spinnakers - gentle warning...

12/02/2019 16:53:19
Hi All,
I was looking through all the wonderful photos of merlins at Salcombe and I noticed that most of the fleet are sailing out of class!
The RRS clearly states that sail numbers must be visible, including on spinnakers (even dinghies). 
Does that mean that there is an easy protest to be had? See appropriate rule below from appendix G. Are there any measurers in the fleet that can clarify the position of the National Merlin Rocket class or explain why they do not put numbers on the spinnakers? Surely the sailmakers musty know the rules?
Class insignia, national letters and sail numbers shall be positioned as follows:
a: Except as provided in rules G1.3(d) and G1.3(e), class insignia, national letters and sail numbers shall, if possible, be wholly above an arc whose centre is the head point and whose radius is 60% of the leech length. They shall be placed at different heights on the two sides of the sail, those on the starboard side being uppermost.
b: The class insignia shall be placed above the national letters. If the class insignia is of such a design that two of them coincide when placed back to back on both sides of the sail, they may be so placed.
c: National letters shall be placed above the sail number.
d: The national letters and sail number shall be displayed on the front side of a spinnaker but may be placed on both sides. They shall be displayed wholly below an arc whose centre is the head point and whose radius is 40% of the foot median and, if possible, wholly above an arc whose radius is 60% of the foot median.
I guess it's good news for the sailmakers that didn't offer sail numbers at the time of construction...

12/02/2019 17:46:16
So we have the protest hearing and the protest is upheld.

G4 allows an appropriate time to comply.  I would suggest 80 years would suffice.

Sail numbers in spinnakers reduces their value.  Why would you want them?

Save time by using it as a standard sailing instruction.


12/02/2019 18:41:02
But if one boat has a number on the spinnaker, then surely that's a result.
In term of compliance and time, I think world sailing /  the RYA will say different. How long do you need to stick numbers on a spinnaker?...... Think I'll be putting a number on my kite! 

12/02/2019 18:43:02
Looks like a simple amendment to the class rules under spinnaker:
Rule 77 does not apply
But rules can't be changed until AGM?  

12/02/2019 20:40:48
John Cooper
Looking back through my photos it seems I have been out of class (together with everyone else) for at least the last  15 years, probably longer!  Didn't we change the rules so that spinnaker numbers were not required years ago?  Perhaps the change was not reflected in the recent rewrite.  Dan A will know the answer!

12/02/2019 20:47:00
Ian Smith
I am not sure that the original post is correct. Appendix G 1 refers to 'World Sailing Class Boats'.  A Merlin Rocket is not a 'World Sailing Class Boat' (the relevant boats are listed on the World Sailing website under 'Classes and Equipment - Centreboard').  I think that they are what we used to refer to as 'International Classes' and the Merlin Rocket is a 'National Class'.  Appendix G 2 refers to 'Other Boats' and states 'Other boats shall comply with the rules of their national authority or class association in regard to the allotment, carrying and size of insignia, letters and numbers.  Such rules shall, when practicable, conform to the above requirements'.  Although I don't sail a Merlin Rocket, I don't think that the class rules regarding spinnakers mention the necessity to have sail numbers on them.

12/02/2019 21:10:39
Argh! You got me!...... Or did you....
 The RRS....
Other boats shall comply with the rules of their national authority or 
class association in regard to the allotment, carrying and size of 
insignia, letters and numbers. Such rules shall, when practicable, 
conform to the above requirements.
A.4.1 The class shall be administered by the RYA in cooperation with the MROA. 
A.5.1 These class rules shall be read in conjunction with the ERS. 
A.5.2 Except where used in headings, when a term is printed in “bold” the definition in the ERS applies and when 
a term is printed in “italics” the definition in the RRS applies. 
A.7.1 Amendments to these class rules are subject to the approval of the Class Rules Authority. 
A.7.2 Class Rule amendments are highlighted with an underline 
A.8.1 Interpretation of class rules shall be made by the Class Rules Authority in consultation with the MROA.

