Tower Trapezing, the extreme sailing technique developed by Alan Norregard and Anders Thompsen, has been outlawed at the ISAF meeting in Dublin.
Tower Trapezing represents a dramatic change to sailing styles. At it’s best, it reminds of of the development of hiking straps or trapezes by another famous Dane, Paul Elvestrom. At it’s worst it brings fear of safety, health, and design concerns to any class with a trapeze system.
At the 2012 49er European Championships (watch all the races here), the Danish Bronze medallist team found themselves somewhat under their optimal weight. Faced with that disadvantage, they reached back to a technique Alan had practiced in the past but had never used in international competition.
6 weeks later, ISAF has banned the technique due to a variety of concerns. First off is intentionality. The equipment being used was not designed with Tower Trapezing in mind. This is a critial factor as a change to Tower Trapezing adds more than 20% righting motion to a 49er, and would add an even greater percentage to a narrower craft. This could lead to changes is body compositions, and therefore the sailors in the classes, as many teams would opt to drop 20% of their weight to have the same leverage at a vastly reduced overall mass.
The second point of concern leading to the ban is health. With one member of a team logging countless hours supporting their team mate, the long term health considerations are significant. Worse than the position pictured above, many single trapeze boats were trying the technique, with the crew trapezing off the shoulders of a hiking helm. Both cases lead to large strain to the back of the supporting crew member.
The final main point is safety. There are those that fear the risk of additional potential energy in the highly levered position. There are thoughts of sailors hurting themselves, teammates, or competitors.
For all the drawbacks listed, there is also a lot of support for the technique. Facebook posts all around the globe have been logging teams sessions of tower trapezing with great excitement. Have a watch of this video documenting tower trapezing during the Theatre Style finals of the 2012 Euroean Championship and there can be no doubt of it’s capacity to amaze.
On the whole, this is an entirely predictable response to Tower Trapezing. Though many think that it’s just the kind of innovation to push sailing into the public. There are also serious concerns that it would have lead to a dramatic reduction in particapation due to the extreme skill and physical strain it causes. On balance, it’s a safe decision, and no doubt those looking to have a fun day out in a 49er will continue to try Tower Trapezing at their leisure.
Finally, here’s a look at the technique as close as you’ll ever need to see it. You can really see the athletisism required as alan jumps around cat like in his leaps, and Anders stands tall while managing the mainsheet and steering… that’s quite a lot on!