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Racing Rules - Predictive tactical racing software

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Poll Question: Reading the information below please vote as follows
Poll Choice Votes Poll Statistics
16 [76.19%]
2 [9.52%]
3 [14.29%]
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George Isted View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote George Isted Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Racing Rules - Predictive tactical racing software
    Posted: 15 Apr 2010 at 12:28pm
The Committee invite your comments on the attached communication from Ray Rouse.  

In drafting the new rules the Committee took the view that to support Class racing as well as boats participating in other events, we need a set of one design Class Rules which are clear, easily understood and enforceable. Whilst not necessarily agreeing with all Ray’s
points: the Committee do not believe for instance that any rule other than the current one is capable of being policed, we are happy to accept the will of the majority.  We therefore urge as many owners as possible to vote as follows…
 
  1. I support Ray’s suggested rule wording and believe the class should ratify this new rule in the next AGM
  2. I do not support Ray’s suggested rule wording as it is not enforceable and/or easily understood 
  3. I abstain from this vote and will post comments below

After voting, please feel free to post your own thoughts and comments below.
 
Ray’s Email….

As promised, I have put some thought into how Rule 1.14 Electronics might read to meet the expressed wish of racing members in a form of wording that is simple, clear, unambiguous, and will stand the test of time in a fast moving technological age.
The term computer has raised some doubt as to whether a computerised piece of hardware is a computer or not.  But provided the intent and spirit of the rule is clear, it should be unnecessary for the rule to attempt to be prescriptive about all the various pieces of hardware that are forever evolving.
I conclude that we do not want to try to stop the welter of information now available from GPS systems, iPhones, and other electronic devices, that are relatively inexpensive and in common use.  It is up to individual tacticians to use or discard such information that is freely available to all, as they see fit.
However, we do now have to face up to the fact that there is technology available, at a price, that is capable of infinite tactical analysis to replace many of the necessary skills and judgement we currently try to develop when racing.  To quote from the sales blurb of one particular piece of racing software:
The yacht's position is displayed, showing a track that indicates the recent history of leeway, current, and laylines to marks as well as laylines of optimal gybing or tacking angles…Next leg data is also calculated, offering bearing to the next mark and expected apparent wind data offering the choice of predicted or present tide conditions.”
Racing with such a system would mean that instead of having to use our own tactical judgement and take our own decisions, we would all blindly follow the laylines and tacking angles computed with the predicted wind and current, just as some of us mindlessly follow the GPS in our car that constantly re-routes whenever we take a wrong turning.  Boats with the best straight-line speed and racing software would win races, and those who cannot afford the best software will be at a distinct disadvantage.  But more seriously, it would not be much fun!
Members have said that they want our committee to prevent this happening to the Contessa racing fleet.
So, we simply need to stop the use of tactical yacht racing software.  We do not need to concern ourselves with what hardware is used.  This approach then makes the rule definition simple, and the intent and spirit of the rule clear and unambiguous.
My suggested wording of Rule 1.14 is:
“The aim of the Class is to prevent the use of tactical yacht racing software designed to enhance the yacht’s performance whilst racing.”
Everybody would understand what such a rule meant and that to use racing software in a race would be to cheat.
I know that you do worry about how to “police” rules, but there are rules that are virtually impossible to police and most of us are content to rely on the honesty of others in such circumstances.  For instance it is impossible to check that other boats do not move gear across to the windward side on each tack to trim the boat; That they use only one suit of sails in a series – it would be very nice to be able to save a new No 1 genoa for light airs and to put up a less new one should the wind gets above 12 knots; That they do not obtain tactical information by mobile from a friend in another Class ahead on the same race course that is not freely available to all boats; Even that they do not eject polymer or other substances from the for’d skin fittings to improve the water flow inside the boundary layer against the hull.  All these things are against the rules and we are dependant upon the honour of our competitors to comply with them.  If people want to cheat, it is impossible to stop them and it has to be on their conscience and that of their crew.  I do not believe that we have such people in the Contessa Class, and provided people are kept aware of what is and what isn’t allowed, I do not think that we have to be able to “police” every single aspect of our racing.  Certainly, we should not allow a rule that will certainly spoil our racing merely because some feel that we cannot guarantee the integrity of all those within our racing fleet.