13/02/2019 09:00:48
Chris Martin
So the practical side.
1) Anyone who actually protests this will find themselves exceedingly unpopular. 
2) This will have sport wide implications if it is enforced. More of this later.
We voted to remove numbers from our spinnakers in 2002. We voted to keep them removed a few years later. Everyone is happy, the forecasters of doom and chaos have been proven wrong, indeed our two most recent championship race officers do not use spinnaker numbers as they are often wrong, and are happy with the status quo.
The status quo must have been ratified by the RYA when we made the rule change all those years ago. It certainly got through the technical committee ratification when we went ISAF quite recently. Pre ISAF format our rules used to state that we did not require numbers on the spinnaker - if we were not allowed to do this why did it get past RYA ratification?? Lots of dinghy classes went the same way at around the same time. Nobody has brought this up in all the years since until last year.
Appendix G was called something else back then, but it was in there word for word. I looked last year.
The only RYA national class that specifically requires spinnaker numbers in its class rules is the Scorpion. The N18 rules don't say and there are plenty of photos of them without numbers.
Bearing in mind that this is an RRS rule, not an ERS rule looking further afield the sport as a whole will be in big trouble if this is enforced. Who is going to protest every RS class? Who is going to protest every GP14 or Wayfarer who isn't sporting Genoa numbers (Required under the same rules)?
Appendix G applied to dinghy racing is wrong and clearly not the intent. So rather than by trying to be divisive over this we actually need to stick together, involve the many other classes who would fall victim to this and lobby for an exemption. It's dead easy "Vessels below LOA of x.xm are exempt".
By the way, G4 outlines the outcomes should a protest committee find that this rule has been broken. It shall "either warn her (The boat or boats in question) and give her time to comply or penalise her.". Given that this is a class (and sport) wide issue with nearly 15 years of custom and practice to override I should think that significant time to comply would be given. I would suggest that the time given would be best spent by our governing body getting us an exemption from the rule that they missed.

13/02/2019 10:08:40
R. Geek
oh the don't protest you'll be unpopular thing? that's a good way to allow people to cheat I'll just stick. my head in the sand. Everyone is doing it so it don't matter? I nudged a mark - it don't matter, I infringed a rule - it don't matter.
I believe the RYA made classes aware of this rule in 2018. A rule is just that, a rule. black and white, you can't defer knowledge because it's been like that for a decade. 
It isn't upto me or another sailor to protest every infringement, it is unto each individual competitor to ensure they are not cheating. Would I protest a cheat? Absolutely, who chooses which rules to ignore in the class rules? 

Just to remind us all (me included) on the principles of our sport, we are corinthian, self policing, I touch a mark I do penalties, I shouldn't need a protest to enforce my wrong doing, knowingly breaking a rule, I would expect a sailor to take their turns or make their boat compliant, I leave a little lead out, no one will notice I'm not exactly at the front (oh hang on those have been caught too). if sailors are going to be non compliant with the RRS then other rules become fair game for cheating.
the preamble of the racing rules.
Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.
and the very obvious rule2:
2. FAIR SAILING A boat and her owner shall compete in compliance with recognized principles of sportsmanship and fair play. A boat may be penalized under this rule only if it is clearly established that these principles have been violated. The penalty shall be either disqualification or disqualification that is not excludable.

and finally the diatribe..

what would elvstrom think?

When asked why I thought sailing was such a cool sport I always used to answer ‘The right kind of people play our sport’’.


I then went on to say it is nothing about money, I am hardly a millionaire myself, but it was about the attitude to fair play and helping each other. Perhaps something to do about the lore of the sea.


Back when I was young in sailing, rules being broken in high profile events were big news, and relatively rare. The I’Punkt affair being notable and when an Enterprise dinghy appeared at an early 70’s Enterprise Europeans at the Royal Tay Yacht Club in Scotland with a boat that you could fit your fist between the hull and measurement template at station 2, it went all the way to the IYRU (with the trophy being withheld if I remember correctly) and led to the nicknames Benterprise and Slenderprise although doubtful if many readers are young enough to remember those issues.


Perhaps I watch what is happening in the upper echelons of our sport more than I used to but I am not alone and have recently challenged by people I know with “You told me this was an honourable sport so why are people cheating”  and I have to start to agree with them and that disappoints me.


It is very hard to ignore the lead in king posts, the round the world racers mousing their halyards, sailing with nav lights switched off at night, leaving behind a crew member in the light at multi race regattas or the multitude of other infractions one sees or hears about.


And some of the breaches are clearly well thought out and pre-planned. Deliberate is the word I think I am looking for.


