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A view from 'Down Under'!

It gets worse!

Again, draw your own conclusions!

In reference to the previous post and the deep suspicion I have felt, I am now truly sad to say, that information received subsequent to that post, has unfortunately reinforced that view. I really cannot comprehend the degree to which this is not just disappointing, it borders on sickening!

I will proceed with caution because, while I would always advise against litigation, I realise the issue may, understandably, come to that.

The primary contest here is a four heat national and ‘world’ Marathon Class championship, initiated by UKOPRA and run by their sanctioned clubs and event organisers. Concurrent with the championship is a four heat contest based on average speed, for a separate and hitherto prestigious British Harmsworth International Trophy. This trophy is administered and gifted by the trustees to the winner of an international competition. According to rules issued to the contestants and published by the Trophy manager on the competition website (now removed), it was based, for this series, on the highest average speed over the four heats.  

It should be made clear that the whole Harmsworth administration is, in effect, nothing to do with the clubs, organisers or sanctioning body. While I tended to exonerate UKOPRA from any responsibility in this issue, I fully understand their frustration and anger in respect to the negative reflection on their magnificent progress in reviving offshore powerboat racing in the UK. However, it must be said, they are the sanctioning authority here.

The issue at stake is the authenticity of the final Harmsworth outcome and the degree to which it may have been manipulated. For reference, the two vessels affected are an A-Class (up to 27ltrs) boat (A47) crewed by a British team – and a foreign B-Class (up to 18ltrs) boat (B69) crewed by a Norwegian and an ex-pat Brit living in France. In fact B69 legitimised this Harmsworth series as actually being ‘International’.

The original, somewhat controversial observation posted here was motivated by disappointment that a situation occurred to sour the otherwise inspired and promising offshore racing revival in the UK. I did anticipate some reaction to the post, but indeed not quite to the level it sparked.

I can also say that while the reactions have clarified some aspects – there clearly remains an ‘issue’ that will not simply go away! Comments and information, mainly privately and ‘in confidence’ have continued after the reissued post, again providing a clearer and even more disturbing picture!

So this is a further revision of my understanding:

Poole:

If there is anything positive, it’s that most of the comments and private communications agree that some media reporting after the Poole race, may have been incorrect. It therefore appears that the race result, the points awarded and average speeds calculated, for the 122nm race, wasl legitimate.

I will emphasise the race was won fair and square under the rules as applied. However, for A47, after leading for much of the race, fate intervened, as it does in life and particularly in offshore powerboat racing.

In respect to the controversial issue, the Poole results were:

Championship points awarded: 1st B69 = 400   5th A47 = 127

Harmsworth average speeds: B69 = 81.08mph   A47 = 58.09mph

Falmouth:

The circumstance at Falmouth was a shambles – or, as an example of a complete ‘Cluster F..k’, it was perfection! Mix incompetence with extreme weather and then add confusion, then, for the Harmsworth - change the rules.

I confess some of the detail is still vague – but the fact is, the race was ‘stopped’ before one lap was completed, for very clear safety reasons. This gave rise to questions as to the race being accepted as a championship heat – or not – and ultimately how it should be interpreted by the Harmsworth Trophy management. The key issues being, the race was ‘red-flagged’ which means ‘stop racing and return to safe haven from wherever you are on the course’. A47 and B69 were in 1st and 2nd places, about ½ knot apart on average speed, when the race was stopped. Given that the lat/long positions were clear on the tracking system and the start and stop times were also clear – and no other vessel was even close, average speeds could be established within a reasonable margin of error without issue. But no!

It appears the final decision by the officer of the day (OOD) was to award championship points based on the positions but specifically not Harmsworth points, which - unless agreed in some covert deal before the race - was bizarre and irrelevant because the Harmsworth criterion was average speed.

The OOD decision was dismissed by the Harmsworth manager and despite the 1st and 2nd placed boats (A47 and B69) being virtually superimposed on the tracking image – and despite no other boat in immediate contention - the accuracy of ‘timing’ was questioned. So, ostensibly ‘on consideration that the effort and expense competitors have incurred to compete for the trophy at Falmouth, it was deemed to be ‘unfair’ to exclude the result from counting toward the trophy’. So the trophy manager decided, a few weeks later, to change the rules, from average speeds, to the same points system as the championship. Therefore while actually separated by about half a knot in average speed under the original rules, the difference between A47 and B69 was now 100 points.

Note here and remember the specifically emotive words ‘effort’, ‘expense’ and ‘unfair’ – and a faint whiff of manipulation!  

How do you feel guys? You were way ahead on average speeds after the first round, you’re on par in the second – but now your Harmsworth lead has been sliced by a change of rules! It gets worse! You are not officially informed. The change was never put in writing, by notice, bulletin, or even an email; it was apparently merely ‘mentioned’, or perhaps ‘suggested’, at some point, during a phone call, apparently some time in July or August, to some of the immediately affected team members.

I am now aware of two statements from other Marathon teams who may well have been affected, confirming that no consultation, vote, communication, official or otherwise, no phone calls, emails, official letter – and particularly, no race bulletin was received before the BPRC Cowes race – which they entered still actually of the impression that the Harmsworth criterion was average speed.

Falmouth Results:

Championship points awarded: A47 = 400   B69 = 300

BUT, if the OOD instruction is honoured there are NO Harmsworth ‘points’ awarded for Falmouth!