Please only vote if you are a boat owner, non boat owners are more than welcome to post comments.

Poll set up and posted on behalf of John McCann (Co32 Class Captain).


Edited by George Isted - 16 Apr 2010 at 5:49pm
George Isted
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Andaxi View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Andaxi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Apr 2010 at 1:32pm

I think the wording is a valiant attempt but it is trying to define something which is a very grey area. The result is too general to be clear or  unenforceable. We don’t have particularly sophisticated gear on ANDAXI but our nav screen shows our track, and our readouts show such things as COG, course to next mark etc. You could argue that this is tactical software in action. Where do you draw the line as to what is or isn’t tactical race software? You either have to define precisely what functions are or are not allowed or leave a huge gap for 'interpretation'. 

I’d follow what RORC etc do – which I think is allow anything.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ray Rouse Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Apr 2010 at 6:42pm

Andaxi’s argument is precisely why I have drafted the rule to ban the product, rather than try to ban what it does.

The wording of the rule does not attempt to define anything.  It simply bans the use of tactical yacht racing software, which is a specific product and is sold as such.

And let us be clear, tactical yacht racing software is a very specific product.  It is a custom-built program and application and it can only run on a computer system.  Its sole purpose is for racing and its producers sell it as such to justify its high expense.

With a modicum of common sense, I don’t think there is much risk that anybody will interpret Andaxi’s GPS as containing tactical yacht racing software!

Ray Rouse.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote GlennG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Apr 2010 at 2:29am
What have other class associations done to regulate this?  Is there a standard wording that can be lifted from some other class,  or 'super' class association such as the ROYC/RYA or foreign associations?

I personally think that chart plotters are becoming standard equipment so shouldn't be outlawed (says he having just fitted a Standard Horizon CP300i and AIS engine - can't recommend enough).  The issue is specialist software which probably only runs on a PC/Mac.  Could one outlaw such software?  The best bet is to put together a list of *allowed* as opposed to *banned* software and:
* add to the rules the ability for the 'measurer' or umpire to audit said PC/Mac device as is the case for checking sails.
* allow the swifty addition of new 'allowed' software for it is certain to change quickly.

At the end of the day it's up to the skipper and the boat to decide whether or not to cheat;  what's the point in taking part in a race if you cheat?


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Post Options Post Options   Quote GlennG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Apr 2010 at 2:40am
“The aim of the Class is to prevent the use of tactical yacht racing software designed to enhance the yacht’s performance whilst racing.”

I would like to add something like:
“The aim of the Class is to prevent the use of tactical yacht racing software designed to enhance the yacht’s performance whilst racing. Common general navigation equipment such as marine chart plotters will be permitted provided they are installed in the cockpit and on open display."
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Post Options Post Options   Quote George Isted Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Apr 2010 at 8:26pm

I abstain for the following reasons.

 

I agree with the sentiment that that we do not wish to encourage the use of expensive technology that gives those with the necessary finance to achieve a competitive advantage over those that do not.

 

However….

 

As shown by the paper written by “Drumbeat”, using these systems in practice on a short course in the Solent proved to be of limited real value.

 

I’m not convinced that the wording is suitably robust and is certainly difficult to enforce.  I believe that in this rapidly changing field where a mixture of hardware, software and firmware can be used within a tactical racing system it is not possible to create a rule that reflects what the racing fleet wish.  No disrespect intended toward Ray, I think his wording is as good as any, I just don’t think it is possible to come up with the perfect rule.  Perhaps this is why other clubs decided not to create such a rule.

