Friday, January 25, 2013

This Old Hull Update

Soft decks are a very common problem with old Lasers.  Over many years, the weight of the sailor in the middle of the deck leads to delamination of the sandwich structure.  Instead of a tightly bonded sandwich of fiberglass – foam – fiberglass, the top layer loses the bond with the foam.  This leaves the sailor supported by a 1/8” thick piece of fiberglass.  The affected area widens over time with the repeated flexing of the soft deck. 

Recently I have had two lasers suffering from this condition.  Rather than attempt to cut a hole in the cockpit sidewall, and grind out and rebuild the sandwich construction, I elected to use the epoxy injection method described in Eric’s This Old Hull.

Unlike Eric, I had no confidence that I could maintain air pressure in the hull for 24 hours.  I was using a pump designed to inflate water toys like ski tubes.  The nozzle fit quite well into the transom drain hole, but I had no way to keep it there except tape.  To control the pressure in the hull I taped over an inspection port and put small holes in the tape until the air pressure lifted the deck to flat, but no higher.  I didn’t trust this crude pressure control system for more that 2 – 3 hours, which dictated a much faster process than Eric used.

Instead of a slow cure hardener (all West System products), I used a fast cure hardener.  This meant I had to work a lot more rapidly.  I got a helper to double the rate at which the holes could be injected with epoxy.  I also used bigger holes, 1/8”, to get epoxy into the space faster.  I used several batches of epoxy (4 pumps of resin and 4 pumps of hardener per batch) and between mixing and injecting, the two of us were still racing the clock to beat the set up time of the epoxy.

I was repairing two boats on both sides so I had four tries to perfect my process, and I tried to learn something each time.  My primary concerns were making the process simple and straightforward and controlling things that affect the aesthetics of the finished product.  I tried hard to hide the repairs and avoid the machine gun bullet holes look.

First, I used a 2” x 2” rectangular grid because it was much easier to lay out and I thought it looked a little less distracting to the eye than Eric’s 60 degree grid.  On the first deck, I started by covering the entire area with masking tape and drawing on the tape.  I then drilled the holes through the masking tape.  Each time the depth stop on the drill bit hit the tape, it made a small tear in the tape.  I learned later that this meant that some epoxy got on the deck, undermining the masking process.  I also learned that until the tape comes off, you don’t really know how well it worked.  TAKE IT OFF BEFORE THE EPOXY IS SO HARD IT CAN’T BE REMOVED.

Aesthetically, it is very important to keep excess epoxy off the deck.  Much easier said than done.  I spent more time on this than on the rest of the process.

As a result of what I learned on the first try, I resolved to drill the holes first and then apply the tape that protects the deck from epoxy overflow.  I didn’t want to draw all over the deck, so I had to mask first, drill, remove the first tape and re-tape it.  Half way through this I realized I could make a template for the holes and save a lot of time and trouble.  This made a lot of sense with a second boat to fix.  After drilling the holes, I taped the entire area with blue painters’ tape.  I then punched holes in the tape.  Just like Eric did, I clamped pieces of wood into place to keep the deck from arching upward when air pressure was applied.

Lessons learned for the second side:
Hanging chads from the tape can get stuck in the epoxy and leave little blue marks in the holes.  Use standard masking tape.
When taking the tape off for a cleanup before the epoxy is cured, you have to work around the wood struts that hold the deck down.  Plan carefully where the wood is located in relation to tape strips and holes.
Clean-up is a painstaking operation if you want a clean deck.
If you can catch the epoxy at the stage where it is still rubbery, but not rigid, you can used a razor blade scraper to remove excess.  If there is a bump where a hole was filled, the scrapper cuts it off flush.  This is the perfect way to get the holes completely filled and absolutely flat.

I learned another good lesson when I went to West Marine for more resin and hardener: 
There is an additive for the epoxy which makes the color white.  It turns out that mixing the slightly yellow resin/hardener solution with white additive yields an almost perfect color match for off white decks.  When done well, the filled holes can be just about invisible.

