Years Among the Stars
Chapter IX - Reasons Underlying Star Rules
Rules are the structure of competitive sport. Rule books do not have space for lengthy explanations, nor can all reasons for a rule always be made evident by its wording. A superficial knowledge of rules, therefore, is not enough. Officials that understand the intent and purpose of rules can better enforce and interpret them. Contestants with that knowledge are less apt to unwittingly violate a rule in principle.
The writer will try to explain the less obvious reasons behind certain Star rules, which even many Star members do not fully grasp. Being an exhaustive subject, only the more important rules can be touched upon. The casual reader, not interested in a rule discussion, is advised, therefore, to skip rather lightly through the contents of this chapter.
To begin with, a one-design class serves two masters. Rules of the parent unions (I.Y.R.U. and N.A.Y.R.U.) govern right-of-way, most race procedure, rating formulae and time allowance based thereon. Union rules are essential to preserve a reasonable degree of uniformity in yacht racing and the conduct of large regattas. These rules, however, are primarily written around and intended for the rating (open design) classes. Each one-design and special class is responsible for its own class rules and must file a copy with the R.C. conducting the event. That, in a nutshell, is the setup.
The basic principle of open design and one-design racing is the exact opposite. Races in the rating classes are contests of design, intended to prove which is the fastest boat. The purpose of a one-design class, however, is to provide theoretically identical boats in order to prove who is the best skipper. It stands to reason, therefore, that neither can race under all the rules of the other without causing many inconsistencies Nevertheless, one-designs were forced to race under open design rules in the past and still are in many large club regattas. Worse still, some of the strictly local one-design classes seem perfectly satisfied with that arrangement, thereby nullifying the very purpose for which they were organized.
The most striking example of this is the usual practice of awarding series points to the boat, regardless of the type or class. While it is quite correct to continue that practice with the rating classes, it is all wrong in the case of the one-designs. If two or more skippers sail the same one-design boat in different races, their combined point score does not prove who is the best skipper. Probably more than eighty-five per cent of the starters are one-designs in the average large club regatta today. Does it make sense to impose a practice, which now only applies to a small minority, upon the great majority?
The problems of an R.C. conducting a regatta for many classes have not been lost sight of. It is just as easy to award points to the boat and its skipper as it is to the boat and its owner. Entries have to be filed with someone, either the club or its local Y.R.A. It is a simple matter, therefore, to obtain the name of the skipper of record by asking for it on the entry blank. No one expects the R.C. to know who is at the helm of each boat in a big regatta. If one of the small boat skippers is a professional, that would be a violation of Union rules. What would the R.C. do? It would wait for a protest and then disqualify. Is there any reason why it cannot follow the same procedure if the eligibility of the skipper is protested on other grounds? Those racing in a class know whom they are sailing against. It is definitely their responsibility to protest an ineligible skipper, just as it is an ineligible boat. No additional work is asked of the R.C.
A great many persons do not seem to realize that class rules do not refer to measurements only, but include all regulations and restrictions necessary to properly carry out the principles for which the class was created. They also do not seem to understand that individual ability is just as great a factor in yacht racing as in any other sport and that ability is not just confined to helmsmanship. A skipper can definitely increase the speed of a boat by condition and tune. Some can do it quicker than others, but all must have the boat in their care for an appreciable time to accomplish this. That is why nothing conclusive can be proved except by the performance of a given skipper in a given boat.
If too great a curb is placed upon a skipper's ability, it defeats the purpose of one-design racing. The extreme of this has been tried in club owned classes, where the skipper draws for the boat he is to sail just before the race. Such boats are never in anything like the condition of privately owned ones. Since the skipper is not allowed to adjust anything, they are never in tune and do not even provide an accurate test of helmsmanship between skippers of more or less equal caliber.
Under Star rules a skipper can take full advantage of his general boating knowledge. If he does not attempt to change the basic design of hull, spars or sail, he can do or use almost anything he wants. He can even shift the position of mast and keel within limits. He can tune the boat to his own style, the weight of its human cargo, weather conditions, etc. Then if he does not win, it's because others possess greater ability. On the other hand, he cannot spring a surprise attack by using something new. If he wishes to try anything not mentioned in the rules, he must first obtain a ruling in order to be sure it does not violate them in principle. If allowable, others can see, or at least, hear about it. If it has merit, they can copy it. That policy is chiefly responsible for the continued improvement in a Star's speed and appearance throughout the years.
