Cheating? Perish the thought. Of course not. Cheating just doesn't happen at this level of sailing. At least that was my initial reaction.
Cheating? What's cheating? To act dishonestly. To deceive. To deprive by fraud. That's what the dictionary says.
Cheating? In the sailing context the word conjures up such nefarious acts as sabotaging a competitor's boat (by stealing the drain plug just before he sets sail perhaps) or paying a coach to gather wind information from up the course and transmitting it to a secret radio receiver hidden behind your ear. No. I'm as certain as I can be that such stuff doesn't go on at any level of Laser sailing. At least I've never seen it.
But then I started thinking. Well, yes maybe there is a gray area. I guess it all depends on your definition of cheating.
Another dictionary definition of cheating is to violate a rule of a game deliberately. The Laser class rules define cheating as, "doing something that you know is illegal."
Hmmm. Rules. What rules must we follow when we are racing? There are the Racing Rules of Sailing of course. And the Laser Class Rules, which mainly define what you can and cannot do to change your boat and equipment. Also the Notice of Race, and Sailing Instructions have rules that you must follow.
So if I deliberately break any of those rules, I am cheating. Or am I?
What about some of the following hypothetical examples? Are any of these cheating?
- I am at the favored end of a crowded start line. A boat comes into a gap to leeward of me that is just big enough to squeeze through. She luffs slightly,I try to respond but there is another boat close to windward of me. There is slight contact between me and the boat to leeward. Nobody protests. We both start the race and sail on as if nothing has happened.
- The sailing instructions say that the regatta will be sailed under Laser class rules but I use a "practice sail" that is made by a sailmaker who is not approved by the Laser class.
- The end of my boom just brushes the windward mark as I am bearing away. Nobody else sees it. I don't do a 360.
- The Laser class rules say that the inhaul shockcord must be attached to the outhaul cleat on the boom but I tie it to the mainsheet bain. What the hell difference does it make?
- The sailing instructions say that all sailors must wear PFDs that are US Coast Guard Approved but I use a British PFD (not USCG approved) because it's small and slim and it's easier to squeeze under the boom when I am are tacking.
I'm sure you can think of other examples. Would you ever do any of the above? What would you think if you were to see me breaking some of these rules? Am I cheating? Does it make a difference if I think I am not gaining an advantage by breaking a rule? Would you turn a blind eye? Would you call me on it?