It’s 8:21pm on the 27th and what is going to be an exciting finish is near. Wild Oats XI is only 1,200 feet back of the leading and favored boat Comanche. They are just entering the Derwent River for the run to the finish line. As night approaches, the wind in the River Derwent is typically light and today is no exception.
Comanche is often referred to as the Aircraft Carrier due to it’s extreme beam. But, in the light winds of the river as they close on the finish line in Hobart, Tasmania Comanche won’t have it’s usual speed advantage. Wild Oats is within sight and a few good tactical decisions could put them in front to cross the line.
There was a foul early in the race that may be decided against Wild Oats but I’m ignoring that outcome for now and just enjoying watching the tactical dual to the finish. My only disappointment is that Tom Slingsby at the helm of Infotrack isn’t in the lead but, other than that, it’s an incredible race.
You can see the tactical fight up the river here: http://rolexsydneyhobart.com/tracker/.
In other professional sports, penalties don’t always match the infraction. For example in hockey a stiffer or more lenient suspension may be imposed based on the player’s reputation and if they are a repeat offender. Other sports sometimes give players a massive fine or suspension if they are trying to “send a message” that the sort of infraction that occurred will no longer be tolerated.
I do not follow racing nor do I know the reputation of Wild Oats XI, but perhaps the penalty was supposed to be harsher than the time simply lost by the infraction. A crash tack may be serious enough to impart a stiffer penalty; I’m not sure.
All this being said I hope you three had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you a very Happy, Healthy, and Adventure-filled New year!
If the race committee assessed the penalty immediately as they do in America’s Cup, it would allow all crews to race through with knowledge of exactly where they stand and their tactics will be consistent with the penalty. It would also allow spectators to know the outcome. I understand this is far harder for the comittee but it’s now possible to communicate with both skippers and the decision could be made quickly during the race. A day later when the committee and fans know that there is a 27 min difference means that rather than deciding on the infraction, the committee is stuck deciding the race whether or not that is their desire. They know that 15 min leaves Wild Oats winning and 45 min will have them loosing. It’s impossible to think just about the infraction and not think about the race outcome.
The race committee decided the race and it’s way better for the race and for fans to have races decided by competitors on the water. It’s more difficult to do but it’ll make for a better event.
Wild Oats XI crossed the line 27 minutes before Comanche. Comanche protested that Wild Oats had crashed tacked towards Comanche forcing them to change course. This looks like a reasonable protest and certainly Comanche lost seconds in this altercation. They went on to lead for most of the race but they did lose some time.
The race committee assessed a 1 hour penalty against Wild Oats. This decision seems completely out of line with what happened on the race course and the decision changes the outcome of the race. The decision seems more than an order of magnitude beyond the cost of the event and is completely out of line with reasonable.
It’s unfortunate to see a race decided a day later in a meeting room rather than on the race course and with a decision that is out of touch with the delay actually experienced by Comanche. It’s neither good for the sport nor will it attract the TV coverage that the on-course racing action really deserves.