Disqualification will weigh heavily on Dickson and Waddilove

The shockwaves from the disqualification of Ireland’s Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove from two key races at the Olympic Sailing regatta look certain to continue long after Tokyo 2020 ends.

The pair were penalised after one of their trapeze harnesses, used to hang out by wires from the side of the boat, was found to have exceeded the permitted weight limit by just 90 grams.

The Brazillian entry was similarly found against while German and Spanish 470 crews had similar fates earlier in the week.

In a statement responding to Irish Times questions last night, World Sailing said: “Under the Racing Rules of Sailing, the only penalty available to the International Jury for a breach of the rule involved (RRS 50.1(b)) is disqualification in the races concerned and that penalty has been applied. The rule is not one over which the Jury has discretion and the majority of rules in sailing have mandatory disqualification as a penalty.”

The statement added that all the boat equipment and sails are inspected prior to competition starting but that crew personal gear are checked during racing as these can be replaced.

Equipment rules are in place to prevent cheating by the addition of weight bags to crew clothing to help boost the performance of the boat. However, to be effective, at least several kilos would be needed which was not the case in either the 49er or 470 incidents this week.

Nevertheless, questions will still be asked about the rigidity of the rules and lack of discretion available to international juries or whether a margin of error should be included.

There is also speculation as to why the trapeze harnesses failed the test in the first place, especially as they had been weighed three times by Dickson and Waddilove prior to the Olympics.

One theory is that the waterproof fabric lining of the harness may have become worn and allowed water to soak in, thus adding the small amount of weight that tipped the scales.

However, for Dickson and Waddilove, their chances of achieving a podium finish at their first Olympics have suffered a major setback – dropping from seventh to 13th overall – and their task for Friday and Saturdays’ final days will be to regain a foothold in Monday’s medal race final for the top 10 boats.


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