At one Laser Regatta, at least one competitor had tied the dead end of their mainsheet to the toe-straps and was gently flicking his feet all the way round the course causing an almost continuous and almost inconspicuous flick to the 4th corner of the mainsail.


He was undone when a judge came alongside and took a snapshot of the arrangement. Suffice to say that if there was no on the water judge they would have got away with it.


I have even had a world champion boasting to me he won because he was able to ooch better than others. To give him credit when he described his actions it was more like legal kinetics than illegal body movements but the fact he felt it was no problem to say he was ooching was concerning.


Even coaches seem willing to stretch the rules with their athletes, or perhaps don’t have the fullest knowledge of the rules themselves. I remember one discussion where a coach felt a penalty could be done at the competitor’s convenience rather than “as soon after the incident as possible”. Lord help us.


The problem is perhaps not new but does seem to be on the increase to such an extent that World Sailing even produced a manual on the subject “Misconduct Guidance”. If misconduct wasn’t such an issue, why have a manual?


We are all aware that, in many parts of the world, numbers in our sport are not growing as we would like, in fact in some parts of the world they are apparently falling to the extent that books have been written on the subject (very good books like ‘Saving Sailing’ for example) and if the playing field is not seen to be fair not only may it chase people from our sport but also prevent newcomers entering in the first place.


And it is not just competitors that are culpable. I have been in ‘the room’ where the Chairman (an IJ) didn’t declare the protestee was an associate and even forcefully told one of the witnesses to shut up. Or being on the water with an IJ and spotting a competitor ooching so obviously it would have made a perfect “How to” video. Instead of opening the throttle and awarding a penalty they dropped the engine to ‘idle’ to widen the distance. (The competitor was a fellow national of the judge). The very next day when with a judge of a different nationality I highlighted the same competitor doing exactly the same thing. Result? Throttle up and a 720 penalty. In fact had the other judge done the right thing the day before then that penalty should have been a DSQ or even a DNE. Smelly!


An extreme example perhaps, was the awarding of redress by an (incompetent or complicit?) race officer after a competitor claimed an on the water judge (who the SI’s stated their decision was final) made a wrong decision. No paperwork, no protest committee, a unilateral decision by the Race officer to award 5 point redress even though the GPS trace showed the competitor’s penalty turn cost zero places. The upshot was over 20 rules and sub rules broken and the third place prize of a 23 foot Sportboat going to a fellow national of the race officer. Attempts to protest these actions were blanked all the way up to the CEO of the company which organised the event.


So what’s the reason? Frankly, I don’t know. Perhaps it is the additional money that has crept into our sport, where frequently the sailor’s income level, either at a particular event or potential  in the future is based on results. Perhaps I was just blind to it (I love this sport) and am noticing it more these days with my involvement in writing and officiating, either way it is not a good look.  


Of course, on the high side, these occurrences are not everyday. If they were they wouldn’t be noteworthy but they still dishonor our sport and I haven’t even got started on electronic devices working or not working.


So what’s the solution?


Our sport may not be unique in being self policing. I have seen golfers and snooker players calling fouls on themselves but the number of sports that DON’T have an official, whether called a judge, an umpire or a referee is pretty small.


Could you imagine the mayhem that would exist on a soccer pitch with no referee? That sport has even gone to ‘goal line’ technology and a 4th official for video replay – let’s hope our sport never has to extend to those sorts of measures, I doubt if we could even afford it. And soccer isn’t unique, quite the opposite.


I do notice that the number of regattas that have “on the water judging” with the “judges decision is final” written into the sailing instructions appears to be on the increase but the wrong type of official is usually used and it shouldn’t (in my opinion) even be judging.


There are now only around 60 – yes, I haven’t missed a zero – only 60 people who are qualified as both International Judge (IJ) and International Umpire (IU) in the whole world. And using a judge to officiate when the skills of an umpire are what is required is rather like someone used to sitting on the bench of a county court doing duty as a traffic cop.


I am not doubting the rules knowledge of judges, far from it but the additional required skills of boat driving, positioning and wake avoidance are not something that a judge practices regularly along with the sometimes lack of awareness of the concept of “last known point of certainty”. Additionally, just as a county court judge lacks the experience to ‘smell something going down’ where a street cop would then the same applies to the relative skill sets of a sailing judge or umpire.