Employing all the lessons learned so far, I advanced to side one of boat two.  In the universe’s unrelenting desire for me to learn new things, a new problem arose.  The process of putting epoxy in one hole, forcing the air out of the next hole until epoxy came out of that hole, broke down.  With several of the holes, the air never stopped coming, and, in fact, was a steady stream of perceptibly moving air. As I injected epoxy into these holes, air bubbled through the epoxy until the epoxy settled and disappeared.  There was a break somewhere between the pressurized hull and the bottom side of the sandwich.  This was undermining the ability of the pressure inside the hull to push up the bottom half of the sandwich and make a tight seal.   With no good solutions apparent, I had no choice but to keep filling the holes trying to fill as much of the void as possible.  This used a lot more epoxy and made the clean-up that much more tedious.  The next day the deck was firm, but a few holes still remained and had to be filled.

With some of the imperfections, I thought I would try gel coat to pretty up the filled holes.  There are three pitfalls to this.  It can be difficult to achieve a color match.  It is difficult to apply one drop of gel coat and achieve a not concave, not convex, but flat finish.  The scraper method of clean-up does not work at all.  When the gel coat is rubbery, it all comes off in a ball, and when it is firmer, the blade can’t cut through it.  Over all, I concluded that gel coat was more trouble than it was worth.  (Gel coat is required to prevent breakdown of the epoxy from ultraviolet light.  Because I keep my boats covered when not in use, I don’t think either I or the boat will live long enough for this to become a problem.)

Side two of boat two went smoothly.  When all was said and done, both boats have rock solid decks (at the cost of a couple of pounds of weight gain) and cosmetically acceptable scars, some better looking than others.

Standard masking tape, white epoxy additive, and using a razor blade scraper at the right time are the keys to getting the best look.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Business of Sailing vs. the Interests of Sailors

I used to think that a winning business strategy was that doing what is best for the customers is what is best for the business.  Win–win.  The long term loyalty of customers will reap long term rewards for the bottom line of the business.  I thought this worked particularly well in one-design sailing where customers bought new sails, spare parts, upgrades, and new boats, frequently replacing perfectly serviceable boats.

The strategy works well in the first one-design class I joined – Flying Scots.  The builder makes an incredibly high quality durable product.  Parts are always in stock and shipped immediately.  Flying Scot Inc. brings spare parts to major regattas and sometimes delivers new boats there.  The company owner runs seminars on setting up and tuning the boat for racing.  There is no doubt that the company is doing everything it can to serve the customers, and there is no doubt that the customers love the company.  There are no accusations that prices are unfair.  The customers want to pay enough to keep the company profitable.  The class association does everything it can to support the builder, and the builder tenaciously supports the one-design goals of the association.  Even in the midst of a sluggish economy and an arguably overall decline in small boat sailing, it all works.

When I first got into Laser sailing, it seemed like it all worked there too.  Vanguard was a strong builder, the class association was strong, serving both the builder and its members, and the sailors were among the most talented and enthusiastic in the world.  I was in love again.

Vanguard is also the builder of 420s, the boats we use in high school sailing. When I began coaching,  there were a few issues with the boats, but parts were readily available and the service network worked well. 

Maybe I was just naive, or maybe things began to change.  With Lasers, I found $500 sails turned into rags in a year or less.  With 420s, I found myself doing lots of repairs, and usually the same things over and over again.  The hull flexed to the point where keelsons cracked and tank/ hull joints separated or broke.  I had to reinforce the back corners to prevent them from fracturing or even snapping off whenever there was contact with another boat. Autobailers leaked and/or cut the feet of sailors, and we removed them.  The hull /deck joint routinely needed to be reinforced after collisions.

As a sailor, I try to be understanding about one-design sailing issues.  Prices need to be high enough (or higher) to support the builder, and design shortcomings take a long time to correct.   But now that Laser-Performance has taken over, there seem to be even more price, quality, and service issues.  My list is anecdotal, but it seems like there are way too many anecdotes:

The overpricing of the Laser sail seems permanent, and the controversy over Intensity sails and fully class legal sails goes on
The Laser sail re-design has stalled
The Bruce Kirby struggle seems intractable
The only 2 brand new lasers I have seen this year both came missing many of the parts
I hear stories of difficulty getting Laser parts, Sunfish parts, and finding a class legal Sunfish sail
I have a friend who had difficulty finding a new Sunfish to buy
I note a lack of interest in improving the 420 design in general and rejection of MIT’s offer a few years ago to fund engineering for a new design in particular (MIT worked with Rondar to produce a much improved 420)
I see a number of people losing faith in LP and buying boats from up and coming Zim

I know sometimes business is hard and things go wrong, but is LP really trying to do a good job for us sailors?  Do they still love me, or is this a one sided affair?