Harmsworth speeds: If calculated in compliance with the rules, they would have little impact on final outcome, as speeds based on time and positions were within about ½ knot of each other. 

Cowes:  

That fickle hand of fate, not to mention the Harmsworth manager, intervenes again! What should have been a two heat event is reduced to a single short course sprint. That situation was accepted at the briefing and the fleet proceeded to race. The key question now is: without an official race bulletin, is every team fully cognisant of the fact that, not only has the Harmsworth criterion for the whole series been changed from average speeds to paralleling the championship points system – but again, without an official race bulletin, the Harmsworth management decreed that double points would be awarded for this final 91nm sprint race. (Note: the national/world championship remained under the standard points system.)

B69 puts up a good performance considering the race conditions but the A-Class boats understandably have the edge and A47 won. For B69, third is, in fact, good enough, congratulations, you have won the Harmsworth Trophy under the rules as published, fully understood and accepted – and never officially amended.

World and National Championship points awarded: A47 = 400   B69 = 225

Harmsworth average speeds: A47 = 54.26mph   B69 = 49.75mph

Oddly, and despite sanctioning rules, it appears that no Harmsworth results sheet was available at Cowes, only the Championship results!                  

Overall Championship placings: 1st A47 = 927   2nd B69 = 925 Congratulations A47

Harmsworth average speeds, as per accepted rules, 1st B69 = 65.42mph   2nd A47 = 56.18mph Congratulations B69

If Falmouth average speeds were added, it would raise the numbers but only affect the average speed difference by about 1%.

However, the Harmsworth Trophy is presented to A47 – and the results sheet, apparently only issued on request, months later, shows points issued as per the national/world championship – except the Cowes race was awarded double points.

Harmsworth total points: A47 = 1,327    B69 = 1,150   A patently manipulated result!

Conclusion:

In the course of questioning this issue, a number of factors became clear.

In defence of the ‘change to points’ decision after Falmouth, the Harmsworth management claims: ‘the timing procedures used in Round 2, produced readings that were inaccurate. Conversely, the positions of the competitors was correctly obtainable.’

Surely if the start and stop-race times are known and the ‘positions of the competitors was correctly obtainable’ – and the two leading boats are within a whisker of each other, with no other boat anywhere near, then average speeds can be calculated to a reasonable degree of accuracy with no problem. The closeness of the two boats makes little difference to the overall series result. Think about this, who does the points decision benefit?

In respect to Cowes, the original race instruction certainly made a brief mention of a rough weather course and the option of double points. But it also states: ‘Any changes will be notified to competitors in a Race Bulletin’. I reiterate: the true fact remains that no official race bulletin was ever issued. Two other contenders claim, no instruction in respect to points was given at the briefing, this may be arguable, but - Note: Section 6. RULES AND REGULATIONS of race instructions: ‘Any changes will be notified to competitors in a Race Bulletin’.

A final “British Harmsworth Trophy 2018” results sheet was eventually issued, on request in January 2019, showing points, retrospectively awarded for Poole, Falmouth and double points for Cowes. The sheet doesn’t appear to have been available at Cowes, only coming to light this much later!

Some further, shall we say, ‘alleged’ statements, brought to my attention are also very revealing:

A Harmsworth trustee, in trying to justify the change to a points system, stated that ‘the average speed rule would give the first race an unfair major impact on the total result.’ Think about this statement! Average speed was their rule, outlined in race instructions and on their website. There was obviously going to be a race winner at Poole, who would then be leading the contest. What was “unfair” about winning a race fair and square – let alone a B-Class boat beating two A-Class boats! Consider the mindset in this statement.

If the contest had remained average speeds, nothing could be deemed ‘unfair’. The only thing that became unfair was shifting the goal by a change of rules in mid-contest.

Equally, consider the fact that the same Harmsworth management, who after Falmouth stated: ‘considering the effort and expense competitors have incurred to compete for the trophy at Falmouth, it was deemed to be ‘unfair’ to exclude the result from counting toward the trophy’ – then subsequently awarded double points at Cowes! This potentially negates every effort and expense put in by all Harmsworth contenders in attending both preceding races. Is it just me or is this the epitome of hypocrisy?

I have now seen various opinions from people I can believe and trust - through to those I can accept are trying to play this down and mitigate the fallout. But across the spectrum the decision to not actually publish changes in race bulletins has been universally, and in some cases vehemently, criticised with some ‘choice’ words. My word choice is: ‘Furtive’!

It appears implicit in every decision and mitigating statement, that an agenda was being enacted to enable A47 to recover from the deficit incurred in the first round. 

I can only say, for a once prestigious trophy to be manipulated in this way, reduces it to the status of a worthless trinket to be gifted, only to those within the tribe. To be comfortable with this circumstance, is surely a revelation of one’s true class! I now know for certain that many decent people within that orbit are not at all comfortable!

Two people many of us hold in high regard, in commenting, have used the term ‘Corinthian’ to describe the culture in offshore powerboat racing. I agree it used to be that way because my understanding of Corinthian sport was: amateur sports practiced by ‘Gentlemen of the highest honour, morals and integrity’ – as defined by the Corinthian Yacht Club of course. Our friends, sadly some departed, at the Royal Motor Yacht Club epitomised those values for me.

Sadly the world is changing. Sport is but a microcosm, reflecting a bigger picture in society, in which the ostensibly powerful exert the seigneurial arrogance of their tribe, to impose their version of ‘normal’. They care not, of the values trashed along the way!    

I will say no more…



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