Hail Seizure! The Solos engaged a water born judge for the first day of the Inland Championships held at Rutland SC on 9/10 Sept 2017. It was said to be the likely better day weather-wise of the two so I off I went in a nice Rutland 6m RIB along with event reporter and photographer for the day, Jo. This RIB had massive 100mm bungs instead of the usual elephant nose bailers and when opened water spouted in an impressive stream. Difficult to bail the boat single handed with kill cord considerations etc. So much of the day was spent paddling. It started as a sunny day and I thought about summer kit. We wondered about photo angles in the bright sun. However, the weather Emperor was in a changeable mood and a heavy rainstorm developed and soon the Judge and Jo were backs to the wind trying to keep the rain out of motley kit. Especially Jo’s who had eclectically borrowed a variety of pieces. Jo clearly knew the Solo fleet sailor characters but less about sailing itself. Race 1 got underway and our focus was on trying to get action shots using an i-phone whilst demonstrating the “Panda Car” approach to Rule 42 management. I am often impressed that the visible presence of the flag on the back of the boat, (usually blue and white Juliet), focusses the sailors’ minds and a heavy handed yellow flag and whistle is not required to achieve the objective: a felt fair competition amongst the fleet. So no yellows required but a few marginal actions by some competitors which the judges call ‘yellow light areas ’and those boats get put onto a mental list of boats to watch. I may even have a brief chat to various yellow lit boats just like the real Pandas and offer a friendly warning following the principle of giving the appropriate benefit of the doubt to the competitor. However, a faulty brake light at 4am can cause all sorts of trouble I understand and there may be an analogy somewhere to R42 Blues and twos. On the other hand, self policing of other rules of RRS was seemingly ineffective by the fleet. I saw at least one heavy audible thump of a boat trying to mount the one in front as they rounded the mark. No “Protest” or voluntary turn by anybody in that crowded vicinity. On a different occasion, a boat noticeably hit the mark while the R42 Panda was nearby. No penalty taken even though I would imagine that the competitor was aware of the contact. Like the faulty brake light, such a situation could escalate into a more dramatic outcome as knowingly braking a rule (pun intended) might lead to a Rule 2 charge. It seems I inadvertently complimented Jo’s partner, Ian Hopwood, for a very competent manoeuvre in the race. He didn’t mount the boat in front having lost the mark room battle.
Jo withdrew to dry land as planned. Perhaps she was going to have a word with the Emperor? Race 2 was started amidst the Emperor’s next fit of fickleness. During the race the wind backed substantially which effective turned legs into arms and probably made the race boring and very lucky for some, disastrous for others. A race best was forgotten. A request for redress​ was held, that in itself was useful to explore the issues around course fairness and race management. The rules that are brought into play under the Emperor’s undemocratic weather decrees are 32 and 34, neither of which obligate the race committee to take action and give plenty of scope for discretion. The Protest Committee’s decision is open to appeal and I should not discuss it until after the appeal window of 15 days has expired. Race 3 was subject to Hail Seizure which reduced visibility to a small distance, the water tower disappearing from my sight as the RIB filled with water from rain, hail and reverse gear. Eventually, the Emperor’s most vicious squall passed over without using a Solo mast or the judge’s flag pole as a lightning rod. Cold bodies all over the Rutland Water, the race was started after a significant course change and it turned into a competitive race and quite good to watch. New yellow lights emerged between a particularly close battle in the first triangle and my benefit mentality was sorely tested. Finally, another yellow light persistently glowed and the time came to flash the flag. It is my practice to record the observations and the World Sailing R42 interpretations that I consider infringed and I am happy to discuss them with the unfortunate flagged ones. Apparently, Mr Hopwood recalls such a conversation. I am not going to forgive the Emperor for the weather tantrums, but nevertheless, I had a fun day and I hope I contributed to your fun day too. Steve Watson