Strife in the Solings

Roy Heiner's efforts to stay in the Soling match racing provided the action on a sailing-free day in Sydney, Ed Gorman reports

Wednesday September 27th 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
For the first time at the Olympic regatta on Sydney Harbour, there was not enough wind for racing on Wednesday and all classes were cancelled. However, the day was not without interest as Roy Heiner of Holland fought and eventually won his battle to remain in the Soling match racing.

Heiner had finished the quarter-final round on Tuesday tied with the New Zealand crew led by Rod Davis, and the Norwegians led by Herman Horn Johannessen, each of whom had won two of their five races. Breaking the tie to eliminate one of the three - alongside the Russian boat skippered by Georgy Shayduko, who won only one race - proved problematic.

Using the tie-breaking mechanism described in the sailing instructions, the race committee decided that Norway and New Zealand should go through. But Heiner requested redress on Tuesday night claiming the tie-breaking mechanism had been wrongly applied in his case.

Heiner argued that the race committee was correct to promote Norway on the basis of their placing in the fleet racing which they won. But they should then have looked at the quarter-final match-racing results to split Holland and New Zealand, rather than relying on the fleet racing in that instance as well. The Kiwis beat the Dutch in the fleet standings, but it was the Dutch who won in their match racing encounter.

Davis, meanwhile, argued that the sailing instructions were clear on this point and that once the race committee had used the fleet racing positions to split Norway from the others, it should use that mechanism all the way through to break the tie between the Dutch and the Kiwis.
The international jury deliberated on this complex matter for four hours before agreeing with both the Dutch and the Kiwi cases. They concluded that, "the sailing instructions could reasonably be interpreted in favour of either boat (therefore) NED is entitled to redress."

The Jury then decided that the two teams should be split by staging a one-race sudden-death sail-off on Thursday to determine which of them goes through to the semi-finals, where they race against Germany, Norway and Denmark. Bryan Willis, the chairman of the Jury, said, "It is a very unusual circumstance where a class sails both match racing and fleet racing, so it's a very complicated issue for this event. There is an ambiguity in the sailing instructions and we decided this was the fairest solution for both teams."

It was all-smiles for "Rocky Roy" after the decision, who now lives to fight another day. Heiner arguably goes into the sail-off with the psychological advantage over the Kiwis, who must have thought they had escaped into the medal zone without the pre-event gold medal favourites to worry about.

Elsewhere, the Great Britain team was deliberating whether or not to protest a decision by the regatta organisers to extend racing until Saturday for all remaining classes. Originally, the Men's 470s were due to finish on Thursday and the Europes and Lasers on Friday. With British sailors leading or disputing the top places in all three of these fleets, it is clearly in Britain's interests that racing finishes no later than scheduled, whether an 11-race series has been completed or not.

But Glenn Bourke, the Olympic venue manager, said the sailing instructions could be altered on this point if necessary. He added, "What we're trying to do is not only to be fair, but be seen to be fair."

Barker and Hiscocks at the medal ceremony on Monday eveningWith British medal hopes for Shirley Robertson in Europes, Ben Ainslie in Lasers, Iain Percy in Finns, Ian Walker and Mark Covell in Stars and Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield in 470s, this is going to be a very important couple of days.

But one British sailor who can enjoy himself is Simon Hiscocks who, with Ian Barker, already has a silver medal to his name in 49ers. Hiscocks was at the Rushcutters Bay Olympic venue on Wednesday, soaking up the atmosphere and beginning to enjoy his achievement. "It still hasn't sunk in yet," he told madforsailing, adding that back home in Britain all his friends and family have been thrilled by his success and the coverage he has had in the media.

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