wind between the two breezes. You’ll
find this in the Northern Hemisphere when you
are facing the wind and the land is to your right.
It occurs in the Southern Hemisphere when you
are facing the wind and the land is to your left.

Speed & Smarts #140 15


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