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Old 11-26-2012
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Vendee Globe

I want to talk about something that the VG organization did his best to put under the rug, an incident that costed several hours of penalties to several sailors and that they had tried to ignore.

The incident has to do with colregs and the sea safety. The boats on this race as in any other race have to follow colregs and one of them is the procedure on the traffic separation zones.

Recently in the Round Britain and Ireland record breaking attempt by Marc Guillemot on 'Safran', British authorities have called Marc to be present to court for a gross violation of the rules while crossing TSZ zones and, has on similar cases, a big fine is to be expected.

The case with the Vendee Globe incident happened here:



And it would have been nothing special if the organization had acknowledge it and attributed the penalties, the problem is that even if they knew very well that some boats had broken the rules they remained shut and very quiet. It was necessary Alex Thomson (a British sailor) to question them about that and even so they did not take measures but demanded Alex to fill a protest if he wanted and only then they acknowledge the situation and delivered penalties. Alex had to do the paper of bad guy when they should be the ones to have taken care of the situation.

Some interesting comments from another site:

There has been a lot of contention regarding Traffic Separation Scheme’s (TSS) in offshore racing/record breaking recently. .. Now however, the penalties handed out to 7 skippers in the Vendee Globe 2 days ago by the race committee (and not by Alex Thomson, but more on that later..) has taken center stage....

Traffic Separation Schemes – ‘TSS’ are in place around busy commercial shipping areas to funnel commercial traffic (big ships) into specific lanes at key points, rather than allowing them to take their most economic route. Much like lanes on a road, they structure shippings routes, and are designed to limit the amount of times ships meet and converge, therefore reducing the amount of collisions. If you want to cross these lanes as a leisure craft, you can. To do this you must cross at 90 degrees, perpendicular to that of the ships, thereby crossing in the shortest distance. As soon as you enter the TSS, you must also go all the way across, no turning round halfway....

So what happened during the Vendee? And why the 7 penalties?

Very simply, 7 boats entered the TSS just off Finnisterre, and didn’t follow correct procedure across it. Some for just a matter of minutes before realising and gybing away, Mike Golding and Jean Pierre Dick for example, were as others crossed completely, but not at 90 degrees.

I understand that the sailing instructions/rules of the race, for the Vendee Globe 2012/3 state that normal COLREG’s, (collision regulations/rules of the road if you like) are to be adhered to if you want to cross a TSS. None of those 7 skippers did that, none sailed at 90 degrees and others turned around in it, therefore breaking not only the rules of the race, but technically the law as well. As you can imagine it’s important for race organisers to follow the rules of the road and the law with their events....

So why all the controversy?

The feeling amongst some skippers was that those who stayed in the TSS longer, or crossed it completely, gained a tactical advantage by doing so, and therefore they asked the Race Committee to look into it. The Race Committee then asked them to protest the boats believed to have infringed. Sailing is the most prolific self policing sport I can think of, and protesting is the only, just, fair and correct way for potential infringements to be looked at in more detail, so fair enough, and protest them they did. Why should there be a rule if some people are just going to ignore it, and gain an advantage by doing so?...

Unfair penalty distribution:

The way the penalties were handed out was also unfair. The committee penalised boats that were in the TSS ‘for up to 3 hours’ with a 2 hour penalty, so at worse case, 66.6% of their offence. Whereas Brit Mike Golding was in the TSS for 10 minutes and got 30 minutes, 300%. And Frenchman Jean Pierre Dick entered for 150 meters before realising and gybing out and got 20 minutes?! The scaling seems unfair...

Penalty taken on your own terms:

You can also do the penalty at your own discretion, when you see fit, even if it does have to be completed by a certain longitude or latitude. Meaning those who were sharp witted and did their ‘2 hour’ penalty whilst in the doldrums, when not moving for 2 hours anyway, could potentially have less of a ‘real life penalty’ to someone doing a 20 minute penalty whilst surfing along at 20 knots.This is a harder one to solve. Personally I think adding time at the end is fairer, and therefore better....

Other issues:

Another issue is that Alex Thomson, the skipper who raised the issue with the committee, asking them to look into whether some boats had crossed the TSS incorrectly, is now being heralded as the villain for his actions, especially in France. This is because the race committee asked him to protest the boats that he felt infringed, which he did. It’s a self policing sport, and happens all the time, nothing wrong there. What it did though was put the onus on him and not the committee. I don’t think this should have ever been the case, this was something they could have looked into and protested the boats for once it was brought to their attention themselves.

All this led to comments on the French version of the Vendee Globe website, many quite insulting (to put it politely) towards Alex, his team, and ‘les glouches’. A real shame as he is having a fantastic race so far.

Some claim it is a difference in how the French and British view the rules on this. But 3 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Swiss, 1 Polish AND a Brit got penalties? And at least 1 French skipper, Jean Pierre Dick, claimed to know the rule and ‘tried his best’ to avoid it…


Vendee Globe penalties « Henry Bomby

Last edited by PCP; 11-26-2012 at 02:29 PM.
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