[Public-List] Not so funny...

Michael Grosh dickdurk at gmail.com
Fri Oct 5 14:54:50 PDT 2018

An incredible story. If yachtsman cannot behave in in a sportsman like
manner, then there is no hope for anyone.

On Oct 5, 2018 12:00 PM, "Gordon Laco via Public-List" <
public-list at lists.alberg30.org> wrote:

Good day friends,

Our club went through a bit of an ordeal in the past month, the sort which
every sailing club is afflicted by from time to time.  I’d decided not to
write about it until things were resolved and I had the issue settled
somewhat in my own mind.

We have an overly aggressive member in our club who has made himself a
nuisance and worse in our races for all the years he has been a member.  He
is an ex-Olympic runner up from the early 1970’s, and sails a fast boat
which I’ve mentioned in several of my more humorous race reports.  In the
last Wednesday night race of the season, we took our turn being attacked by
this fellow…I and cosquently the club decided not to ignore the issue.
Here’s what happened.

We were approaching the weather mark on the second beat.  SURPRISE was on
starboard tack and just laying the mark.  Another B Fleet boat, a Niagara
26, was close ahead of us, also beating.  There was a third yacht on our
starboard quarter who had over stood and was coming down to the mark.  The
wind was moderate, so all of us were doing about 5 knots, we were creeping
up on the boat ahead of us.  The mark was very close ahead of him, less
than three boat lengths.

Down to port, we all saw our overly aggressive member In CANADIAN EXPRESS,
an Express 30R in A fleet, coming up to the mark on port tack and on a
collision course with the Niagara 26 ahead of us. When it was apparent CE
was not altering course, the Niagara ahead of us shouted STARBOARD! loud
and clearly.   Without answering, CE bore off, which put her on a collision
course with us.

I shouted STARBOARD!, but instead of bearing off again, CE bore up.  I
realized he was going to try to cut between us and the boat ahead of us,
where there was now less than a boat length.  I shouted ‘Volkmar there’s no
room there, you can’t do it!’ but he carried on until he was 3/4 of his
length across our bow, at which point he then tried to tack onto
starboard.  I remember shouting ‘OH SHIT-SHIT-SHIT!'

His starboard stern quarter slammed into our port bow making SURPRISE ring
like a drum.   CE’s skipper then looked back at me over his shoulder and
shouted ‘GET OUT OF MY WAY, YOU HAVE TO KEEP CLEAR!’  Then, after he looked
forward and saw he was about to overrun the Niagara 26 ahead of him,
swerved to weather, swiping his extended outboard across our bow. He swiped
it across our bow again as he turn off to round the mark. The motor and its
mount were torn off his stern, hanging by a single bent bolt that didn’t

All three boats rounded the mark, well four, including the guy coming down
on our quarter.   We heard much shouting between crew members aboard CE,
whose skipper also screamed curses at us for not keeping clear of him, and
about his outboard and its mount.  I raised the red protest flag...

Down near the end of the running leg, CE did a 720 turn, fouling another
yacht while he did so, which was accompanied by his screaming that they had
to keep out of his way.

At the club an hour later, we were putting SURPRISE’s gear away and I heard
angry shouting over at CE’s jetty.  I told my crew I’d better get over
there rather than let others fight my battles for me, and left them furling
up the main.

As I walked down CE’s jetty I found her skipper in a confrontation with the
skipper and crew of the Niagara 26.  When I walked up, CE’s skipper saw me
and literally charged at me with clenched fists shouting ‘I know what sort
of man you are!  You rammed me on purpose! (livened with foul cursing)

Well I used to be an officer of the RCN; and one is taught how to deal with
confrontations.  I am not naturally a confrontational person but without
thinking something clicked in my mind.  (thank you Petty Officer 1st Class
Earl Allen.  You were a demon instructor in Officer's Basic, but you taught
me lessons I’m still rediscovering)  I did not back up.  I raised my right
hand flat, fingers together in the vertical plane and made the proscribed
chopping motion toward Volkmar.   I said in a low voice “Volkmar, you made
an error out there, you are making it worse now by making a fool of
yourself. You do know what sort of man I am, I’m the guy who took the
trouble to try to help you get along here.  Go away’.    Volkmar’s mouth
snapped shut, then he shouted ‘you all hate me because I’m German!’   At
that point the club’s commodore came up (he had been crewing in the
Niagara) and pulled Volkmar back to his boat.

Later in the clubhouse, Volkmar apologized to me for the collision, then
began boasting that he’d won the series regardless of being thrown out of
the race, and at blamed his crew for the accident.

That evening I thought about the atmosphere in our declining racing fleet…
about the several good sailors who had quit racing in the past few years
after confrontations with CANADIAN EXPRESS, and the many new sailors who
said they’d never race because of what they’d heard about how savage the
confrontations on the course are.