And then there is this news from college sailing…

Recently the ICSA (Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association) has sparked a major uproar in the way it has renewed its sponsorship agreement with Laser-Performance.  As in the previous agreement, LP will supply new Lasers for both the men’s and women’s single-handed national championships.  LP will also provide some media coverage support and some unspecified cash for the association and/or host venues.  This may involve larger amounts of money than in the past, but the details are confidential, as is customary in this type of agreement.  What is different in this eight year deal is a requirement that all double-handed national championships and semi-finals leading to those championships must be held in LP boats.

No one should expect a boat manufacturer to fund an event held in someone else’s boats. In the previous agreement, LP withheld cash from the host school if other boats were used.  Schools paid a price for using another brand, but found ways to get sufficient support from other sources to host national events.  Now, they are specifically prohibited from hosting these events.

On Sail1 Airwaves, you can read the written volleys in the controversy

Okay, LP’s competition gets screwed.  (There would have been no competition if LP had worked to improve the boats and respond to the expressed desires of the customers.)  Maybe that’s just business, but what about the ultimate constituency, the sailors?  This agreement is very tough on schools currently owning other brands of boats and on the sailors at those schools. It’s also hard to see how sailors are better off in the old, tired LP design when improved products are available from Zim and Rondar.  In sailing’s most visible event, the America’s Cup, innovation is everything.  But not in college sailing.  The ICSA leaders are making an exclusive bargain that is good for business at the expense of many of the schools, sailors and coaches.  Don’t take it personally, sailors.  It’s strictly business. 

Is it impossible to have a win–win relationship with a boat builder in this complicated world?  More and more it looks like LP is pursuing a corporation-wins, who-cares-about-the-customers policy.  Show me I’m wrong.  Show me the love.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Oily Are Your Sails?

I have been buying Laser sails for years – about one per year.  I never gave a thought about where they were made.  There was no significant difference in geography between North sails made in Sri Lanka and Intensity sails made in China.  They were both a continent and an ocean away.  There is a big difference in price, but transportation is not a cause of any of that.  What difference does transportation and burning oil make in this “attention Walmart shoppers” price-is-everything culture?
As I have been shopping for new sails for our high school 420 fleet, more options have become available.  I have gotten quotes from several big name sail companies, who shall remain nameless, and it seems they all make their sails overseas.  I learned that one doesn’t even have their corporate headquarters in this country or even on this continent.  One local/national/international company makes some sails in the Caribbean, while the others use the same counties as above with the addition of Thailand.  But I have also been in touch with one independent sailmaker who still runs a small shop and actually makes sails. He has found a niche in small, one design boats and appears to be doing quite well.  He is the premier “go to” sailmaker for at least one class.  He is not the cheapest option, but not the most expensive either.
While buying sails is a matter of service and value, maybe it is about some other things as well.  I will leave the matter of big corporation versus small independent business for another time.  But having this choice has gotten me thinking about the many miles of transportation and barrels of oil that go into our sails in particular and the globalized world in general. It seems crazy that shipping things around the world in the pursuit of cheap labor makes economic sense, but the evidence is clear.  We sailors choose globalization.

So what if we burn a little bit of oil shipping things from Asia?   It must be a small amount given that, from what I can glean from rates for shipping containers, it seems to cost only $3 - $5 to get a set of sails across the Pacific when they are shipped in volume.  A bargain at double the price.  Not much of a financial incentive to buy local.

But we are a little deeper into oil than that.  First, our Dacron sails are made from oil.  I don’t know how much oil, but every thread is synthetic, oil derived material.

Second, the manufacturing process involves more than a one way trip.  Wondering just how long that trip was, I decided to trace the travel of the Dacron for just one of the corporate sailmakers quoting our sails.  They proudly proclaim that they use only Challenge Dacron sailcloth manufactured in Vernon, Connecticut.  Challenge proudly proclaims that they use IW70 Dacron thread made by Performance Fibers in North Carolina.

