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Thread: Power-Assisted Sailing - the Slippery Slope

  1. #11
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    Sailing can be hard on the body and joints and if you need electro mechanical assistance, go right ahead.
    I agree, just not for the race track. How is it fair that someone gets to short-tack up the city front and be totally fresh for a spinnaker hoist at the weather mark while you can barely get the spin bag out of the companionway to hoist because your arms are already toast?

    Here is a though experiment..... If you were into racing bicycles but you now can't keep up with the crowd and it hurts physically to race. Would anyone suggest that it's OK to have a powered hub wheel to help you compete?

  2. #12
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    Thank you for your kind words.

    Is bicycle racing in general decline like sailboat racing has been? If so, they'd start looking for ways to keep the racers out there.

    Again, our rating system is based on observed performance. Most of us agree it's not ideal but it's what we have. If we observe these power-assisted boats having an actual performance advantage over non-power-assisted boats, then skippers can appeal their ratings. That's why I immediately went to Eight Ball's race results, which I will continue to watch. Same with Another Girl, Bella and yes, Surprise!

    Here's another thought experiment: You and I are both long-term SSS racers who have supported and helped run the club over the years. We're both (mostly) singlehanders. If we both walked away over this issue, as I've said I might, that's two more long-time singlehanders who are gone.

    Instead, what if we turn this around and ask what the Singlehanded Sailing Society can do to encourage more skippers to singlehand? (We have no trouble attracting doublehanders.) Would it help to allow, and even encourage boats that are easier to singlehand? How about allowing more boats with power-assisted steering devices?
    Last edited by BobJ; 08-04-2020 at 09:58 AM.

  3. #13
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    It is quite obvious that a boat with power assisted sail controls has an advantage. Just like E bikes have an advantage. Why is that even in doubt ? I guess it is open season on going all electronic compliments of the our PHRF committee. What prevents me from having full control of steering and sail trim from an advanced autopilot ?

    As far as older people racing, or folks with injuries, let us open a class of power assisted vessels, or have masters division like so many other sports. So simple. I am 69, have a rota-tor cuff injury in the left arm, and a right knee I cannot kneel on, or bend too far. I am happy to continue to race in an no power assisted vessel. If the time comes where the aspirin no longer helps I would be happy to sail in a masters class - or power assisted class.

  4. #14
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    I submit it has an advantage in being easier to sail. But does that advantage lead to better race results or just maintaining participation? If better race results, we have an existing system to adjust for that: a rating appeal.

    My smiley up above is because the autopilots are indeed becoming quite advanced - and are also using stored energy. Should we all go back to wind vanes and bungee cords?

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobJ View Post
    I submit it has an advantage in being easier to sail. But does that advantage lead to better race results or just maintaining participation? If better race results, we have an existing system to adjust for that: a rating appeal.

    My smiley up above is because the autopilots are indeed becoming quite advanced - and are also using stored energy. Should we all go back to wind vanes and bungee cords?
    Bob, that is not quite right. PHRF doesn't rate for shorthanded advantage. As I mentioned in my other comment, an IRC class might be the ticket as it considers both stored power assistance and shorthanded ratings. Create a separate class. Maybe we all eventually migrate there, who knows.
    Last edited by Travieso; 08-04-2020 at 11:42 AM.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travieso View Post
    It would be great to learn the history of the introduction 1.c.iii to our SSIs. 1.c.i and 1.c.ii are very narrow in their exclusions, and iii comes along and blows up rule 52.
    Since I wrote 1.c.iii let me give you my perspective. During a race last year, someone complained that a young healthy guy (relatively speaking) was short tacking up the city front using power winches. As I understood our original intent of allowing powered winches, it was to aid people as they age, who still want to race but aren't the young person they once were. So it was conceived as something that wouldn't be invoked often.