I decided that for the good of the sport I needed to ask the club to look
into the issue again - CANADIAN EXPRESS had been suspended from racing for
various periods of time three times in the past four years.  I thought it
no good that we had to put up with repeated transgressions of clear and
basic rules of sportsmanship and seamanship… and that the constant issues
caused by this member are not really washed away by his apologies when he
always does it again, and again.

The Midland Bay Sailing Club had already decided on it’s own to convene a
hearing on a charge of Rule 69 and the club’s code of behaviour against
this member, triggered by this most recent collision.  A general invitation
of all boats who in the past three years had had confrontations with
CANADIAN EXPRESS were invited to a hearing.  In the invitation I received,
I was asked not to limit my testimony to the collisions in the last race…
rather to be more general.

The skippers of nine boats plus various race committee officials attended
the meeting which was chaired by our racing committee chairman, a retired
lawyer/founding member of the club, and an accredited rule judge.

Volkmar had canvassed the club himself to find people who would speak for
him… but they all declined.  Two of the people he thought might stand with
him appeared as witnesses against him.  He was there alone, with only his
wife sitting back in the room watching.

The committee described Rule 69 (google it).  Then they read the club’s
code of behaviour.  Witnesses began describing collisions, near misses,
foul language. etc.   Volkmar had the opportunity to question and comment
after each testimony.   It was ugly and sad seeing him struggle, sometimes
begging for another chance, sometimes attacking.  Then they came to me.

I read the invitation I had received, and said that I’d answer any
questions put to me about the recent collisions, but said that I had four
points to discuss first.  I have my note pad beside me now.

1. Repeated demonstrations of pointless aggression on the race course.
2. Repeated demonstrations of poor boat handling, and poor situational
awareness in traffic
3. Repeated demonstrations of very poor sportsmanship
4. Repeated demonstrations by the club that no serious consequences result
from these patterns of behaviour.

Each point was discussed in detail…. Volkmar again alternately apologizing,
then attacking.   At one point he began insulting each the three people  on
the hearing committee.  At another point he shouted ‘I’ve got you all on
Rule 17!’   One of the committee members said quietly ‘I’m glad you brought
that up - one of the issues in your pattern of behaviour is that you
clearly do not understand the rules.  You continually invoke as your
defence rules that are non-existent, obsolete or not understood.   Let’s
look at Rule 17.’  Alas that rule had nothing to do with what he hoped it
did. Volkmar then said to me ‘why did you drag me in here, why did you
never come to me personally?’  I replied that I had on several occasions,
most recently earlier this season in a phone call.  Volkmar shouted ‘my
wife heard that call - you called to call me a fool!’  I replied that he
was mistaken, I had called as a friend to try to help him understand why he
was in trouble again.  I saw his wife had her face in her hands.

Finally after three hours everyone had spoken.  The chairman turned to
Volkmar and asked him if he had anything to add.   Clearly realizing that
this was the time to play his last card, Volkmar made an impassioned and
calm appeal that he not be suspended from racing.  (suspension had not been
mentioned but I expect he knew what might be at stake, having been
suspended before)   He pointed to each of us who described problems and
apologized.  He said to me ‘Gord, I will NEVER do that to you again!’.  He
described that he’d been a racing sailor at a high level most of his life.
He said that in his retirement years, racing is his life again, it ‘gets me
off the couch every week’.  He said he loves yacht racing… and asked not to
be suspended.  One of the members present asked Volkmar if he would like to
see the list of people who he had driven out of our races… but the chairman
said this was Volkmar’s turn to speak.

I was feeling badly for him.  But then the chairman of the committee said
quietly “Volkmar, we have been here before with you.  What assurance can
you offer us that we will not be here again?’

At that he exploded with rage.  He gathered his papers into a ball and
stood up to leave, shouting ‘YOU ALL HATE ME BECAUSE I’M GERMAN I HAVE NO
commodore and skipper of the Niagara 26 ahead of us in the recent
collision, said ‘Volkmar, I’m German too, I get on fine. It’s your
behaviour, not your ethnicity.’

Volkmar sat down again, smoothed out his papers and started renewed
apologizing, But the committee said they’d heard enough and adjourned the

Three days later the results were published.  Volkmar is suspended from
Wednesday night racing for the whole of the upcoming 2019 season.  However
he will be allowed to race in the much less heavily populated Saturday
races.   He was warned that a transgression in a Saturday race might result
in a blanket life-time prohibition .

I am well satisfied with the result of the hearing.  There has finally been
significant consequences applied; but he has a chance to change his
behaviour, and rejoin the sport he says he loves if he manages to
demonstrate a season without committing new issues of this type.


Pointless aggression has no place in our sport.   Cheating has no place in
our sport.  Both behaviours are corrosive and intolerable.    If any of you
are dealing with a problem competitor like ours, and are interested in how
we dealt with him, I can send you the official judgment document off-list.
 Part of the heavy consequences of the penalty are that under the rules a
suspension of this length is public and world-wide.  The document is public.

Gordon Laco

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