Mailport: March 2012
US Sailing Reports
Kudos to Darrell Nicholson for his editorial regarding the US Sailing accident inquiries (December 2011). As much as I respect the efforts, skills and resumes of all the members of the US Sailing investigating panel on the Chicago-Mackinac race, they have found themselves completely on the wrong end of this issue. I would never suggest that any of these fine people would intentionally steer the findings to their own advantage. However, bias is an insipid and creeping malady, and manages to easily entangle itself without being recognized. That is why in similar situations in other disciplines, particularly those that have resulted in tragic consequences, extra care is taken to avoid potential bias and conflicts such as the scenario that Mr. Nicholson has rightly brought to light. No one that had even the most remote connection to this incident should have had any position or voice on the panel, let alone chaired it. No sponsor, officiator, family member, participant, and most certainly not a manufacturer of some of the equipment that was involved.
The spirited replies to Mr. Nicholson’s editorial penned by Mr. (John) Rousmaniere and Mr. (Stan) Honey (PS Mailport, February 2012) are understandable, and one can certainly argue about who has some of the facts straight, but their position on Mr. Hawley’s involvement is completely irresponsible and utterly indefensible. Here I even must take issue with Mr. Nicholson’s rebuttal (PS, Feb 2012) that Mr. (Chuck) Hawley would have made an excellent consultant, because he most certainly could not and should not have, considering the real and present overlap of interest.
I cannot decide here what is most disappointing in the whole sordid affair: that these experts are ignorant to basic conflict of interest practices or that, incredibly, when called out on the issue, they muster to defend blatantly poor decision making instead of admitting their mistakes and finding ways to avoid repeating them.
R. Todd Smith
Twilight, Cartwright 36 cutter
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