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Thread: Power-Assisted Sailing - the Slippery Slope

  1. #1
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    Default Power-Assisted Sailing - the Slippery Slope

    This thread is to put out information to the SSS members about a slippery slope that in my opinion has now become an edge of a cliff.

    This has to do with one of the US Sailing rules which is:

    52. MANUAL POWER: A boat’s standing rigging, running rigging, spars and movable hull appendages shall be adjusted and operated only by the power provided by the crew.

    I think RRS 52 is a vitally important rule as it limits the operation of a boat to the crew.

    So the slippery slope is this:

    Should the SSS allow a PHRF rated boat with partial or fully powered sail controls to race along with those that use manual power?

    I am very adamant about not racing against boats where the person doesn’t need to hoist nor physically trim the sails.

    The SSS has already allowed power-assisted devices that would break rule 52 by allowing them in our Standing Sailing Instructions for a number of years now.

    There are already boats in the fleet that use powered winches while sailing with the SSS.

    Stored energy and power assist has been out there for some time… canting keels, powered above-deck winches, etc.

    The PHRF committee has been rating boats “with” non-manual powered devices for many years. I think the benefit would be even more amplified while singlehanding vs. the fully crewed “rating” the PHRF issues.

    So the slippery slope starts with a few powered halyard winches, then jib winch and now the slope becomes a cliff ….. there is a boat entered in Saturdays Around the Rocks Race with a fully powered sail handing system.

    By fully powered I mean ALL the sail handling is power driven and controlled via a handheld remote. The below deck fuller, self-tacking jib sheet, jib-boom rotation, jib traveler, main trailer & sheet, halyards, backstay, vang, outhauls, etc. are all fully powered. The only above deck powered winch you can access and ease a control line manually is the cabin top halyard winches. There is NO WAY to manually trim or ease the sails as all single-line sheets, etc. disappear below deck to its powered winch.

    I think the SSS Mission Statement has some key works that back up my opinion and they are “fair”, “equitable” and “sportsmanlike”.

    The Singlehanded Sailing Society (SSS) was conceived to provide a forum where sailors and others interested in the sport of singlehanded sailing could share their ideas and experiences. It is the intent of the SSS to make it possible for such sailors to compete in seaworthy sailing vessels of various types and designs on a fair and equitable basis. The purpose of the races is to provide an organized arena in which ideas, equipment, designs, and vessels specifically created, built, modified, or equipped for long distance singlehanded racing may be tested and evaluated through friendly sportsmanlike competition. The development of personal skill in singlehanded sailing is encouraged through sailing events and seminars.
    My personal opinion is the SSS shouldn’t allow boats rated with powered devices to race using them but if they do they should be in their own division and not eligible for the overall trophies.

    What say you?
    Last edited by solosailor; 08-03-2020 at 07:30 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default

    So I'm racing in an SSS event, up the city front. Singlehanded. In Starbuck. Tacking the 125%. Hi Scott Easom! I think you got me.

  3. #3
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    So far the power-assist isn't helping Scott in the Friday night CYC series. His line in division is 7/7, 4/6, 1/6, 3/5, and 4/6. And we're talking about Scott Easom.

    To Greg: We already had this discussion, both by e-mail with the SSS board and in person last weekend. Other than you, the skipper who ranted the most against powered winches hasn't done an SSS race in 10 years. So maybe it's not as big a concern to the majority of active racers.

    Scott apparently sees a market for these semi-automated boats. I think the J/100 is the fifth one he's done. I'd support a separate division for them, if and when they show they can beat the non-powered-winch boats. Otherwise I think it's a way to keep some folks racing who otherwise couldn't. In that way it actually levels the playing field and allows for more participation, which we need especially in the singlehanded divisions.

    I am a little surprised that Eight Ball is entered in RTR with the standard J/100 PHRF rating of 87. The PHRF meeting minutes have not been posted since January so I can't read what PHRF's logic was. I'm told that when Soozall (King 40) did a full powered conversion, PHRF hit its rating 19 seconds/mile.

    Finally, I can't help but feel like Surprise! is a target of this. I installed a second powered winch in good faith, based on SSS's and OYRA's long-standing modification of Rule 52 allowing their use. I declared the winches on my certificate when the boat was first rated. If you successfully lobby to exclude their use, I'll probably stop racing in SSS.

    Are you racing Outsider on Saturday?
    .
    Last edited by BobJ; 08-09-2020 at 11:13 AM.

  4. #4
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    I would agree with Greg. Full powered sail controls is quite an advantage. We should at least put a star next to boats so equipped and consider an alternate scoring system.

    Brian

  5. #5
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    Then you should put a star next to the WylieCat 30s and "consider an alternate scoring system" for them as well. They also enjoy significant ease-of-operation over other boats when racing singlehanded. The advantage they enjoy in our races is well-documented.

