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Hiking on the Rail – Human Ballast in Cruiser Racing

18th April 2018
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Sitting on the rail aboard Slack Alice in Kinsale's Spring Series Sitting on the rail aboard Slack Alice in Kinsale's Spring Series

There has been controversy and disagreement in cruiser racing about crews ‘hiking out’ through lifelines on deck to get more upper body weight extended to help boat balance and performance … Rule changes have now come to “sitting on the rail” – an essential part of cruiser racing - though not always a pleasant or desired one, particularly in rough upwind conditions.

Extending the body as far out as possible, between lifelines, has become more obvious, even though that has been frowned upon by those who claim that the racing rules allow only for sitting on deck with the body fully inside the lifeline rails – apart from the legs of course, on the outside.

Now the IRC racing authorities have bowed to the inevitability of recognising reality and modified the rule on yacht ‘Crew Positions’ - This doesn’t seem to have got a lot of attention yet, but the racing season is only getting underway

“It is not unusual for crew sitting on the rail to be supported only at their upper legs when hiking facing outboard

“The term ‘sitting on the deck’ is difficult to define,” the IRC Technical Committee has acknowledged…..

“It is not unusual for crew sitting on the rail to be supported only at their upper legs when hiking facing outboard,” it said in announcing the rule change.

SITTING ON THE RAIL HIKING OUTSitting on the rail

To avoid unnecessary and difficult protests, the IRC says it has decided on “a simple and effective solution” … removing rule requirements but keeping the original intention so - When there are two lifelines, competitors facing outboard with their waists inside the lower lifeline may have the upper part of their bodies outside the upper lifeline ….

Lifelines shall be taut “ which is a proper safety requirement anyway, though not always observed as I have seen…. So the IRC change is just bringing reality to racing….

It would be good to see another change in the process of “sitting on the rail…” to where quite a few newcomers to the sport have told me over the seasons that they were sent when they asked to join a crew to get into sailing.

I’ve been told by quite a few that they were never given any further involvement with the boats they were crewing on, never learned much about sailing, so they left the sport…. Others seemed satisfied enough to be “human ballast”….

I’m not sure that does anything much for the popularity of our sport…..

Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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