Having performed the roles of both umpire on the water and judge in the protest room I am quite aware that while there is significant overlap in terms of knowledge required, however there is somewhat less overlap with the practical skills.


Sometimes as an on the water ‘judge’, just being there keeps people honest and at a number of regattas it has been noticeable that the officials are quite busy on day 1, or even just race 1 but by the time day 2 dawns they are just trundling round with the fleet with their flags lying in the bottom of the RIB and their whistles virtually unblown.


Would we ever have to go to the extent of having actual ‘referees’? I for one certainly hope not but the reliance on someone protesting and more worrying, those who don’t sometimes being more pilloried than the offender (real or supposed) hardly benefits anyone except perhaps the trolls who sometimes populate internet chat rooms.


We are one fifth of the way into the 21st Century and our sport still largely depends on an honour code that existed at the beginning of the last century.


I don’t think we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater but at the very least, in my view, that minority which disrespects our sport by knowingly NOT following ALL the rules needs to be brought to heel in a firm and uncompromising manner.


Good policing prevents crime, perhaps the time has come to ramp up those who are on the water just to ensure a fairer, more level, field of prey.

13/02/2019 11:03:37
So for clarity and to avoid confusion.... Under the current rules, are we meant to have sail numbers on spinnakers? 

13/02/2019 11:12:38
Andrew Mills
I was there at both AGM's for the spinnaker numbers vote.  There was good debate and the opinion of the class is clear.  Before we get too steamed up about this (and I do not particularly like anonymous contributions on forums) could I just point out that no-one will gain an unfair advantage in a race from not having numbers on their spinnaker.  As a class we have been doing quite a bit of work around rule observance where advantage can be gained for just the reasons given above.
Andrew 3511 

13/02/2019 11:53:10
Tim H
Rules Geek,
I've got to hand it to you, that was a spectacular rant - congratulations!
Given that you've picked a rule that specifically focuses on competitor identification and spoken so passionately about lost values and honour, etc., now would seem like an appropriate time to show some moral fibre and identify yourself...

13/02/2019 12:54:51
Unfair advantage from being unidentifiable when infringing? There's an advantage.

Can anyone answer Matt's question^^^?

13/02/2019 11:03:37
So for clarity and to avoid confusion.... Under the current rules, are we meant to have sail numbers on spinnakers? 

13/02/2019 13:10:08
Martin Smith
I have this morning e-mailed the RYA technical department to seek clarification on this issue.
I will report back to the committee and membership in due course.

13/02/2019 16:19:31
Ian Mackenzie
I am not at all sure why the issue of whether or not we require spinnaker numbers has now become a matter of such immediate importance, is apparently a critical indication of the level of sportsmanship within our class and justifies unattributable, unverifiable accusations of gross misconduct  on a public forum without any apparent accountability.
I cannot answer Matt or Scam's queries as I am merely an MROA member. However, for the avoidance of doubt, I will not be displaying spinnaker numbers unless specifically directed by the MROA or RYA. If you feel that I am cheating, please also feel free to protest me. Expect me to want to discuss this with you in the bar afterwards. I don't think you will have any trouble identifying me.
I am sure that our Chairman and Committee Members have more important issues to give their life muted time to.

13/02/2019 16:26:08
Ian Mackenzie
Sorry, "life muted" should read, "limited"

13/02/2019 17:14:50
Chris Martin
pastingMerlin class rules G2.2. Sails shall comply with these class rules. 

Mainsail Rule 3.1 (b). The sail numbers shall comply with RRS 77.

Spinnaker rule G5 makes no reference to compliance with RRS 77, therefore it does not apply to the spinnaker.

Appendix G is a relic. It needs to be sorted out.
Mr Geek.
It's very easy to make these posts from behind a pseudonym. To say you are being discourteous is something of an understatement. Downright cowardice has been mentioned. All you are doing is forcing volunteers to spend their valuable time on an issue that is of absolutely no consequence to the class whatsoever.
I'm sure even you have better ways to use your time........ 

13/02/2019 19:08:27
Tim Male
As Ian Smith pointed out above (12/02/2019 20:47:00), RRS G1 applies only to World Sailing Class Boats such as GP14, Fireball etc etc. All these therefore should have numbers on the spinnakers.
As Merlin Rockets, RS400 etc etc are not a World Sailing Class, (ie international) G2 applies:
G2 "Other boats shall comply with the rules of their national authority or class association"
Thereofore Merlin Rocket Class rules apply. To save you looking, it's section G, you only need numbers on the mainsail.