The foregoing describes the fundamental principles behind almost every Star rule. From this point on I will deal with the less obvious reasons for certain specific Star rules, which is the real object of this chapter.
Sanctions and Classifications - All strictly Star events of inter-fleet character must be sanctioned. That is necessary to prevent conflicting dates. All championships are interfleet championships. Entries are restricted to those that win their fleet trials. Such events range from the AA World's Championship down to the 2-B novice district championships. A skipper does not have to qualify for a C or D event. Any number of skippers from the same fleet can enter, as well as isolated ones that are not within the territory of any fleet. Class rules for these events are not as strict, especially with regard to the crew. Some D events have even become part of open regattas. This brief explanation should clarify the rules governing substitutions.
Substitutions - A skipper cannot substitute for himself in his fleet trials, the purpose of which is to select the best skipper for some championship. The same is true of other non-title events, which are also contests between skippers. It would be just as absurd to allow a tennis player to substitute for himself in the preliminary rounds of a tournament. Fleet trials, however, are usually held on consecutive weekends. If a fleet fears that its favorite is apt to be eliminated because of illness or disqualification, there is a simple solution. It can schedule, say seven races and require five to qualify on a percentage system, or five to count on a throw out system. The I.S.C.Y.R.A. does not care, provided that no form of arbitrary selection is used.
Championships are a different story. An entry represents a fleet and they are contests between fleets. The skipper, crew and yacht are supposed to be the fleet's best combination. A duly appointed alternate, therefore, can be substituted in an emergency. The Star officials in charge, however, must approve of any substitution after the series has started. Otherwise a fleet might fake an emergency in an effort to gain an advantage by using a substitute under certain weather conditions. Actually there have been only a few rare cases of an alternate being substituted for the starting combination and to the best of my knowledge, it has never affected the point score of the leaders. My personal feeling is that any substitutions after the start should be barred, since they serve no good purpose and only force the R.C. to occasionally render a difficult decision, without sufficient time to invest, gate the circumstances.
Outlawed Events - A rule exists authorizing the I.S.C.Y.R.A. to outlaw any established event in which Star class rules are willfully ignored. While this is a necessary protection, the rule has only been invoked twice. Both cases were in sanctioned Star events for the flagrant disregard of agreed conditions and inexcusable failure to enforce obvious violations of rules.
Protests and Protest Flag - Star rules seek to minimize protests in sanctioned events, as protests cause bad blood. In championships, officials are stationed at each turning mark and follow the race. If a probable violation is reported, the R.C. must investigate. In a large regatta for many classes, of course, it is impossible to provide officials to watch every course. Yacht racing is the sort of sport in which a foul may not be seen by an official, even in a championship. A skipper, therefore, must be given the right to protest. Rules are made to be observed and not to give the R.C. excuses to avoid its duty. The points of every entry in a series are affected by a disqualification. A foul is not a private matter between the two skippers involved. What most R.C.'s do not seem to understand is that it is often to a skippers advantage not to protest. If the fouled skipper beats the one that fouled him and puts a point between himself and his closest rival, why should he protest? By the same token, as that point could mean the series, why should the said rival be prevented from protesting, whether involved in the foul or not? Certainly the outcome of a series should not depend upon whether or not a contestant protests.
Protest flags are not required. Like displaying the owner's private signal, it is a regulation days of large yachts. A Star is very sensitive to any movement aboard. Its one man crew hangs over the rail in a breeze and must remain motionless in light air. If he shifts about hoisting a flag, seconds will be lost and Star competition is usually so close that a couple of places could easily be lost. If a boat is disabled, or the skipper does not see a foul, a protest flag cannot be displayed anyway. About the only purpose it serves is to provide the R.C. with another technical excuse to refuse to hear a protest.
Hearings - At a collective hearing a skipper's crew and witnesses will substantiate his testimony. A Star R.C. hears every witness separately. While the testimony will vary to some extent, just as no two people see a street accident exactly alike, the R.C. gets a better picture of the true facts and can tell who is trying to distort them, if anyone.
Appeals - Only I.R.C. decisions cannot be appealed. That is because our best rule talent is usually available at a World's Championship and, since entries come from all parts of the world, an immediate decision is necessary. Even right-of-way rules can be appealed to the I.S.C.Y.R.A. in other championships. While we would prefer that the Unions decide right-of-way violations, the channels provided by them move too slowly. If the winner of a fleet's trials rested upon such a decision, not only would the championship be over, but the season would be ended before a final opinion was rendered. Union procedure is intended for local conditions, where prizes are not usually presented until months after the active season is over.