    To address this in 2020, the SSS Board approved the change to 1 c iii from the 2019 version of "Powered winches, hydraulics, or furling devices – only on boats that have declared this information on their PHRF application and have been rated accordingly. This modifies RRS 52." to the 2020 version "Powered winches, hydraulics, or furling devices – only on boats that have declared this information on their PHRF application and have received a PHRF rating that specifies allowable usage for the powered winches. This modifies RRS 52." Thus we put the onus on the PHRF committee. Thus having powered winches doesn't mean you can use them, unless your PHRF certificate specifically says this is the rating assuming you use powered winches. Since the YRA doesn't allow you to have multiple PHRF ratings, we though this would be sufficient to discourage casual powered-winch users since they wouldn't be able to race in other events where RRS 52 has not been modified, and only the few SSS-only racers who need help would apply. We did not envision a push-button-only electric boat.

    So, someone looked at our rules and lived up to the letter of them, I presume (if their certificate allows their use). Was this our intention? No. Can we stop this? Yes, if we want. Our out is NOR Rule 5.

    "5. UNUSUAL DESIGNS; INSPECTION
    The Race Committee reserves the right to inspect any entered boat, and to cancel the entry of a boat with any unusual arrangement in hull, rig, sails, ballast, or equipment that the Race Committee considers to be a potential hazard, or an attempt to violate or circumvent the intent of this document."

    Conceivably the SSS could invoke this rule and deny the entry. But that is another discussion of whether we should or not. I was shocked to learn that Sydney Hobart boats replaced many of their crew members with a 10HP diesel engine, which provides the energy used to trim all sails, move ballast, etc., and is "cheaper and lighter" than ten well-paid pro sailors. Should we stand in the way of progress? Many may have opinions that differ on this. Should satellite weather and navigation be allowed? Should boats be allowed to have supercomputers aboard calculating optimal paths from here to there? Should sloops be allowed? I know I'm going to ridiculous extremes here, but whether we chose to allow this or not should be a club decision.

    The summary is we have a means to disallow this, now we just need to decide if we should invoke that means.

    My two cents, Jim.

  7. #17
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    Jun 2009
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    A masters division is an idea. If we feel PHRF is not addressing power mods adequately, then a separate division could also make sense. The sticky part is does any power or some power qualify.

    Question: How quickly can a fully power boat release jib or main sheet in emergency maneuvers? I don't remember seeing any sheets above deck.

    I am low tech and tend to sail that way. Party because of cost and but mostly because of the spirit of simplicity. Over the brief time I have been sailing, I have seen tricked out or modified boats that if raced against sister vessels, they would have an significant unfair advantage. Is this a PHRF, SSS or owner derived. I do not know. If there is to be some criteria to be set or a line to be drawn, maybe monetary cost should be it. About 15 years ago, an Express with well a known owner, crew and driver showed up to Nationals with an exotic underdeck tacking system. It was ruled exotic, beyond the cost of most owners and too helpful. But more recently, Expresses have been going to Pac Cup with elongated rudders, asymmetric sails, carbon bowling balls and etc. There appeared to be adjustments to their rating but it deviates from the basic Express too much in my opinion.

    Anyone interested in a homo hablis division. Just radio and nav lights, no electric powered AP, GPS, nav aids, etc.

    I am still waiting for the Leman's start with a twist. Boat is at anchor and you are in the water on a 50' line. Horn blows, swim, climb aboard, pull anchor and sail away. Is that crazy or what!

    Whatever is decided, cases should be made, people heard and votes taken. Else, I like that rule 5.
    Last edited by Submarino; 08-04-2020 at 01:00 PM.

  8. #18
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    Sep 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joyride View Post
    Since I wrote 1.c.iii let me give you my perspective. During a race last year, someone complained that a young healthy guy (relatively speaking) was short tacking up the city front using power winches. As I understood our original intent of allowing powered winches, it was to aid people as they age, who still want to race but aren't the young person they once were. So it was conceived as something that wouldn't be invoked often.