13/02/2019 20:13:07
Tim, that was going to be my response. But I hesitated because the class rules are Open. So as it is not prohibited then the RRS apply?? So G2 would be in?
Seems like it needs a tidy.... Personally I'd like the sail measurers to be tidied so an IHC loft can measure. It's one sentence and means that it's easier to get sails measured ( although I would be checking with the RYA about the spinnaker numbers!).

To be honest, I attended a sail measurers course recently to update my IHC status. The topic of numbers on dinghies and dinghy spinnaker numbers  did come up (actually it was quite a long section). The chap Rob from the RYA was pretty clear that Spinnakers should have numbers unless the class rules specify otherwise. We didn't do any specific classes, their point being that the boat is irrelevant it is the RRS and class rules that are, so couldn't clarify the Merlin rule, I'll ask Rob when I'm at the dinghy show.

Mr Geek. It doesn't really matter who you are. Paid member or not.
The point is sort of valid as it is an RRS / class rule. 

I have seen one boat change helms over night and win a silver tiller, likewise at another silver tiller a newbie was warned that changing helms would disqualify them. No one protested why? Scared that protesting the old school would disbar them from being welcome at open meetings.
Pack mentality is fine, I have no issues with it. But broadcasting that protesting will turn you into a pariah that won't be welcome doesn't do the fleet any good. Discussion about why it's like that and what needs to happen to clarify the situation.
I sort of agree with the sentiment that we are self policing so it is up-to us to ensure we are legal. Not just on the race course but also on certificate. 

13/02/2019 21:38:47
Mark B (the plus one)
Running short of popcorn. Can anyone advise?

MR 3784 
Lyndhurst SO43 7AR 
50.8726North 1.5778West

14/02/2019 05:44:38
Further to the above, there are several World Sailing (ISAF) classes, including the Musto Skiff and B14 that are only required to carry identification (GBR 111 etc) on their mainsails. They do not carry them on the kites. To do this would be impractical as their is no forward face but two sides, plus stitching/gluing numbers (inking in does not last) onto the sail would induce a different stretch profile and many stitching or glued area, generating a hard spot and eventual distortion of the sail shape. Also to my knowledge there are very few Symmetric WS international classes that do not carry numbers including the 505, but the Fireballs do have them. Personally I do not believe they add any value and that the mainsail identification would suffice and that adding numbers shortens the life of the fabric and devalues the kite if wishing to turn over regularly as we do with all our sails 

14/02/2019 08:54:23
Chris Martin
I'll be making enquiries around your second paragraph as that could in dictate a very easy fix

14/02/2019 10:52:58
I don’t know about all these technicalities, but we can confirm that for the first Silver Tiller event at Burghfield you won’t have to have sail numbers on your spinnakers - the Notice of Race race will clearly state it. Everyone can just come and enjoy their reintroduction to (crazy) racing without fear!
 Look forward to seeing you all there.

14/02/2019 11:05:10
Chris, thanks for that.
Ally (the voice of common sense!)that seems the best way forward an amendment to the SI's stating R77 does not apply to spinnakers! easy to do and repeatable!
looking forward to putting a few names to faces at the dinghy show.. 

14/02/2019 16:08:16
Stuart Bates
Maybe the sail number should be replaced by artwork, of which there are some great examples of out there!
In terms of classes adjusting the rules to suit, all I ask is that we don't go the way of the Finns and 470's in regards to illegal propulsion.

04/03/2019 09:07:04
RE. advertising on spinnakers, I'm sure the class do not allow sponsorship / advertising on sails. However I have also seen an advert for Ministry of sound, Minions, Transformers, and X men. At what point does the artwork contravene advertising? Do we know that these people don't work for the companies? 
What if the logo of sailmakers like HD (just the HD logo) appeared legal or not legal? Maybe someone has initials HD and wants that on their kite??

04/03/2019 22:56:01
Mark B
Dear RG,

For clarity. I do actually work for Gru. A great boss who I feel really should have patented the fart gun much earlier on in his career.

However being one of Gru’s henchman has proved that crime doesn’t pay, so I am looking for a career change that will fund my new numbered spinnaker. Any advice appreciated.


Mark B


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