- It is impossible to prove ownership, nor has it any bearing upon who
is the best skipper. That owners and part owners are mentioned in the
rules is a figure of speech, as the owner and skipper of a Star is almost
always the same person. What the I.S.C.Y.R.A. is interested in is the
registered skipper, the skipper that is identified with the number of
a given Star. I say "number" advisedly, since a boat's name
can be changed, but its number cannot.
There is no other way of putting teeth into the enforcement of rules. Only those on the membership list can be sure of automatically receiving the rule book and being advised of any changes. Skippers that do not know class rules are a menace to the rest. Aside from this, a world-wide organization cannot be properly run without funds. An international class like the Stars cannot be supported year after year by large contributions from enthusiastic individuals. Necessary funds can only be obtained from small dues paid by all members. Only in that way can the organization's revenue keep pace with its growth and the increased cost of running it. A Star active member must also belong to a recognized club. The only purpose of that requirement was to play ball with the clubs. Star dues are little more than nominal, whereas club dues are much more and in many cases amount to several hundred dollars per year. I mention this to show how narrow minded and ignorant some club officials were in the past, when they claimed that the I.S.C.Y.R.A. was trying to make them its collecting agents, although the reverse was really the case.
Verbal Instructions - There is no reason why understandable printed instructions cannot be available to contestants. Even supplementary verbal instructions are barred and cannot constitute grounds for a protest. Seldom can a skipper be sure that his hail for information is answered by an authorized official. He can easily misunderstand and, on the spur of the moment, the official is apt to give misleading answers. If the printed instructions are open to an honest misunderstanding, the race can be protested and declared no contest.
Star Rules Unbeatable - The by-laws instruct Star officials how they must interpret the rules. This article reads in part, "In deciding any question the intended meaning of the rules shall be considered rather than any technical misconstruction that might be derived from the wording . . . Precedent and the established policy of the association shall be taken into consideration in interpreting any rule or regulation of obscure meaning or not covered at all." Builders are also warned not to copy the dimensions of any Star known to have a measurement certificate, as some of the limitations may have been narrowed since the boat was built. If a bright lad thinks he has found a loophole in the rules, because what he had in mind is not mentioned, he should remember that the responsibility of obtaining a ruling rests with him. Disqualification is the penalty of violating a rule in principle just as much so as violating the letter of the rule. That is why I say that Star rules cannot be circumvented.
Team Racing - Sanctioned Star championships are contests of individual ability and team racing tactics are prohibited, even when a fleet is entitled to more than one entry. I know of no other racing class where such a rule exists. It's simple enough. A skipper may cover or luff as much as he pleases, where allowed by right-of-way rules, provided he does so in a manner consistent with maintaining or improving his position. If he sacrifices his position in the race and thereby improves the series standing of another, that is team racing. It is easily detected. If he helps a teammate, or one from his own general locality, the reason becomes obvious. The reason, however, cannot be considered by the R.C., as it is sometimes obscure. It could be due to a personal like or dislike. A skipper could even favor another, so the event would be held the following year at a place he would like to visit. Disqualification, in a flagrant case, would not help the injured party. Hence the penalty can include suspension and the R.C. has the power of ordering the race resailed, if the incident materially affected the series score.
Shortening Course - The total distance of a standard Star course is only approximate, otherwise any race could be protested. Star rules prohibit shortening the described and signaled course by stopping the race at the end of the first round or at any point short of the regular finish line. Such practice is allowed by Union rules and is probably all right in a large regatta for many classes. In an important event for a single class, however, it gives the R.C. too much power to affect the results. If the race is stopped at the end of the first round, the R.C. is accused of wanting to see the entry, then leading, win. If it is allowed to continue, Men it is accused of not liking the positions and hoping that the time limit will cancel the race. In other words it's damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. The R.C. should not be placed in that position. Aside from this, it has hurt the chances of entries in many C events. Knowing the rules, hearing two guns, and seeing the leader apparently withdraw, other entries have assumed that the race was called off and sailed for home. Then they have learned that had they continued for another hour or so they could have drifted across the line and probably won or placed in the series. This is a good example of why it is dangerous to have sanctioned events run by club R.C.'s, no matter how cooperative they may be. They do not usually know Star rules and act without checking up on them. They do not realize how unfair that sort of thing is to a visiting skipper, who has spent a lot of time and money to enter the event.
