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A start gone ALL WRONG

Nov 8, 2010
10,600
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
This is the infamous 'Blue' start in race in puerto vallarta. Bad things are happening, and more will. There is a professional tactician board, who is trying to earn his money by making the boat do well. The driver is the owner's wife, who while can drive a boat, is new to racing, and certainly in a J/122.

A TON of things go wrong. List what you see.

 
Oct 19, 2017
5,188
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
Whoa!
Did that guy who tried to fend-off get hurt?
There is no way he could have been successful.
I don't have the experience to list the things that went wrong. They squeezed between the powerboat and Camelot because that was the start?
Tactically, I can understand why they did it. Then, cross the powerboat transom as close as possible and don't turn your stern into the other vessel. A glancing midship touch is better than the stern swinging into them as you try to turn away. I think the helmswoman didn't quite know the response time of her vessel.
It seems like they could have setup and executed their turn before or as they got to the powerboat instead of after they passed it.
Racing rules aside (I don't know them), Camelot failed to maintain a steady course and speed while being overtaken.
What was the device the coach was staring at, GPS?

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
Nov 8, 2010
10,600
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
He broke both legs just below his knees. Sad day.

I'll let others maybe jump in before I do again.
 

JRT

Feb 14, 2017
1,443
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
Well I want to learn for sure! From watching your videos vs this one, I hear a lot of info from the tactician and can't tell if anyone is paying attention, seems like a lot of chatter going on at a critical point. I see no life vest on anyone, the helmswoman to me should not have made that last minute adjustment which looks like it cause the collision.
 
Sep 15, 2016
435
Catalina 22 Minnesota
Ok so I am ready to be schooled so I will start here is my list.

Helms woman did not listen to tactician
Helm did not go bow up to clear boat ahead
Too early to the line
Tactician was not watching traffic ahead but worried about traffic astern
Multiple rules violation in not giving ROW to the boat ahead on starboard
Crew missing safety gear of any kind
Tactician slipped being crushed between the boats
Helmswoman being new clearly needed more experience to be coming at the line on a barge at full speed
Crew seems confused as to what to do

I am sure there are more so let me grab some m&ms and sit back to be schooled....
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,123
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
Well, I don't know how many a TON is ;)… At a minute to start, their position looked legitimate. Tactician was communicating that somebody would be coming up (don't know who he was referencing). He didn't seem to account for Camelot, whom was really barging. He could have warned the driver that they may need to cross early to keep clear of leeward boats so she didn't look like she knew what she had to do if she was early. The could have been luffing early if they need to slow down, but nobody was saying anything about that. When Tactician called bow up, she didn't react and held her course instead. He might have avoided the accident if he made a communication clear by saying something like "bow-up cross early avoid collision" When he called 12 seconds it seemed that it was obvious that they had no option except to turn up and cross early. Driver was overly concerned about crossing on time and ignored the rules and the possibility of collision. Camelot was in the wrong, too, because they barged and then were sandwiched between a leeward and windward boat. They were wedged and couldn't avoid a collision.

Didn't we see this same scenario in a video? The drivers to leeward were simply enforcing their position and the drivers to windward didn't anticipate the chain reaction. I think Tactician could have aborted their start a little earlier, but the driver had room to get by the committee boat and avoid the collision if she listened and obeyed Tactician immediately. It would have only cost the start, not the guys legs. That had to be painful! and sad.
 
May 17, 2004
1,994
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
When Tactician called bow up, she didn't react and held her course instead.
:plus:. That was the first thing that struck me as a problem. The door was closing but they probably still had room to get through if she had turned sooner.
Camelot was in the wrong, too, because they barged and then were sandwiched between a leeward and windward boat. They were wedged and couldn't avoid a collision.
I'm not sure about that. I think Camelot had room to get between the leeward boats and the committee. They have no obligation to assume the boat with the camera wouldn't keep clear.

To me it comes down the helsmwoman not coming up fast enough. Worst case she could've bailed out, tacked around and followed the leaders. Then the tactician trying to use his body to protect the boats - I'm sure he realizes in hindsight it would've been better to let the fiberglass take the impact.
 