So let’s trace the journey - from making the thread in North Carolina to hoisting a sail in Boston.  (I’m ignoring the travels of the oil from God knows where, to a refinery, to North Carolina.)

North Carolina to Connecticut – 650 miles
Connecticut to LA for shipping overseas – 2900 miles
LA to China – 7900 miles
Travel inside China - ?????
China to LA – 7900 miles
LA to Boston – 3000 miles

Total – 22,350 miles  (just shy of a lap around the equator)

Am I crazy to think this is excessive?

Should we think about how much oil goes into our plastic boats?  At least the plastic boats I have been using are made in nearby Rhode Island.  It could be worse.  There is a company that makes 420 hulls in China.  Right now, Laser Performance is shipping Lasers from England while the Rhode Island factory is busy making Sunfish and 420s.

It seems likely that there is more oil involved in each of our sailboats than there is in the gasoline powered chase boat I use.  I wonder how much gas has to be burned before it evens out.

So much for our romantic ideas about our environmentally friendly sport.  Those days involved wooden boats and cotton sails, and very few of us want to go back there.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Self-Imposed Agony of Defeat

Remember the old TV sports show, Wide World of Sports?  Its introductory catch-phrase was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”   What I remember most is the concurrence of the phrase “agony of defeat” and the video of a skier crashing through a fence on a missed landing from an enormous ski jump.  I was convinced the guy broke several bones and/or suffered a debilitating head injury.

At this year’s Olympics, “the agony of defeat” took on a whole new meaning.  Instead of describing a horrible failure in the execution of a sports skill, it better described the silver medalists’ reaction to the scoring and the podium presentations.  The silver medalists accomplished amazing things and had spectacular performances, but one person in a world of 6,790,000,000 had a very slightly better performance.  It was absolutely crushing.


For most of us, especially us very competitive folks, it is easy to understand the disappointment of getting so close to victory and then finishing second because of one small imperfection.  For Chinese athletes, the emotions extend to letting down the entire country of 600,000,000 people and whole communist/capitalist system of government.  (Are we still doing national medal counts because we are trying to prove that democracy is better than communism, or the other way around, or is it just nationalism?)

Personally, I quite naturally slip into thinking that there is one winner and everyone else is a loser.  That makes me, and probably many of you, a loser almost all of the time.  I am right at home feeling inadequate and unworthy.  I relate to grumpy silver medal winners losers more than gold medal winners, and even more to devastated fourth place non-podium Olympic Games participants bigger losers …. I attribute my reaction to lack of affection and unconditional approval from my parents, and consider it a character defect – one more inadequacy.  I had no idea that so many suffer from the same malady.

At the highest level of sport, it seems very competitive athletes can turn something they love and excel at into a miserable grind with a painful payoff.  Just once I would like to hear an athlete say “I loved the four years of training” and the competition at the Olympics was “the most exhilarating experience of my life even though I didn’t win gold.”  Instead they talk about all the grueling work and how bad they “want it.”  For all but one, they are some of the world’s best examples of the Buddhist principle that “desire causes suffering.”  Even for the one, there seems to be a lot of agony in victory.

So let’s CUT IT OUT!  Playing sports is fun!  Getting better at something is satisfying.  Playing the game is a fascinating challenge in itself.  Can’t that be enough?  Get some perspective. 

It’s therapeutic to say that, but saying and doing are different things.  A week ago, I spent the afternoon racing my laser in about 17 knots of wind.  I would have been comfortable in my radial, but the wind looked to be only 10 when we went out, so we all sailed full rigs.  Most of us were totally overpowered.   It was a hard day of racing, perhaps even miserable.  Every upwind was a slow, painful, poorly sailed grind.  Speed and positions were determined by sailor weight.  The same guy (not me) was out front every time.  I never even challenged him.  Only grievous errors like terrible tacks and knots in mainsheets changed the finishing order of us lightweights.  After about two-thirds of our usual sailing time, we had all had it. 

