Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gaining an Advantage: Baker 2012

This is the last of three posts on an incident from the 2012 Baker Trophy (US High School National Team-Race Championship).  For a review, see the posts on this blog entitled 'Baker 2012' (August 29) and 'Baker 2012 Redux' (September 23).  The diagram for the incident is below:

In the last post, we saw that both B and X broke rule rules.  Both boats took their penalties voluntarily, winding up in positions 6 and 5, respectively.  So the incident should have been closed, except for one factor:  While X and B tried to untangle themselves and get well clear to do their turns (as required by rule 44.2), the third Yellow boat sailed clear around the mess and into second place.  Seeing this, the umpires flew their black flag, indicating that there would be a protest hearing after the race.  

In that hearing, the protest committee ruled that B gained an advantage for her team by trying to go between X and the mark. Their reasoning was that had she not gone in there, X could easily have sailed up to windward of the reach and done her turn before the third yellow boat sailed around the fleet.  This would have given the Blue team a boat in second place, or at worst close third (though the Yellow team would have still been in 1,2,6 or 1,3,6) and Blue would have had a narrow chance to win the race.  That's a clear advantage compared to what actually happened, with Yellow in 1,2 and a huge gap between the 2 and their first opponent -- a virtual guarantee of victory.  The protest committee added 6 points to B's score for her team gaining an advantage.  This gave Blue the win, with 3+4+5 = 12 points compared to Yellow's 1+2+6+6 = 15 points. 

Is this fair?  I honestly don't know.  Yellow would most likely have won the race in any event, with all three boats in the top four positions as the fleet approached Mark 4.  Furthermore, if X had not tried to go inside A and fouled her, the Yellow team would certainly have had a 1,2,4 or at worst a 1,2,5, which is better than they actually came out of the situation.  

On the other hand, what B did was an egregious foul -- she could and should have gone behind X, then gybed and rounded behind her.  And if we say boats only gain an advantage for their teams when they convert a losing position to a winning one, then we encourage the kind of behavior we saw from B, and that's not good for our sport.