Resails - The status of an unfinished race is the same as a cancelled one. The Star class adopted such a rule over twenty years ago. I am happy to say that at least one Union has recently followed suit. The old procedure allowed an entry to be disqualified in the attempted race and barred from the resail, as well as any new entries. In an unfinished race practically every entry picks up a tow before the time limit has officially expired, thereby disqualifying themselves. While confusing in a championship, it is worse in a regatta held for many classes. The entries are too far away for the R.C to identify them and too numerous to keep track of. An unfinished race is no contest anyway and the only fair way to handle such a situation is to make a resail a new deal in every respect.
Special Rules - If
a race is declared "no contest" on appeal and the entries cannot
be reassembled, the results of the series are determined upon the races
that were completed. This must not be misunderstood as giving the R.C.
the power of shortening a scheduled series. It is not a very desirable
rule, but the only way of handling an otherwise impossible condition.
An entry maneuvering in close proximity to the starting line is considered a starter, even if it does not cross said line. This and the above paragraph are primarily intended for a series in which only a given number of starts are required to qualify. It prevents an entry from bothering others before the start and then withdrawing.
Whisker Pole - A Star has no light sails and must, therefore, use a whisker pole to hold out its jib while running down wind. The writer has heard several times (not in the too far distant past either) Star skippers hailed from the committee boat and told to take down their whisker poles, as they were illegal. Those hails probably came from a talkative guest or greenhorn R.C. member. I mention this only to show that hails cannot be considered official and that even the best club R.C. is not always familiar with the obviously necessary class rules of every class.
Sculling With Rudder - The Star class was the first to recognize the fact that some types of boats can be given increased speed by sculling with the rudder and passing a rule against that practice. A Star's bow can be swung in one given direction to go about or round a mark. Additional forward speed, however, cannot be imparted to the boat by short quick motions of the helm. Of course this is technically barred by the rule which provides that a yacht can only be propelled by sail. Large yachts cannot be sculled by the rudder and it was practically impossible to make the average club R.C. believe that a Star could until this rule was passed.
Amendments - While this has to do with organization rather than racing, a brief explanation seems in order. A proposed amendment must be published in Starlights four months before the annual meeting. That gives fleets a chance to discuss it and instruct their delegates. The annual meeting must then approve of the proposed amendment by a majority vote, to prevent crackbrained schemes from being submitted. Finally the resolution is voted upon by the membership with the annual ballot and a two thirds vote is required to pass it. Hence no change can be made in the rules unless desired by a substantial majority.
Team Racing Tactics - Such tactics are prohibited in any Star championship. I doubt if this rule exists in any other class. A skipper has a perfect right to sail a normal race and cover any rival he likes, provided he observes the right-of-way rules. He cannot, however, sail an abnormal course, which hurts his own position, and prevent another skipper from sailing a normal one. Team racing is easy to detect and there is nothing complicated about the rule. Since its adoption, there have been no marked cases of that practice. It's a necessary rule, as it's impossible to know the causes for team racing. It by no means always applies to skippers from the same district or nation and is often due to some private grudge, which no one knows about.
Race Circulars - Many of the requirements on a race circular are simply established practice and not rules to be found in the rule book. Probably the least obvious of these is the requirement that the red starting signal remain up until the race is over. That red visible signal can be seen from a distance, whereas a gun often cannot be heard against a strong wind, nor can code flag J be seen.
Economy In Words - Star rules have often been criticized for being too lengthy and including too many repetitions. It should be known that this is mostly intentional. Unless the purpose of a rule is impressed upon the mind of a contestant, when excited he is apt to do the very thing the rule was intended to prevent. Those who write sports rules try to make them as brief and to the point as possible, which is highly commendable. They are inclined to think, however, that the average contestant understands the purpose of rules as well as they do, and that is not so. Hence, in their effort to be concise, they are apt to word a rule much as they would a telegram. If the intent of a rule is not clear, officials in various localities will interpret it a little differently, in fact. Except for that, appeals would never be necessary.
It has already been stated that there is not enough space in any rule book to publish a thorough explanation of every reason for every rule. It has always been the policy of the Star class, however, not to economize in words and to make the intent of a rule reasonably understandable. Repetitions sometimes cannot be avoided, since the same underlying purpose applies to more than one situation and may have to be emphasized again under another heading. Of the two evils, too many words can do no harm.
