Monday, January 29, 2007

Bad habits

Paige Railey is suffering from a bout of bad habits. During her Scuttlebutt podcast last June, we discussed her propensity for gaining OCS scores. She has won a lot of events carrying an OCS as her drop, and lost a few because of it. Now, however, her bad habits have heightened, as she is collecting kinetic penalties like a toddler collects Easter eggs. Back in August, she was disqualified from the Laser Radial Women’s Worlds because of kinetics, and now again last week at the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.

To back up slightly, you do not get disqualified from an event due to kinetics without some effort. The system gives you three chances. The first offense during an event earns you (720) penalty turns, and the second offense earns you a DSQ from the race. It is not until the third offense that you get shown the door. Complete disqualification from the event. Strike three… goodbye.

To be fair, Paige wasn’t the only boat racing last week breaking the kinetic rules. In all, there were handed amongst seven Olympic classes. Of those 77 penalties, eleven were in the Laser Radial class, with three earned by Paige - all of them for excessive rocking.

US Sailing Olympic High Performance Director Gary Bodie compares the three strike system to that of basketball, wherein a player who collects six fouls in the NBA is pulled from the game. Basketball players carrying fouls are forced to play more cautiously or risk fouling out. With this comparison, Paige failed to adjust her game, having earned her third foul in just race six of the thirteen race series. If she were playing basketball, she would have fouled out before half time*.

There were purportedly many observers and competitors who felt that Paige was crossing the line. But where is the line between acceptable and excessive amounts of artificial propulsion? Other competitors have sought out the counseling of umpires, and through one-on-one sessions, have learned where the line is with Rule 42. During his post-event debrief with Railey and her personal coach, Bodie believes that they will seek out similar help.

As the incumbent ISAF Female World Sailor of the Year, and the US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, the spotlight for her has never been brighter. However, her continued success as both a role model to young sailors, and as an Olympic contender, rests largely on how she deals with her bad habits, while not losing the aggressive style of sailing that has made her a top contender in the Laser Radial class. -- Craig Leweck

*(Jan 30 - 7:31 am PT) We have learned that are errors in the data on the event website from which this statistic was derived. Railey's third infraction was in fact during the 10th race.

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