Maine Sail

Moderator
Feb 6, 1998
11,039
Canadian Sailcraft 36T Casco Bay, ME
Other than the items already mentioned and the helms-person completely ignoring "bow up, bow up, bow up" then heavily reacting to "bow down a touch" there was no one clearly assigned to lee side watch and helm appeared to only be monitoring the line boat... Everyone was just enjoying the ride on the rail and the person on lee winch, who seemed to have good vantage point, was simply not paying enough attention and she could have added to the bow up, bow up. Also, while I will not fault anyone for bare feet on a boat, when racing however a good set of shoes would have likely prevented what appeared to be a slip>fall>broken legs on his way to what appears to be a fend off?
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,123
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
:plus:.

I'm not sure about that. I think Camelot had room to get between the leeward boats and the committee. They have no obligation to assume the boat with the camera wouldn't keep clear.
The reason I think Camelot barged is because they actually started out to windward and ran down the line in front of the J-122 at about 30 seconds, then they were forced up by leeward boats and probably would also have to cross early. That didn't seem quite kosher to me …. It seemed that Camelot's barge and then subsequent retreat caused a chain reaction that led to collision. The Tactician didn't seem to anticipate it, either. He seemed to be focused on leeward boats at the time Camelot started to run down the line in front of them.
 
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May 17, 2004
1,994
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
We'll see what JD says, but I still don't put any blame on Camelot from an RRS standpoint. They were certainly overstood, but they found a hole between the next most leeward boat and the RC. To my eye they established that position below the camera boat well before being at the RC boat, so the camera boat still had the opportunity to keep clear, even if that meant taking their medicine and tacking out. The key RRS to me is that Camelot needed to give "room to keep clear" when they made their course changes, and I think the camera boat did have that room if they had acted sooner. Of course, I could be wrong and there were likely other mistakes made that I'm not seeing, so I'm looking to learn more.

Good call by Maine Sail that the tactician did seem to slip into that bad spot. Initially I thought he went down there feet first on purpose, but upon further review I agree he was probably just trying to get down to decide if he could do anything by hand.
 
Nov 26, 2012
1,105
Hunter 34 Berkeley
Interesting study in human interaction. The issue seems to be the communication and dynamic between the tactician and the driver. The tactician is trying to steer the boat through the driver which is bound to introduce some lag time. Better to let the diver drive and not micromanage to that level. Also, my wife will often get frustrated at herself for deferring to a man when she knows better. I am guessing she would not have hit the other boat if the tactician were not barking at her; especially at the last moment when he tells her to go bow down just before the final bow up.
 
Jun 19, 2013
863
Oday 28 Traverse City
hard to watch.....just seemed like a poor time to line approach. a straight poke at the line without regard to leeward potential traffic. perhaps the helm was used to being able to simply charge, rarely does that approach payoff for just the reason you saw, traffic with rights over you in the spot you want to be. tough to see someone slip and get injured.
 
Aug 2, 2010
313
J-Boat J/88 Cobourg
This sort of post is very interesting and informative. Thanks to all for participating and for Jackdaw especially.
Is the camera boat not the one barging? I seems to me that the boats below and Camelot were steady on their course close hauled and therefore as leeward entitled to their lines. Also it seems they were all early with Camelot being forced up early due to her barge but the camera boat should have tried to slow down earlier or make the decision to duck or tack out much earlier.
 
Nov 8, 2010
10,600
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Wow where to start. LOTS of good stuff so far.

First the role of the tactician. In this role he's also a coach, but you really have to do one role at a time. Ideally as tactician, a few minutes before the start they should tell the skipper where and why they want to start on the line, how important that position is, and where the boat should be a minute after the start. Then ask the driver how much guidance they need to make that happen. Ideally the skipper says ‘None, I got this'. I'm sure this is not how it went on this day; this driver needs lots of second-by-second instruction, being what I call a 'remote control driver'. This is OK for coaching, but you need a much less agressive starting strategy. Which they did not have.

For some reason they were using a so-called 'Vanderbilt Start', which has you reach off for a minute 2 minutes before the start, tack back and come back to the line, hitting at the gun. While reasonably safe for a new skipper mid-line, it is VERY dangerous to do at the boat end, as being overstood by any amount puts you at risk of barging.

