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2017 YRA Annual Meeting and Awards

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The YRALIS held their 122nd Annual Meeting and Awards at Larchmont YC.  Photos and information are posted on the YRA Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheYRALIS.

Our President, Steve Cain, opened the meeting with a presentation that is posted below in its entirety: 

Good evening fellow sailors and members of the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound to our 122nd Annual Meeting.

I am taking our usual 15-minute speaker spot on the agenda this evening and will then roll right into our actual meeting and awards.

I would like to begin by telling you all a little story. Once upon a time, there were two boats who were great rivals in distance racing. They were the same model boat, basically a one-design class, but raced under the PHRF handicap system. Both boats went out from the one-design restrictions with a number of modifications to improve their distance performance.

One boat always got the best of the other, but the racing was always highly competitive and very close and the two often finished first and second not only in their division but often for the entire fleet.  One year, the racing was so close that the Vineyard Race Committee awarded the Cotton Blossom-Nina trophy to the first place boat acknowledging it as the” Class winner with the lowest correct time over Second Place”, three minutes and 41 seconds separating the two boats after 240 miles.

During a 190 mile race, the perennial second-place boat finally finished first, for the first time! Immediately after finishing the rival boat sought out the new winner in the mooring field and offered hearty congratulations. Awards were presented the following day, smiles and handshakes and well-dones all around.

 

A couple of days later, the skipper of the boat that had finished second queried a member of the PHRF committee as to how the first place boat had received their rating considering the boat was now sporting an after-market sprit and masthead kites and was also using their traditional spinnaker pole and class kites.

It turns out, upon review, that the winning boat had not declared that configuration on their certificate, claiming ignorance on the need to spell out how they were sailing though the sailmaker of the new kites was a member of the crew, and a new certificate was issued with a nine-second difference in their rating.  On a 190 mile race, nine seconds equates to over 28 minutes of corrected time and the entire leaderboard for the division and race would have been reshuffled if the competitor had raced with the correct rating.

This discrepancy was pointed out to all, the Organizing Authority of the regatta, the competitor, and the PHRF committee. The OA and the PHRF committee hoped that the competitor would do the honorable thing, retire after finishing and hand back their first place trophy, which they chose not to do. Ultimately, the second place boat was told they had no recourse other than protesting the boat to the Race Committee of the event.

 Significant time had passed, of course, and once the parties were all sat down at a protest hearing, the Judge quickly dismissed the charge as the protest had not been filed within the two-hour window provided after finishing. The violator kept first place and the second place boat actually wound up receiving the Stern Sheets Award from the Moosehead Committee for their persistence in pursuing a resolution.

 

Though some would say that outcome is ridiculous, the accepted protocol has been that protests based on a boat’s sailing out of compliance with their certificate had to be self-policed by competitors filing a grievance with the Race Committee of the respective event during which the non-compliance was observed.  The PHRF committee chose to accept the explanation of ignorance and did not penalize the boat or protest the boat to the Executive Committee. Of course, no one involved, competitor, Race Committee, Organizing Authority, especially after a long distance race, wants to sit down and dissect the technical compliance involved in a handicap rating.

 

Think of how an event like this rippled through the rest of that racing season-the boat with the now updated correct certificate did not go back to the events it had already competed in and ask them to be re-scored. Season trophies from the YRA that included cumulative scores from the entire season were rendered incorrect. Rightful podium finishers were denied their moment of congratulations and acknowledgment of a job well done in front of their peers. Ultimately, when boats are sailed out of compliance, the integrity of the sport suffers, participation declines out of competitor frustration, and the Corinthian ideal on which this sport is built is ignored

 

 

In the past two years as YRA President, I continually hear about and see incidents where boats are sailing out of compliance with their certificates.  The advent of cell-phone photography, Photoboat, and event organizers taking pictures at the start line often provides graphic proof of transgression. A competitor may plead ignorance of the rules or may express a misunderstanding  of a regulation, such as how to fly sails when taking a roller-furling credit, for example,  but once that competitor has been apprised of the violation, to continue to sail out of compliance, I call cheating.

 

Obviously, we are not the only yacht racing association that is dealing with this. And yacht racing has always included sailors who push the envelope in interpreting rules and prescriptions.  Just look at the recent example of seven teams being tossed from the J70 World championships for boat modifications.

The powers that be in our sport have responded and we have some new tools given to us by the new Racing Rules of Sailing. And we at the YRA Executive Committee level are looking at this all in a proactive way. We look at the seasonal awards here as an event unto itself and all the scores that feed into these final results are part of the one, larger cumulative event.

Rule 92 allows for the creation of a “technical committee” which can be one or more people appointed by the Organizing Authority to conduct equipment inspection and event measurement. This committee has the authority to protest boats sailing out of compliance with their certificate.   PHRF racing is a class, by definition,  unto itself.   And we are creating, essentially, a technical committee for hire. Any event in our purview can ask for the YRALIS PHRF Technical Committee to be the Committee of record for their regatta. This committee will be made up of Executive Committee members, PHRF committee members and others who understand that sailing requires fairness. Rule 60.4 now gives this Technical Committee the right to protest and request redress for a boat.

