There was commentary last week in Scuttlebutt regarding how certain one design classes include a crew weight rule. The intent of such a rule is to allow boat owners to sail with the same crew regardless of the wind conditions. A classic example is the Etchells class, which had allowed crew weight to be unrestricted. But when Dennis Conner dominated the 1991 Worlds in San Francisco with a combined crew weight of 818 pounds (818/ 3 crew = 273 average), they soon instilled a 285 kilo maximum (628.3 lb).
It was noted how competing teams in the Melges 32 class might diet before the crew weigh in, and then gain the body weight back during the regatta. Since the performance of a Melges 32 is closely connected to its crew’s hiking ability, being a heavy crew is a bonus. On the surface this practice of sailing over the class crew weight maximum would seem unethical. But what last week’s report did not note was how the class rules do not deem this practice illegal. Here are the two relevant sections in the Melges 32 class rules:
Section C - Conditions For Racing
The crew and the boat shall comply with the rules in this section before the preparatory signal and, when applicable, whilst racing. These rules may not be checked as part of fundamental measurement. It is the Owners responsibility to see that his boat complies with the class rules and relevant RRS at all times and that alteration, replacement or repairs to the boat do not invalidate the measurement certificate.
The total crew weight on board while racing shall not exceed 629kgs. This weight shall be taken with the crew dressed in normal underclothes only. Crews shall only be weighed during the registration period prior to racing. Re-weighing shall only take place if a valid protest shows that the pre-race weights were false. The Owner shall be allocated a weight of 104kgs., the Owner may choose to weigh in.
As was noted last week, the 2010 Melges 32 World Championship allowed for crew weight to be measured as far as nine days before the first race, allowing teams with the opportunity to increase their crew weight before racing began. However, based on the rule, as long as the crew weight information was accurately recorded, and the scale equipment was not found to be faulty, the time of weigh in was the ONLY time a crew had to weigh no more than 629kg.
There does seem to be a conundrum in the rules, as on one hand the class says there is a crew weight maximum, but on the other hand it states that it is in place only when the crew is weighed. As to one design regattas without a weigh-in, perhaps this rule is amended in the NOR or Sis. How PHRF handles it is less clear, as a Melges 32 using a class handicap would be expected to follow its class rules.
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