Once on shore, I realized that it had never even occurred to me to enjoy all that wind by taking a few minutes to go off on a screaming planing reach just for fun.  It hadn’t occurred to any of us.  Our mindset was that racing and trying to win were everything, even when there was very little competition.  I ended my day feeling like an exhausted, unsatisfied silver medalist. 

Of course racing is fun and challenging and full of goodness.  But some days, maybe sailing should just be this:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Incomplete and Non-scientific Guide to Finding Yourself a Sailing Helmet Part 2- Selecting a Sailing Helmet

In view of the colossal failure in manufacturer marketing of sailing helmets, I thought it might be helpful to those with some interest to share what I have learned about available helmets.

The world of helmets is surprisingly large.  There seems to be a helmet for everything – biking, skiing, skateboarding, surfing, windsurfing, hockey, girls’ soccer, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and on and on.  (By the way, when I was young, all of these things were done without helmets.) 

As I started to look around at this multifaceted world, I was lucky to stumble onto some marketing from a kayak helmet manufacturer telling me that their foam padding is wonderful because it does not absorb water.  Foam in other helmets turns into a sponge when wet, and sponges are neither good padding nor comfortable on the head.  Ah ha!  The helmet world is divided, and watersport helmet land is the place to look.

Every kind of helmet I looked at claimed it was rugged and safe.  There is a standard certification, the CE 1385 international standard for headgear for whitewater sports, which indicates if a helmet is safe enough.  They all seem to have it, but one should actually verify.  Mostly I go by the pictures.  If people wear a particular helmet to kayak over waterfalls or surf 40 foot waves, it is good enough for me.  Also, my point of comparison for ruggedness and safety is the baseball hat I have been wearing – a pretty low standard.

Turns out helmet safety is closely related to how well the thing actually stays on the head during impacts.  Helmets that move around aren’t so safe.  One universal in this snug fit concept is that there needs to be support of the occipital lobe, the back of the head a little below the equator.  There are two approaches to this.  One is an adjustable strap and the other is a helmet that extends down behind the head a couple of inches further down than a baseball hat.  The majority of kayak helmets use the first method.  The bowling ball shaped helmets use the latter.

As a laser sailor, I have a very specific need for a low profile helmet.  In any boat with a low boom, there is a tradeoff between seeking protection from a bump and making one’s head bigger and higher to more likely receive that bump.  Minimal distance between the top of my head and the top of the helmet is imperative.  This criterion eliminates many kayak helmets that otherwise appear to be durable and well designed.  The biggest problem is that only a few models are called “low profile”, and even then, the term is undefined.  You are left guessing from pictures that were never intended to show what you are looking for.

A helmet for sailing ought to be comfortable.  It ought to be unobtrusive, lightweight, and not cause overheating or sweating.  Many helmets have holes for ventilation.  For those of us replacing a baseball hat with a helmet, the helmet should have a visor to keep sun out of the eyes.  The internet can show us some of this but determining if a particular helmet is too hot or otherwise uncomfortable requires trying it on and testing it out.

And maybe it matters what the helmet looks like and how it affects our image.  Let’s face it, sailors don’t want to appear dorky.  Since sailing pros are definitely not dorky, I wanted to know what they are wearing.    Part 1 of this blog post covers some of this. So, having determined some of the things a sailing helmet ought to be, I tried a few out.

