Rights and wrongs of routing

Ed Gorman examines the issue of illegal weather routing following Josh Hall's protest
The row over outside assistance between the skipper of Gartmore, Josh Hall, and Ellen MacArthur and her crew on Kingfisher over what information boats received on the Gulf Stream and when they received it during the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge, highlights the continuing unease in world sailing over the policing of information reaching boats offshore. There is no doubt that the way this case has been handled and Hall's decision to go public on it despite his assurances to MacArthur and her manager Mark Turner that he would not, has done the sport of sailing and MacArthur's reputation real damage. Even though it appears unlikely that she broke any rules, Hall has forced her and her crew to respond to allegations which amounted to an accusation of cheating. If there is a plus side, however, it is that Hall, who clearly believes he is right and there is still a case to answer, has raised in the most dramatic way possible a serious problem for the sport which has the potential to undermine the reputations of individuals and events in the same way that drug scandals have affected the credibiliy of world athletics. In his statement published here and on the American e-mail newsletter Scuttlebutt, Hall insinuated that both MacArthur and Mike Golding had illegally downloaded files from Jennifer Clark, the expert on the Gulf Stream and that cheating in professional offshore events is widespread and out of control. "Illegal routing is rife in our area of sailing," Hall contended. "It can be easily hidden and offers a huge advantage to those who are prepared to manipulate and indeed break the rules. With the modern communications equipment carried on board the yachts and the ability to remotely check any e-mail adresses ashore, or be networked to a team computer