Right-Of-Way - There can be only one code of right-of-way rules for an international class. All Star championships and sanctioned events of international character are sailed under the right-of-way rules of the I.Y.R.U. When I.Y.R.U. and N.A.Y.R.U. rules were identical, Star races were sailed under both. Then the N.A.Y.R.U. adopted new right-of-way rules, that were considerably different. Uniform rules are far more important to any international sport than improved ones, hence the I.S.C.Y.R.A. was forced to recognize the rules that applied to yacht racing all over the world and not those that applied only to races on one continent.
The North American Yacht Racing Union - The N.A.Y.R.U. was the late Clifford D. Mallory's brainchild. For over a year a small group of yachtsmen, including the writer, lunched with him at India House monthly and discussed preliminary arrangements. Having been on the ground floor, I know what happened and this seems like the logical place to tell of the modest part played by the Star class in helping to launch Cliff's pet project.
Right-of-way rules were then pretty much the same the world over, but not identical. Europe had had its I.Y.R.U. since 1908, although few over here had ever heard of it. Racing on this continent was handled by various Y.R.A.'s. Each printed the rules in its yearbook, as did many clubs. Those rules must have been originally copied from the New York Y.C., as the more important ones were the same in principle, if not in wording. Many revisions, made in an effort to clarify them according to local understanding, probably accounted for this. Less common situations, however, were open to somewhat different interpretation and, of course, procedure varied widely. The object of the proposed N.A.Y.R.U. was to give North America uniform rules and provide a parent advisory body. Even appeals could not be carried on up to the Union without permission of the Y.R.A. having jurisdiction over the event.
The first difficulty encountered was to interest these Y.R.A.'s. Letters remained unanswered. That was where the Star class was able to help. The I.S.C.Y.R.A. was already in existence. Its members appreciated the advantages of a parent body. Star members were also officers of quite a few Y.R.A.'s. When I advised them what was afoot, they began to use their local influence. As a result, the Star class was instrumental in bringing in five of the ten Y.R.A.'s that formed the N.A.Y.R.U.
Its first session
was held in New York City in 1925. Close to one hundred yachting organizations
(Y.R.A.'s and clubs) were represented by delegates or proxies, mostly
the latter. Each was entitled to one vote and about sixty-five per cent
of those votes were cast by Star members. I know that I held five proxies
myself. There was nothing unusual about that. Distant groups naturally
appointed a proxy, living near New York, whom they knew well and the only
ones they had met were Star members. The Star class is not trying to claim
any credit whatever. These matters are simply explained to show that it
did its best to help the N.A.Y.R.U. get started.
When suggestions were asked for that might improve right-of-way rules, I know that I wrote Harry Maxwell, chairman, about fixing the burden of proof. Others may have also, anyway it was done. Before that an R.C. might just as well have tossed a coin to know who was telling the truth, if there was no impartial corroborative evidence. Naturally one hesitates to disqualify a skipper when there is a fifty per cent chance that he is innocent. That probably accounted for more disallowed protests in the past than anything else. The element of guess work has now been practically eliminated. Furthermore, if a skipper knows that the burden of proof rests with him, he is apt to be much more careful.
Primarily through the efforts of Cliff Mallory, the rules of the I.Y.R.U., N.A.Y.R.U. and N.Y.Y.C. were brought into conformity in 1929. That was the most constructive action ever taken for the benefit of yacht racing as a whole. It was all undone, however, about twenty years later. During the second world war clubs were requested to unofficially test the Vanderbilt rules. After the war, they were somewhat revised and the N.A.Y.R.U. officially adopted the new right-of-way rules. The Star class and the Snipe class wrote lengthy letters to the Union objecting to the idea. One-design classes, of course, had no vote. They stated that an international class could not hold important races under right-of-way rules that conflicted with those used by the rest of the world. They also pointed out that, especially in small classes, because of the number of entries and close proximity of the yachts, that fouls were constantly averted by instinctive action and that U.S. skippers would soon be at a great disadvantage by having to memorize two conflicting codes of rules. Nevertheless the new rules had gained popular favor and were adopted.
In 1950, however,
the pendulum began to swing back the other way. At that year's meeting
of the N.A.Y.R.U., once again there was a strong sentiment in favor of
bringing the rules into accord and even of having the N.A.Y.R.U. join