Shred Ready “Sesh”.  I bought this helmet for kids on my sailing team after a few concussions and weeks of missed sailing time.   It’s a kayak helmet with applicable foam and safety certification.  It is sold in sizes with an adjustable occipital strap to make it secure.  It has no shims, so the fit is not quite perfect, but it is good enough.  It’s lightweight and has a low profile.  The protective foam is covered with a fabric that eliminates the clingy, somewhat sticky feeling of foam.  There are small gaps in the lining that promote air/water flow through the 11 ventilation holes. It’s comfortable and unobtrusive to wear.  In terms of image, it is a skateboard helmet (very round and no visor) adapted to watersports.  Maybe that is a good look for kids.  The price is great, $39, the least expensive helmet I considered.
Predator “Lee”.  This kayak helmet looks like a baseball hat which is apparently a cool look in the adventure kayak world.  Unfortunately, this helmet does not work at all for me.  It is too narrow for my head and even with ample shims, it does not fit right.  Although it was billed as a low profile design, it has a higher profile than any others I tried.  It also feels a bit heavy compared to others.  I had to send this one back.  Price $129.
ProTec “Ace”.  I tried this one on in a local REI store.  They had a grand total of 1 in stock.  Not a big seller.  It is a spherical type with a tight fit all around.  It is sold in several sizes and allows minor adjustments for sizing.  The one I tried was a good fit.  It is low profile and lightweight.  It has 16 ventilation holes and seems like it would do the job.  It does not have a visor of any kind, so it is not right for me, but it is the choice of Emeritus Team New Zealand.  Price $45.  A model with adjustable occipital strap is $65.
Gath “Gedi.”  This is my current favorite, and I wear mine quite often.  Gath helmets are spherical and come from the world of surfing. They seem to be the helmet of choice for surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding.  They have the usual foam and safety certification.  They come in several sizes, and the fit is quite snug with three interchangeable wrap around head band pieces to get a good fit.  The “Gedi” weighs less than a pound and its cousin, the “Surf”, weighs even less.  Gath prides itself on being low profile, and they are.  I bought the “Gedi” model because it comes with a removable visor.  It has vent holes at the top, but they are much smaller than those on the “Ace” or the “Sesh”.  I was afraid the snug fitting foam headband and smaller vents would make it too hot, but it was surprisingly comfortable when I wore it in 90 degree weather.  However, when the wind dropped below 5 MPH, it was hot – but isn’t every hat?  I have since tried a sweat resistant headband under the helmet and this feels cooler. The “Gedi” also comes with plugs for the vents when used in cooler months and insertable ear protectors.  Apparently surfers can burst eardrums in a fall, but I currently can’t get my laser to go fast enough to worry about that. In terms of image, I am aware that I am wearing the helmet of AC 45 sailors, but I’m not sure others realize how cool this makes me.
Shred Ready “Supper Scrappy.”  Eric is trying out this model and seems to like it.  It is a baseball hat style, but with a much smaller visor.  In addition to the standard safety certification, Shred Ready uses a different foam that is even better at impact resistance.  I was surprised to discover that it has as low a profile as any I have seen.  It has an occipital strap and shims to get a good fit.  Its baseball hat styling may be less jarring to those not used to seeing sailing helmets.  It looks like another good choice.

Okay.  I have done my best to market helmets that work for sailing, but I’m sure there are more helmets well suited to this purpose.  If there are any manufacturers out there who want an honest opinion and perhaps my invaluable endorsement of their product, you are most welcome to send me a helmet to test drive.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Respect" the line?

Why can’t sailing instructions just say what they mean and mean what they say?  If the sailors know what the race committee means to say, but they haven’t said what they mean, then what are the rules?  What the RC means?  Or what the Sailing Instructions say?  Of course, it has to be what the Regatta’s SI’s  say.  But when the RC can’t say what they mean, it frequently follows that is the SI’s are confusing, incomplete, self-contradictory, or just nonsensical.

Case in point:

The Sailing Instructions at a recent regatta I attended describe the start and the finish lines and then add this sentence in bold typeface:  “Before and After starting, Yachts shall respect the starting and finishing lines except when in the process of starting of finishing.”  (Capitalizations are theirs.)

One of the course diagrams is the following:

I think this is all an attempt to say that the start/finish line is closed. “Closed”  is a commonly used expression meaning that boats racing cannot cross it when heading from one mark of the course to the next mark of the course. Closed lines are used for two reasons.  One is to make things easier for the scorer; when a boat crosses the line, write down the number; the boat is finished.  (Of course when that boat crosses the line again, someone has to sort it all out.)  The other is to minimize the interference of boats sailing in different fleets or on different legs of the same course.

Given that this instruction was written for a situation where up to 4 fleets would be on the same course, I think it is safe to say that there was an appropriate concern for interference between fleets.  My opinion is that careful spacing of the starts and the use of courses that separate fleets are far more effective tools to accomplish the goal, but many also use a closed line as a tool.  Even a closed line does not guarantee boats will not interfere with each other, but it should reduce it.  (For the regatta in question, the RC very successfully spaced the starts so there was never anything remotely like interference in the vicinity of the start/finish line.)

