Unsportsmanlike Sailing Ruined More Than A Race

It turned out to be a very short sail yesterday aboard “Dr. Heeks,” a J/24 that races around the buoys on Sunday mornings on Canandaigua Lake. On the third leg of the first race, a skipper who has a longstanding local reputation for his occasionally blatant but often general disregard for the Racing Rules of Sailing, drove his boat directly into the side of “Dr. Heeks.”

The crash amidships was very hard as both boats were on opposite tacks and nearing full speed shortly after a leeward mark rounding. Among sailors this is called getting “T-boned.”

None of the usual yelling of “STARBOARD” occurred this time before the other boat’s pulpit tore through a new headsail just prior to its bow landing on top of us. It stopped at the boom, behind the mast and about 18 inches short of the head of our pit man who at the time was hiked out on the port rail and looking in the opposite direction. The downward impact wasn’t slowed by the lifelines as it pushed a hole through the deck and seriously damaged the interior below.

Neither skipper claimed to have seen the other. It was the incredible noise of the collision that first drew my attention away from sail trimming and to the other boat being so close – close enough to have reached out and pushed the nose off of our cabin top!┬áThe other boat quickly slid backward, and with full sails continued on quietly without anyone aboard it saying a word.

Let me repeat that last sentence in a different way.

There was no yelling or screaming. No one on the other boat opened their mouths. No one bothered to ask if anyone on our boat had been injured. They did not pause for even a second to see if we might be sinking.

After the boats were back on dry land, both skippers were rightfully disqualified, our boat for failing to yield right-of-way and the other for failing to avoid a collision. The other skipper didn’t apologize, but he did say he was glad the accident didn’t do any damage to his boat. “Dr. Heeks” was left with thousands of dollars in damages. Replacing the torn genoa alone with a new sail costs $2000.

Accidents happen and thankfully no one was seriously injured. Boats carry insurance for this sort of thing and this should be the end of a story recounting a very unfortunate event. However, none of that story bothered me as much as what happened just a few minutes after the accident.

A minute after the crash, as our crew was double-checking to make sure there were no injuries and while one person was below checking that we weren’t taking on water, while our torn sail was still flapping uncontrollably in the wind… here comes the boat that hit us, under full sail, heading right for us again!┬áThis time, the offensive skipper was screaming over and over, “Get out of our way, we’re racing! Get out of the way! We’re racing! GET OUT OF OUR WAY!”

It is this second unimaginable act of unsportsmanlike conduct that should be the reason this skipper should have been disqualified not only from the race, but also thrown out of the series, the season, and if I had anything to do with it, the club altogether.