APP Tour Longdistance Race thoughts

As we are looking back at the first APP Tour event this weekend we find ourselves in disagreements and drama.

The situation:
APP long distance 10 miles ocean race with fog and visibility of about 500m.

What happened:
Apparently Michael Booth and Arthur Arutkin trusted a boat to lead the way in the long distance race from Malibu to Santa Monica.

However, there must have been some safety concerns with the race officials and the boat had to go off course to prevent other paddlers from going to far out to sea.

The boat steered in a different direction and Arthur and Michael followed the boat.

Due to these circumstances, Michael and Arthur paddled about 3km more than the winners. Michael filed a protest.

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According to Michaels’ statement on social media, the protest was first granted, then was reversed later on.

The morning after, the APP issued the following statement:

Yesterday at the U.S. Open of SUP in Santa Monica, CA, the lead boat in the distance race attended to a safety concern in the middle of the race, thus not staying the course. This was an unfortunate incident which caused confusion and affected the performance of some of our competing athletes, but the safety of our competitors will always be our top priority.

The Association of Paddlesurf Professionals (APP) accepts full responsibility and sincerely apologizes for what occurred. APP competitors are world class athletes who work tirelessly at their craft. Their focus should only be on their performance and they should not have to worry about course management or other logistics.

The APP is committed to a detailed review of all rules and regulations and to further developing best in class race management and safety processes. The APP will learn from this incident and take steps to ensure that a situation like this doesn’t occur in the future.

All results from yesterday’s distance race will stand.

Four key take-a-ways from this statement:

  1. The APP takes full responsibility for the confusion.
  2. The APP says athletes should not worry about course management and logistical issues.
  3. The APP will leave the results as they are.
  4. Safety is always the first priority.

Questions about the 4 points:

  1. If the APP takes responsibility about the confusion, is it then obliged to do something about it? What are the consequences?
  2. If athletes do not have to worry about course management, who does? The APP? And if so, does that then include navigation?
  3. Are there rules or guidelines on standing results?
  4. Safety is always a priority, there is no question about that. But the question is when there is a cause for concern and race officials need to prioritize. Should a race have been restarted?

I am sure not all of these questions have an answer yet, but the complexity of such a situation should not be underestimated. In the case of the APP, it is not only race organizer but also the leading body for developing rules and enforcing them.

We can start discussing the boats here, but that is of no use because we don’t know exactly what the rules are. In the M2O, for example, we know very well that navigation falls to the athlete and his team. That is clear to everyone.

But it is certain that we need clear rules about the role of the boats. We also need to define the priorities of a skipper in the event of an emergency.

Logical mathematics:

  • If course management = navigation then, race organizer fault for wrong outcome. Therefore needs to be a consequence.
  • If course management = navigation, but race organizer unable to full fill obligation due to emergency, then consequence.
  • If course management ≠ navigation, then no problem for race organizer, no consequence.

What can Athletes do?

If we compare this to a sport that has an international federation structure, for example, rules are set from the very top. Take the canoe federation for example: If there is a discrepancy in a regional race, the athlete has different instances where he/she can appeal. This can go all the way to the Board of Directors at international level and even the CAS as I found out.

Another approach:

If a race can be questioned because of visibility. Then why not simply adapt the race course to the conditions. Instead of paddling from A to B, you could simply set out a circuit that makes 10 miles.

Bottom line:

Unfortunately, this incident does not bring our sport any further forward. On the contrary, it damages the reputation of the athletes and the organization that wants to hold SUP races at the highest level. Now the APP has a PR Problem, Arthur and Michael are unhappy and the winners can’t fully celebrate. Now this race will be marked as the one with a controversial outcome and that leaves a stain on ones trophies.

Situations like these will occur again in the future but we must have clear rules and guidelines that help us in the future to deal with it better.