Saturday, March 08, 2008

Rules and Around-in-Ten

‘Rules are made to be broken’, so the saying goes, and yet we all live by a code of conduct, either consciously or unconsciously; we set our own moral and ethical standards or accept those we choose. I suppose the first rules we learn are those given to us by our parents; afterwards we may accept guiding rules taught by our teachers; we may also accept rules adhered to by our peers and in the long term we may adopt rules set by those who would want to influence us. We discover that virtually every situation is dependent upon a set of rules, perhaps imposed by our fellow beings or by Nature; for example, we cannot drive our cars or ride our bikes along a road without being subject to ‘The Highway Code’, and if we choose to ignore the rules within it we run the risk of injury or death either to ourselves or others, and if we ignore the rules of Nature we’ll most likely suffer the consequences.

Maybe the most well-known set of rules are the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, where the first 5 commandments give us a guide for our relationship with God, and the others stipulate how we should relate to humankind. Such a framework of rules can provide the basis of other rules; indeed, in the past many of our English laws determined by Parliament were influenced by the precepts of the Ten Commandments.

I’ve been following the gradual formulation of race rules for participants of the forthcoming Around-in-Ten Race, which will be a gruelling feat of endurance for the competitors as they circumnavigate the globe in 10’ sailing boats with the aim of being the first to complete the circuit. A fundamental rule was set at the outset when the race was proposed - namely boats must be 10’ in overall length. Other rules by necessity have been added, such as the starting date for the Race, a definition of the start line and the naming of compulsory ports of call. More rules are currently being formulated by the ‘Racers’, i.e., those who have declared themselves as committed entrants to the Race. Outsiders can suggest rules, but they do not have voting rights. Only the Racers can determine final rules by majority votes. There was much discussion on whether multihulls would be allowed to take part, but according the wisdom of voters, they have been barred. I believe discussion is still taking place about a possible cut-off date for the acceptance of proposed new Racers, and as each day passes before the start in 307 days (as I write) the urgency for a decision increases.

If he is to succeed each Racer must formulate for himself rules for survival, the basic rule being to ensure he drinks and eats sufficiently well to maintain his health. He must as far as possible according to circumstances have a routine for sleep and have sufficient of it to maintain himself in a state of alertness when awake for the efficient running of his boat. He would be wise to adhere to a daily timetable for such things as updating his position, preparing and eating his main meal, enjoying periods of relaxation perhaps by reading, solving crossword puzzles or listening to music; he might also have a daily communication with home by satellite phone.

The preservation of sanity by a Racer in such a tiny boat would be high on the agenda, and rules designed for this very purpose should be formulated. I am aware of what happened to Donald Crowhurst who was put under enormous self-pressure to win the Golden Globe Sunday Times Race in 1968/9, and as a result he lost his sanity which caused him to take his own life. The crux of the matter arose when Crowhurst realized his boat was not suitable for the Roaring Forties and he decided he would break the rules of the Race by holding station in the southern Atlantic until the other competitors arrived on the scene, at which time he would follow them to the finish line, not to win, but to have public acclaim for finishing the Race, but one by one, with the exception of Robin Knox Johston boats fell by the wayside. Crowhurst realised that on arrival at Plymouth his ship’s log would come under scrutiny and it would fail the test.

Some of us may believe rules are made to be broken, but watch out if we break them, because we may have to suffer the consequences.

Web site for The Around-in-Ten Race: .

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