It wasn’t so long ago that the penalty for any infraction during a sailboat was as simple as it was severe: drop out. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, U.S. Finn sailor Peter Barrett brushed the rudder of an opponent while on port tack. The contact was so slight that his opponent didn’t even take notice. But Barrett did. He retired from the race and cost himself the chance at a gold medal. It was perhaps the ultimate example of sportsmanship in sailing.
Much has changed in the last half century. The punishment for committing a foul, for one, is much milder. But has that made it any easier, or any more likely, for a sailor to admit when he or she has made a mistake and then take the proper action to exonerate him or herself?
In most other organized sports, referees are present to enforce the rules of the game. There is little responsibility for the competitors themselves to police the action and ensure everyone competes fairly. This isn’t the case in sailing, so sportsmanship plays a bigger role, whether it’s following the rules of a particular class or fleet, admitting when you have made a mistake, or treating your competitors civilly when trying to determine who was at fault.
The editors of Sailing World and Scuttlebutt are curious what you think about sportsmanship in sailing. Whether you race once a month in a local fleet or do it for a living, we want your perspective.
To do so, we’ve constructed a survey. It will take a few minutes to finish. But we think the potential reward for getting a better handle on sportsmanship in sailing, and whether it’s a problem that should or soon may need to be fixed, it’s well worth the time.
Click here to participate in the survey. And thanks in advance for your time.
—The Editors of Sailing World and Scuttlebutt