  6. #6
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    I disagree. PHRF should adjust their (Wylie 30's) rating accordingly. They are all manual, but certainly have a great advantage with minimal sail handling. The issue PHRF would have, with a rating adjustment is similar to doing the same with a powered gear boat. How do you model , in a performance program, a vessel with reduced crew energy per mile, and reduced errors due to simplicity of operation ? The variables are too vast. If the club wants to pursue a path with the PHRF committee to alter Wylie Cats, that sounds reasonable. Boat owners should do so as well. Powered vessels need some thought before scoring begins.

    Brian

  7. #7
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    It sounds like we do agree. Based on observed performance, PHRF would probably adjust the WC30 rating again if any of us brought an appeal. I've just chosen not to be that person.

    Similarly, PHRF should adjust Eight Ball's rating to account for any performance advantage provided by the powered gear. But so far, that performance advantage has not been observed. PHRF ratings are based on observed performance, not a "performance program" (VPP).
    .
    Last edited by BobJ; 08-03-2020 at 11:45 PM.

  8. #8
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    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. From looking at NCPHRF there are only 2 boats with declared power winches and one of them doesn't race SSS. So again, I'm not clear of when or why the iii exclusion got added. My suggestion would be to either make iii much more narrow or create an 'unRule 52' class for folks that want to innovate and experiment outside the boundaries of the rule.

    From reviewing the PHRF rules, there is no indication on the rating impact of power assisted anything. Additionally 1.c.i and 1.c.ii have no impact on rating, but 1.c.iii assumes a third party will provide the right correction.

    An interesting discussion here about how IRC dealt with it, with some familiar names. I don't see any similar language with regards to PHRF ratings. http://archive.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/09/0630a/

    At least the IRC rule is declarative in their allowance:
    "
    15 MANUAL POWER
    15.1 RRS 52, Manual Power, shall not apply. This Rule may be amended by Notice of Race.
    15.2 (a)The use of stored power for the hoisting of mainsails, or the reefing or furling of sails
    need not be declared.
    (b) Boats using stored power solely for the adjustment or operation of backstays shall
    declare this to the Rating Authority.
    (c)Boats using stored power for the adjustment or operation of running rigging other
    than as noted in Rules 15.2(a) & (b) shall declare this to the Rating Authority.
    "

    I could envision the SSS narrowing 1.c.iii to the equivalent of 15.2(a) of IRC and disallowing the rest. Or provide a full IRC division. There are enough IRC rated boats in the Bay to make that a better option.

  9. #9
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    On Saturday I saw a nice Alerion 33 with all the powered works and met the skipper. Quite impressive and competing against him would be fine with me because he is old enough to be my dad or grandfather. The assisted devices will allow him to continue sailing much longer than without them.

    We have different physical contributory capabilities due to injuries and aging, and that rate is not the same across skippers.

    Sailing can be hard on the body and joints and if you need electro mechanical assistance, go right ahead.

    If you are a young and fit, I would question your need and use. And, any successes would be clouded in my book by your "bionics."

    For one design, definitely not unless everyone else has powered controls.

    I would say let it play out until a boat regularly demonstrates a significant advantage in overall standings.

    A level playing field can be difficult to achieve in the SSS, because most are not sailing One Design and that results in a lot of variability. Some have a lot of useful electronics, others have carbon fiber this & that, others have new or various sails, others a better boat for the conditions, and etc. At the end of the day, you race yourself and your fellow sailors know where you really stand.

    I think the Wyliecat 30's rating is OK because the skippers are not spring chickens and they beat me usually because of better strategy & tactics.

    I am very hesitant to raise issues with boats because of a particular design trait. I always ask myself, "were it not for that boat or feature, would they have beaten me?" Most of the time, skill & experience of the skipper/crew (& sometimes chance) were the main reasons.
    Last edited by Submarino; 08-04-2020 at 12:15 AM.

  10. #10
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    To Greg: We already had this discussion, both by e-mail with the SSS board and in person last weekend. Other than you, the skipper who ranted the loudest against powered winches hasn't done an SSS race in 10 years. So maybe it's not as big a concern to the majority of active racers.
    That is exactly what I wanted to find out.

    Finally, I can't help but feel like Surprise! is a target of this. I installed a second powered winch in good faith, based on SSS's and OYRA's long-standing modification of Rule 52 allowing their use. I declared the winches on my certificate when the boat was first rated. If you successfully lobby to exclude their use, I'll probably stop racing in SSS.
    Not a target at all as I totally forgot you even had them. This was brought to a head in my mind by the "fully" automated powered operation of a boat that has now been developed. I would never suggest that you are not one to play above board and I have huge respect for you as honorable competitor. This is simply my personal opinion that sailing is a sport, not an activity, and therefore one needs to manually power the sail handling.

    I have the exact feeling on the opposite end and if the SSS allows a boat with full power sail handling controls to race against the general fleet of manual powered boats I will no longer race with the SSS or at least the fleet those boats are in. As to if I'll compete Saturday I'm up in the air as I had singlehanded the last few years and looked forward to sailing doublehanded this year. With the social bubble rule in effect I don't really I'll have available crew or be comfortable with wearing a mask while racing.

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