This is in response to Mr. Tillerman's call for posts about 'the worst sailing innovation'. How long will we put up with his writing exercises that subject the blog-reading public to abuse such as this?
Gybing the Laser
The worst innovation in the history of sailing is - without question - the gybe.
For thousands of years, sailors used square sails, mounted athwartship, and were happy and carefree, effortlessly moving the sterns of their boats through the eye of the wind to change tacks, with only a slight adjustment of sail trim.
Then, on April 23, 1642, in the small English harbor of Precarious on Tyne, Sir Wembley Gybe installed a fore-and-aft gaff-mounted sail on his 16-foot duck hunting punt. Less than 10 seconds later, an unsuspecting Sir Wembley was sputtering in the water, not knowing what had hit him, having inadvertently performed the maneuver that would eventually be named for him.
Details of the incident are sketchy, but some accounts report a friend hailing Sir Wembley from the nearby river bank distracted his attention from the helm, just as the wind was shifting astern. The friend called to Sir Wembley,
The rest is history.
Ever since, generations of sailors have cursed the gybe. Race organizers have bedeviled competitors by fiendishly incorporating 'gybe marks' in race courses (the ghouls at Valencia are no exception). And an entire industry of Rube Goldberg contraptions has flourished whose only purpose has been to prevent the gybe. Think about it, have you ever seen in any marine catalog a 'tacking preventer' or a 'reach preventer'?
Over the years, the toll of mechanical wreckage and the cost in human life, injury, and suffering caused by the gybe have been incalculable. It is estimated that, in the United States alone, over 7000 cases of divorce are attributed annually to this unfortunate sailing maneuver.
Some boats, such as the small sailing dinghy known as the 'Laser', cannot be gybed at all without the sailor leaving the vessel, jumping in the water, and capsizing, as in the illustration at the top of this post.
Recently, humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross have asked that the gybe be banned from international competition, along with other sailing activities deemed 'inhumane', like frostbite racing.
Some day, perhaps, the voice of reason will prevail, and the madness will be ended.
In deference to the English origins of the gybe, I have retained the English spelling throughout. We Americans should do whatever we can to distance ourselves from this odious maneuver.