    To address this in 2020, the SSS Board approved the change to 1 c iii from the 2019 version of "Powered winches, hydraulics, or furling devices – only on boats that have declared this information on their PHRF application and have been rated accordingly. This modifies RRS 52." to the 2020 version "Powered winches, hydraulics, or furling devices – only on boats that have declared this information on their PHRF application and have received a PHRF rating that specifies allowable usage for the powered winches. This modifies RRS 52." Thus we put the onus on the PHRF committee. Thus having powered winches doesn't mean you can use them, unless your PHRF certificate specifically says this is the rating assuming you use powered winches. Since the YRA doesn't allow you to have multiple PHRF ratings, we though this would be sufficient to discourage casual powered-winch users since they wouldn't be able to race in other events where RRS 52 has not been modified, and only the few SSS-only racers who need help would apply. We did not envision a push-button-only electric boat.

    So, someone looked at our rules and lived up to the letter of them, I presume (if their certificate allows their use). Was this our intention? No. Can we stop this? Yes, if we want. Our out is NOR Rule 5.

    "5. UNUSUAL DESIGNS; INSPECTION
    The Race Committee reserves the right to inspect any entered boat, and to cancel the entry of a boat with any unusual arrangement in hull, rig, sails, ballast, or equipment that the Race Committee considers to be a potential hazard, or an attempt to violate or circumvent the intent of this document."

    Conceivably the SSS could invoke this rule and deny the entry. But that is another discussion of whether we should or not. I was shocked to learn that Sydney Hobart boats replaced many of their crew members with a 10HP diesel engine, which provides the energy used to trim all sails, move ballast, etc., and is "cheaper and lighter" than ten well-paid pro sailors. Should we stand in the way of progress? Many may have opinions that differ on this. Should satellite weather and navigation be allowed? Should boats be allowed to have supercomputers aboard calculating optimal paths from here to there? Should sloops be allowed? I know I'm going to ridiculous extremes here, but whether we chose to allow this or not should be a club decision.

    The summary is we have a means to disallow this, now we just need to decide if we should invoke that means.

    My two cents, Jim.
    Thanks Jim, I guess it is the law of unintended consequences....

    As someone who has been 'excluded' by rules for certain events, I'm not a fan of legislating boats out of competition. If there is enough interest for power assisted racing a new class can easily and immediately be created for the boats sporting the technology and needing to use it. Also, if we don't want to go that far section iii could be narrowed for next season.

  9. #19
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    Sep 2007
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    250

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    Quote Originally Posted by BobJ View Post
    One other data point: We've now reached 101 entries for Saturday's race and are bumping up against the 80-boat limit for doublehanders set in the SI's.

    But out of 100+ boats, my division has two entries - three when they move the WylieCat over. So if there was also a division for "skippers who need a little help," Ralph would be racing against himself and maybe Don.

    Edit: Things are looking up - now 28 singlehanders are entered, including enough singlehanded Express 27s to have their own class. Maybe we'll reach the 33 SH'ers we had in RTR last year.
    With not much other racing going on, I'm sure crews are begging their skippers to race doublehanded.... Of course, they must already be in their household/bubble...
    Last edited by BobJ; 08-05-2020 at 09:57 AM. Reason: Edited my own quote.

  10. #20
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    Sep 2007
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    There's a distinction between meeting racing rules (electric winches or not) and how a particular boat scores in the results. The discussion concerns what it means to sail a boat (stored power or no), and has nothing to do with how a boat places in the results.

    Sailboat racing is a physical sport, each skipper is sailing the boat to the best of their ability. A significant part of each person's ability is their physical fitness. As we age we also lose speed, agility, and strength. That's ok, we still go out and sail the boat as best we can, but we might not win as often (or at all), but at least we're still sailing.

    The SSS should not support the idea of replacing physical ability with electric winches across the fleet. The electric winch strikes directly at the idea of racing - it's a physical sport, keep it physical. I understand the argument for having a 'power-assisted' division - this would provide a racing venue for skippers that can no longer sail their boats effectively without assistance, this could be fun.

    I would like to know the circumstances behind the addition of 1.c.iii to the NOR. So far I haven't heard any details that brought the rule in and allowed electric winches onto the course. As a result, it's difficult to understand why the SSS would want to retain 1.c.iii that allows electric winches.

    - rob

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