 

I think it is unlikely that anyone in the racing fleet would invest the time and effort in a system that Drumbeat showed to be of limited value in the “real world” and is known to be unwelcome in the class.

 

The class can, if it wished, enforce rule 2.2 as it could be argued that a predictive tactical racing system is “not within established practice or specifications”.  If for any reason this rule does not prove to be robust enough in this case then the subject of a specific rule can be revisited given that we would then have knowledge of a specific system that should be outlawed.

 

Above all, I abstain because in an association where the vast majority of members are Cruisers and not Racers the amount of airtime and effort this has taken from the committee is completely out of proportion to what most members actually care about.  AND in a fleet of racers that is shrinking there are probably more important issues to be addressed – either there is a change that encourages more boats to race or the committee change their focus and have a greater interest in the activities of 95% of members.

 

Now I’m going to run and duck for cover….

George Isted
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Post Options Post Options   Quote co32member Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Apr 2010 at 4:16pm
I would like to add my approval of the wording of Ray Rouse's rule for predictive tactical racing software.

John Laundon (Bearskin)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ray Rouse Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Apr 2010 at 2:00pm

I was interested to read George Isted’s take on the problem we find ourselves in.  But I cannot accept his council of despair that because he does not think that it is possible to draft a “perfect” rule to do what everybody wants, we must accept a rule expressly permitting the very opposite.  The original rule was never “perfect”, but it still served us very well for decades because the purpose and spirit of the rule was clear, and nobody raced by computer or even tried to cheat the rule.

I do not agree that Drumbeat’s experience of using a computer has proved to be of limited real value.  On the contrary, Blanco has often seen her take a totally different tidal crossing to the rest of the fleet only to pop out in front of us all.  Indeed, should we decide to conclude this discussion by allowing racing by computer (heaven forbid!); Blanco will certainly purchase the necessary software and laptop or tablet.  We will do this with a heavy heart, but there is no point in racing at a disadvantage.

I am very sympathetic to George’s complaint of the amount of time our committee has had to spend on this problem.  But one of the inconveniences of having a democratic Class Association is that the committee does have to serve the wishes and best interests of the membership.  And after all, our committee did bring this difficulty upon itself.

It is heartening to see that the Committee is now happy to accept the will of the majority.  So it is now up to us all to express our will.

Ray Rouse
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Post Options Post Options   Quote eldredh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Apr 2010 at 7:24pm
I have not yet formulated my full response on this issue but I shall do soon.
 
At this stage I take great issue and offence with Ray's insinuation that Drumbeat has benefited and has been able to 'pop out ahead' due to having a computer on board. As I said in my report we rarely had a computer working and the only time that it may have been of any real use was during one of those Cowes Week crossings of the tide from the mainland shore to a mark near the Island. It is quite possible to calculate a layline by hand which we nearly always have done. It is rarely more accurate to use a computer since unknowns in the tide and the wind are not recognised by the computer. Any decision to go on a calculated layline is entirely a decision of the tactician.
 
I do remember several times when we did 'pop out ahead' and I do remember the grudging comments from Ray made later in the day like 'the tide wasn't supposed to be that way'. I did not realise at the time that he 'blamed' our success on a computer. In all cases we did not have a computer working and our advantage was entirely due to our reading the wind, perhaps with some luck, better than the rest of the fleet.
 
 
Eldred (Drumbeat)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote davidmacdonald Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Apr 2010 at 7:25pm
Originally posted by Ray Rouse

Andaxi’s argument is precisely why I have drafted the rule to ban the product, rather than try to ban what it does.


I don't race so have abstained, but I think the Minitransat rule preclude the type of routing/tactical software which I think people are concerned about but allows autopilots etc. (which aggregate data from different instruments).  Someone may want to try and find their rule and dare I say copy it, if it suits...

As I say though, I don't race so this is arguably none of my business and I apologise if I've missed the point.
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