So thats what we got. A big boat, an inexperienced driver, and a tactician busy playing with some app on his phone. As they come in, it's clear that they are overstood, and are in fact barging. As he talks to the driver, he should note that it's not a conversation. Thats bad. It means that she's not processing anything, just trying to do what she's told. At the end of the day; it's on HER to decide where the boat can go. But's she's not capable making that call.

At 0:46 is the real decision point. ALL boats to leeward have rights, and are coming up. Notice that Blue is still reaching; her mainsail is way out. He asks for up, but should really be looking at this as his last chance to get out of Dodge. But he does not, he asks her to come up to make room, but she freezes, probably rightly worried about the RC boat. Why not bail? Remember he is a paid PRO. And you don't get asked back when you deliver 3rd row starts. And you'r a paid pro on a kick-ass J/122. You don't lose the start to a Catalina with a bimini and kayak on the rail.

At 0:52 they are committed, no bailout now. Someone mentioned the person in red leeward could have been talking about other boats. Not their job. They're headsail trimming; his only job is to watch the telltails. All other boats will start fine.

At 0:54 Camelot comes up hard. Who knows why and who cares; it's totally in her rights to do so. Windward boat shall keep clear. Here the driver needs to react instantly; but does not. Remote controlled. She's waiting to be told.

At 0:56 he asks for up-up-up, and she grinds the wheel. Not much happens, the rudder probably broke flow and cavitated. And in a powered up reach, a mainsail ease would have taken pressure off the back of the boat and helped the turn. It's clear that they are not going to be able to keep clear.

At 0:58 the tactician makes the worst decision of his life, he tries to prevent 40,000 pounds of boat from touching.

As I see it this was all on Blue. Camelot of course came up, but she was leeward. And RSS#11 is very clear. 'When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat'. And before this, RR#12 was in play 'a boat clear astern shall keep clear'.

Because of this (she had ROW the entire time) Camelot is not required to give Blue time or warning to keep clear. It's her responsibility to stay clear regardless. And any 'proper course' claim cannot factor, because Blue was windward (RSS17) and it's before the start and there is no 'proper course' at that time anyway.

I re-read the comments and lots of people picked up on the human interactions, and/or the lack thereof. I think that's the sad key to this story.
 
Last edited:
Nov 8, 2010
10,600
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
One other thing. Factoring all that in, at about 0:44 the tactician had another option; kind of between the 'go for broke win-the-pin' and an 3rd row bailout. What was it?
 
May 17, 2004
1,994
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
One other thing. Factoring all that in, at about 0:44 the tactician had another option; kind of between the 'go for broke win-the-pin' and an 3rd row bailout. What was it?
Concur with all of your points. I hadn't noticed the driver turning up hard just before the impact. Interesting that even powered up and presumably with some weather helm the boat just went straight.

Up until about 40 seconds I'm thinking they still had the option to duck the front row and find a hole closer to the middle of the line. Probably would've had some bad air and maybe been a few seconds late, but better than tacking outside the RC, and way better than trying to fit in where there's no room.
 
Jan 13, 2009
268
J Boat 92 78 Sandusky
Looking at the video again the main trimmer was slow to respond. The main on a 122 is huge and with that much windspeed the main trimmer needs to be in sync with the helmsperson. A good main trimmer should be reacting quickly or the helm loads up and is not very responsive as happened in this case. When I trimmed main in some GL70 buoy races it was downright frightening in the prestart as the boats reached around at 10 knots with closing speeds as much as 20 knots. Things happen fast and the main trimmer needs to be on his toes and quick. That being said, the pro tactician sucks. He did not take into account the skill and experience level of his crew and put the boat in a risky position. Probably a hotshot small boat sailor with little appreciation for boat handling on a powered up 40 foot boat.
 
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Jun 19, 2013
863
Oday 28 Traverse City
JD, a HARD turn up and back down usually finds the leeward boats clearing out because they are still sailing down the line, giving you room to bow down and power up. they need to be agressive turns to scrub speed, but protecting a spot to leeward is big. is that the option u r thinking?
 
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