Although the goal of minimal interference is noble, and the closed line is a tool for accomplishing the goal, the Sailing Instructions still need to say exactly what is intended and prevent any unforeseen consequences.  Dick Rose does a great job of explaining all the possible unintended consequences and proposing sailing instruction wording to avoid them. Just for fun, let’s look carefully at what these particular Sailing Instructions say and the problems they could cause:

                                         *                     *                           *

First, there are the problems with closed lines that Dick Rose points out. 
e.g. A boat who believes she is OCS, but is not, and returns to the line has broken the rule.  The line actually becomes an obstruction for sailors except at a start or finish.  However, because safety is not involved, a boat cannot hail for room to tack at this obstruction, somewhat changing the RRS and possible racing tactics.

Then, “Before and after starting” means at all times except at the exact instant of starting.  This includes sailing in the prestart, sailing the course after the start, and all the time before racing, after racing and in between races – virtually the entire day.  Let’s just replace the phrase with “at all times.”  By making this provision in force at all times, any boat that crosses the line while sailing around in between races should be disqualified.  But in which race does the DSQ apply, the prior one or the next one?  This prohibition could apply even if no races are currently in progress.  Do they really mean this?  Could I have protested every boat that did this?  (I could have been the only boat left!)  A boat protested for this would have no way to exonerate herself, because it is not a Part 2 rule. 

Next, the word “respect” seems very peculiar, and I can’t recall seeing it used in a sailing context before.  “Respect” is certainly not a term defined in the RRS, so standard dictionary definitions apply.  The first definition in my Oxford dictionary (verb) is “regard with deference, esteem or honor.”  Should we salute the line?  The second and closer definition is “avoiding interfering with, harming, degrading, insulting, injuring or interrupting.”  Okay, it looks like non-interference is the point.  But must we respect the line, not the boats?  Is it supposed to mean “don’t cross the line” or “don’t interfere with starters and finishers?” If the intent is the first, why not just use the word ”cross”, instead of respect, like everyone else does?  If the intent is the latter, the rules become very problematic.  Would avoiding a starter or finisher override the RRS?  Imagine a starboard boat having to keep clear of a port boat.  Do they really mean this?

And the pièce de résistance is the combination of this peculiar wording with the course diagram above.  The diagram shows the second windward leg passing through the starting line in direct contradiction to what I think was intended.  This could have mattered in our regatta.  In one race, the first place boat informed the second place boat that the line was closed.  Both went around the line.  I was in third, didn’t hear and went right through the line.  Had I been disqualified, which I wasn’t, could I claim that I sailed the course as diagrammed and the other boats failed to do so, resulting in their disqualification and my reinstatement?

                                         *                     *                           *

In the regatta having these SI’s, I sailed over the start line …… I was not disqualified.  Why?  Was it because I saluted the line as I went through it or because I didn’t interfere with any starter or finishers?  Perhaps the use of the word “respect” was a clever way to leave the line open except when there could be interference with starters or finishers.  Probably it was because the RC was not keeping a close eye out for enforcing the rule at times when a closed line was completely unnecessary.   Why would the RC even think about it with boats spread out all over the course and no one interfering with anyone else?  Seems to me that selective enforcement, which creates a fundamental problem with any rule, could be a frequent result.

In general, I hate the whole idea of a closed line.  As we see here and in the Dick Rose article, it is difficult to write the SI’s to say what needs to be said.  It is too easy to create a rules disaster that may have no good resolution, and so it is too easy to cause selective enforcement.

I don’t like the idea of adding an obstruction in the middle of the race course.  Usually it forces an early commitment to picking one side or the other, not allowing the sailors to play shifts and puffs for a certain period of the race. 

And I think it is unnecessary.  It is the least effective of the available tools in preventing fleet interference.  Timing the starts correctly works very well.  If the RC makes a mistake, it can always abandon a starting sequence and start a new one when traffic clears.  Using courses that separate fleets also works extremely well.   Trapezoid courses and box shaped courses have separate windward- leeward legs so fleets do not run into each other.  My yacht club is using these course with great success; never any interference.

But if you insist on a closed line, for heaven’s sake, please write the Sailing Instructions properly and communicate clearly with the sailors.