Proposed change to Class Spec S-V.7 - VHF Radios
From my perspective, each of the advantages cited to justify amending Specification S-V.7 strongly outweigh the disadvantages.
On a strictly common sense basis, weather and emergency safety issues resoundingly trump concerns that radios or other electronic communication devices create a competitive advantage for those who use them.
With class growth a continuing concern, employing tools that help avoid the more serious competitor frustrations should be considered. The new and less experienced FS sailor is precisely the demographic necessary to fleet and class growth. It is this demographic likeliest to avoid participating in regattas if he or she spends the time, money, and effort preparing for and traveling to a regatta only to end up in 52nd in a 50 boat competition because the individual recall sound was not heard and the signal was not visible from the starting boat's position.
I have heard all the arguments about conveying advantage over those who choose not to carry a VHF radio. This is, of course, a moot point with respect to the spec. changes concerning safety on the race course. I have heard from the "been there; done that" crowd that the skipper is always responsible for knowing where he or she is on the line. This argument does bear more closely on the "advantage/disadvantage" issue, but allowing radio OCS recall does not change that paradigm. Even the VHF carrying competitor may not hear the recall or the committee may fail for any number of reasons to hail the OCS competitor. Further addressing the "advantage" argument, a competitor may elect to sail with older sails placing himself at a competitive disadvantage. Those who elect not to use a radio for sanctioned purposes enter the competition knowing the risk and deeming it acceptable. No one would think to handicap everyone with a specification that all sailors must compete with with sails used for a minimum of three years. It is s hypothetical analogy, to be sure, but the arguments are similar.
The formerly unaddressed goal, however, is that we need competitors to keep the game going. Quite a number of successful classes (some of which are growing) have found that use of the VHF radio has helped with regatta management and with competitor satisfaction. They have also found that allowing limited use of the radio has encouraged most participants to purchase and use their radios with a salutory effect on the safe conduct of regattas. The intent of FSSA specifications limiting the use of technology for competitive advantage is soundly grounded. It forestalls money driven "arms races" that quickly drive up competitor costs and drive away those who can ill afford to fuel endless financial investment in the class. This would be a formula for disaster, especially given that the FS is attractive to many of its owners because ownership and competition have remained very affordable. That said, reasonable and judiciously limited accomodation to adopt some similarly affordable VHF radio technology into the class regatta and race management venue is timely indeed.
I will be sharing my 'Yes" vote with the Fleet 158 Captain.
Ryan Gaskin, FS 5673