A few days after the start of the OSTAR one of the tubes of my hydraulics system of the boomvang chafed through. It was impossible to make repairs at sea and it was impossible to sail on, so I had to go back. I needed a new tube so I knew I was out of the race.
In Plymouth I learned to my surprise that Ross with Mollymawk was granted the right to make restart with a new daggerboard. At Wednesday morning I was sitting in the club with my wife, a friend Carl Grootjes (who specifically had come over from Holland to help me). Chris Arscott came by and we got to talk about Mollymawk's attempt to restart. At some point in time the following dialogue developed (roughly):
P: How can Mollymawk make a restart with a new dagger board. That is certainly outside assistance?
C: He can have a new daggerboard but he has to fit it himself.
P: So that means that you can buy spareparts and still make make restart as long as you do the repairs yourself.
P: I am on the verge of breaking that rule. Carl here is going to help me with the repair of the radar. So if I do the repairs myself and leave Carl on the jetty I can make a restart?
The idea to make a restart was born at that moment. There are two people more than willing to testify that this was what took place.
I decided to do the repairs myself. Carl filmed me as I was balancing alone on the top of my boom to fit a new radar cable. Although he he specifically came over to help me he did not do anything. The repairs took three days of hard work. On saturday morning I was lying in my berth when I overheard the following dialogue between (I presume) Chris and an other person on the jetty:
C: He is starting again.
OP Is that legal?
C: Oh he is alright. He did do al the repairs himself.
A couple of hours later I went to the race office and I announced that I was making a restart. I shook hands with all the officials, was congratulated on my perserverance and took off. The next day the RWYC announced that I was restarted at the website.
In short: there can not have been a shadow of a doubt about my intentions, and there cannot be a shadow of a doubt that the RWYC in it's communications towards me systematically has lead me to believe that a restart was possible.
For 10 days the RWYC traced my progress on their site. On tuesday I was suddenly called by anxious relatives: Why did I retire? It appeared that the RWYC had suddenly changed my entry on the website from Restarted in to Retired. I said I hadn't retired and I called the race office in Newport. Their first reaction was that it was a mistake. Then I called Chris on his mobile. He told me that John Lewis was adamant that I should not be in the race. He was sorry but he would try to talk to John. I want you to take notice of the fact that this was the race director himself telling me 13 (Thirteen) days after he positively stated tat I could make a restart that somebody in the team did not agree and that he would try to talk to him. I was stunned. It later appeared that Chris had sent the following mail that very same day to the wrong mail adress:
"Not sure whether it was made clear after you retired to Plymouth and you left a second time that your present voyage would not be the RWYC's (Organising Authority) responsibility or count for a official finishing time.
Very happy to monitor your progress which is totally your responsibility. Hope to see you in Newport or at the Reunion/Prizegiving in October.
At this point I felt so let down by the people trusted that I decided to go to the Azores. No matter what the outcome of the discussion between Chris Arcott and John Lewis would be, I woud never be able to compete in this race without debates about the legality of my restart and that is a position I do not want to be in. I must admit that I am quite emotional about this and I am really shocked by the unprofessional and erratic way the RWYC has dealt with this matter. I would like to make some observations:
- Rules describing what is outside assistance should be perfectly clear and explicit..
- They should not allow people to buy spare parts because then the sky is the limit (Why not buy a second boat?)
- Rules should not be changed half way the race..
- When people are allowed to restart this decision should not be reversed when people are already half way the Atlantic Ocean.
- When the organisation decides to force a competitor to retire this decision should be communicated to the competitor.
- The decision should not be made public via a website before it is commicated to the competitor.
When I look at these rules they seem pretty obvious, but any one of them has been violated in this matter. I think what has happened is by any standard, human, ethical and perhaps even legal, completely unacceptable.
At this moment I am on my way to the Azores. Let it be very clear that the decision to go there was motivated by the step of the committee to remove me from the race. I have not given up the race. I have damage to my mainsail, but this would not have prevented me from reaching Newport. I can stil make about 4 to 5 knots of progress in light weather and about 7 to 8 in normal conditions. For a number of reasons (one of them is insurance ) I do not wish to continue to go to Newport outside the race.