The keel were fairing doesnt look like the Farr 395s space-age foil shown on page 40. In fact, the lead for our Shields keel was poured almost four decades ago. Our spinnaker poles just been tuned up, but its still tried-and-true aluminum–per class rules–not a featherlight carbon model such as those described on page 42.
Yet even though Im coaxing a classic displacement hull back to winning form, reading about new technology inspires fresh ideas about each piece of equipment on our boat. And seeing that new technology in action, as in the cover story of transatlantic record breaker Bernard Stamm and his Open 60, puts me in the mood to grip the tiller on the face of a wave. Sure, compared to Stamms 60-footer, the boats most of us sail might as well be on another planet, but no matter how modest the improvement in speed each of us seeks this season, we can enjoy being part of a sport thats steadily improving the breed. And in some small way we can each benefit from the innovation were seeing.
Yet theres a downside to technology and our steadily increasing understanding of how to gain an edge. To keep the competition fair, we have to keep writing new rules and regulations. This is a natural and inevitable counterweight to development, but that doesnt make it less frustrating. The net result is a more complicated, expensive game.
As an example, just look at one tiny piece of the regulations–crewweight limitations–discussed by Editor at Large Peter Isler on page 19. Sailors are pushing the weigh-in process so hard that one weigh-in at the beginning of an event doesnt work anymore; Isler suggests two weigh-ins, with graduated penalties. While Id prefer no weigh-ins at all, I agree with his logic; yet for sailors and organizers, this makes competing that much more difficult.
We have an increasing number of codes and regulations that classify sailors, regulate advertising, and demand membership in fleets, clubs, classes, and sailing associations. We may have shaved a page or two out of the right-of-way rules, but with all the other rules weve added, its nearly impossible to keep track of them all, even for those of us who make our living knowing about this stuff.
Id like to suggest what should be done once and for all, but I find my attention drifting. The realities of spring are calling me back to the boatyard. The deck hardwares in place, but our rudder was last seen in two pieces, and theres more fairing to be done on our keel.
Its true that once were afloat well benefit from advances in the sport. Well have a fresh set of sails to hoist and a few hundred feet of Spectra-cored halyards and sheets to rig. Well head for the starting line and take advantage of the new shorter starting sequence ISAFs instituted around the world. And when the breeze fades on the run and our large fleet compresses, well appreciate our leeward gate marks.
But the greatest benefit Im looking forward to is timeless. At the end of a hard-fought race, Ill slouch on the leeward side of the cockpit, put my feet up, and accept the days results, good or bad. If I happen to think of it, Ill smile as I realize Ive stopped listening to the noise and passion of the offseason debates about the mistakes in the eligibility code. But more likely, Ill simply point our boat toward the harbor and zip up my jacket against the cool, damp air pouring in off the ocean. In time well do our best to answer the sports tough management questions, knowing that new, more difficult questions are bound to follow. Meantime, though, the wind beckons.