And competitors noting equipment violations, under Rule 78, Compliance with Class Rules-Certificates, do not have to report possible class breaches to the Race Committee-this would now go to the appointed Technical Committee and these protests do not have to be filed within the typical one or two-hour window after an event.

Rule 64.3 (C) Now states that when a boat is penalized under a class rule and the protest committee decides that the boat also broke the rule in earlier races in the same event, the penalty may be imposed for all such races. No further protest is necessary. Thus, if a boat is sailing out of compliance for one YRA of LIS seasonal qualifier, the penalty from one transgression can be applied to all events feeding into the cumulative trophy.

The PHRF certificate (show copy) is a contract that you are making with the sport and your competitors-once you put your signature, whether with pen or digital signing, on this piece of paper you are agreeing to Rule 3, Acceptance of the Rules.

When you enter an event through Yachtscoring, it is your responsibility to make sure that the numbers you have put on the form are correct. Each competitor, boat owner and person in charge of the boat is agreeing to ensure that all are aware of all the rules including those in the notice of race and sailing instructions. By stating that you are supplying a valid certificate to the event, you are agreeing to sail in compliance with that certificate-you cannot escape penalty later by claiming to not know the rules and you can not change the numbers with an email to the event organizer the night before or a call on the VHF at the start line to the race committee. Your stated sailing configuration has to be accurate and complied with. Boat modifications need to be completely spelled out and sail sizes need to be real and not fiction.

One of my proactive responses to this problem of non-compliance has been to ask the PHRF Committee to be more proactive as well, with enforcement and compliance. For years, the feeling has been to help the sport, the benefit of the doubt and the over-looking of transgressions was the right way to respond. Some previous members of the committee were not comfortable with this more active role, some members have been on there for multiple decades and felt their service was complete. Frankly, we all owe many thanks to the committee members who have stepped down, Rick Royce, George Samalot, Bob Kendrick, Rich Gold, Matt Berger, Mark Ploch, Tom Castiglione and Andrew Weiss. And we substantial thanks to those who have stayed on -Rick Sinclair, Charlie Powers and June Kendrick in particular, who is now moving into her 38th year as the glue that holds our PHRF system together.

 

I have put out the call to our club membership for new PHRF committee member-- active racers, involved participants in the management of the sport, and have been gratified by the immediate response and welcome onto the PHRF committee for 2018 and beyond Bill Heintz from Huguenot Yacht Club and the Storm Trysail Club, Dan Watt, longtime YRA member and behind the scenes worker, Paul Wefer from Seacliff Yacht Club and Alistair Duke from Saugatuck Harbor. We are still actively seeking more participants and please get in touch with me directly to suggest candidates.

 

One of the changes coming up in 2018 to help with overall compliance is the elimination of the weight credit system from our PHRF regulations. This system, though created with the hope that it would encourage lesser programs to participate in racing, has become rife with abuse by competitors, difficult to enforce by Organizing authorities and ultimately, as boat design has evolved, less valid. We are updating all the PHRF regulations for 2018 for clarity and cohesiveness but this will be the one big change of note. 

 

Thanks for listening to my little lecture about  law and order and know that, ultimately, my goal and the Executive Committee’s goal is to foster the Corinthian Ideal and continue to make Fair Sailing the order of the day.  Now let’s talk about some of the great positives from our 2017 season.

  

Though we continually hear about the death of our sport, we have seen all kinds of positive indicators that our region is strong and getting stronger.

The YRA Championships, chaired by Larchmont’s own Cynthia Parthemos, broke records for participation. We saw great growth in a number of events across the Sound. Larchmont Yacht Club’s Edlu  Race and Stamford Yacht Club’s  Vineyard Race both also achieved new levels on the scratch sheet.  Indian Harbor’s Spring Geartester, an event only in its second year, had over thirty boats on the line.

The YRA continues to evolve, with lots of hard work from the respective committee members and, most of all, from our two staff members, Sharon Bernd and Andrea Watson. Please join me in a round of applause for these two who keep making the donuts. One notable job completed this year was the final move of our physical office to a digital presence.  Please note our mail address change.

Our clubs continue to present new and challenging events, year-round, and the kick -off to our 2018 event list will be the new Frostbiting Championships which will be held at Riverside Yacht Club on March 17th. This is to be a real champion of champions event, with entrants required to be in the top 20% of your club fleet. This will be a 20 boat regatta held in Dyer 10s provided by the Riverside Dyer Dinghy Association. All frostbiting programs will be guaranteed one spot and additional spots to be allocated to larger programs. NORs and entry forms will be posted in the next week or so.

And when not out frostbiting, look for our winter seminars, now being run by Mike Millard from Indian Harbor. I would like to especially thank outgoing board member Josh Burack for all his work making these events a great way to spend an evening in the dead of winter.

Our members continue to do well outside our little piece of pond here with, most notably, longtime YRA member Steve Benjamin winning the world championship in Etchells and just about everything else he entered.  And three of our members are off down-under in a  few days to campaign in the Sydney Hobart Race-please join me in wishing Chris Sheehan of Warrior Won, Andrew Weiss of Christopher Dragon and Joe Mele of Triple Lindy best of luck in the Southern Ocean.