Safety Boat Leads Athletes Off Course During APP World Tour Event
What started as a day of high expectation and anticipation has left some of stand-up paddleboarding’s top athletes feeling frustrated and inaudible as the APP World Tour makes a controversial safety boat decision that swerved paddlers on a round-the-world trip to Santa Monica last weekend.
Dense fog and race delays lead to controversial decision
It happened on the second day of the Santa Monica SUP Open, the kickoff of this year World Tour APP and opening round of the US SUP Open organized by the APP. On day one, the sprint race went off without a hitch and Connor Baxter and April Zilg were crowned sprint champions at the end of an epic race day.
The controversy arose during the distance course on the second day, when dense fog significantly reduced visibility on the race course. Here, a certain gap ensues when the best athletes Michael Booth and Arthur Aroutkin (both former APP World Champions) heard instructions at the pre-race safety meeting that due to deteriorating race conditions they were to follow the lead boat which would guide them along the good course line.
As Arutkin says in Booth’s video recap of the event (below), “If we didn’t follow the boat in these conditions, it would be extremely dangerous..” Booth agrees and adds that his visibility was limited to about 500 yards. From the buoy line where the riders were paddling, they couldn’t see the coast. They were paddling blind in the fog.
‘Extreme safety concern’ for Outrigger upsets SUP world title race
However, around mile 5, the lead boat veered off course during the race due to an “extreme safety issue” attracting male lead runners Michael Booth (2019 APP World Distance Champion), Arthur Arutkin (APP Overall World Champion 2018) and other notables. athletes 6 km out to sea. Booth, sensing the change of course, tried to hail the boat but to no avail. So, following the race directive, he stayed the course with the boat – a decision that ultimately cost him victory.
Mo Freitasanother renowned APP SUP rider posted on social media, “Fog makes for an interesting run. I couldn’t see the coast the whole race and the lead boat veered us off course for about 4-5 miles. The guys on the inside line largely won and we had to correct, adding about 30 more minutes to the paddle!”
Further inland, two young racers, Itzel Delgado and Bodie Von Allmen followed their course not on the lead boat but on their own GPS technology. Their inside line took them straight to the finish of the course where Itzel (Peru) and Bodie (Hawaii) crossed the finish line for 1st and 2nd place respectively.
Originally deemed ‘no contest’, race organizers reverse decision
After the race, Booth and Arutkin both disputed the results, saying they followed race guidelines and were misled off course and out to sea by the lead boat. According to Booth, they were directed both through the safety meeting at the dock and then later before the race to the start line, told that two boats would escort the field due to fog. Later on the water, Booth was also instructed during the race to keep following the lead boat by the race director who said: “You are going in the right direction. Keep following us. We will establish the line.”
After hearing their arguments, race director Anthony Vela and APP World Tour CEO Tristan Boxford reportedly called the race a ‘no contest’ meaning no points would be awarded due to the error and that the prize money would be distributed to qualified APP athletes in the rankings. finishing order.
Michael Booth said he was comfortable with the decision, even though it didn’t benefit him in any way.
“All I want is a fair race with rules“Says Michael Booth who was leading the leading pack at the time of the incident. “I was following the instructions of the race director since the safety meeting.”
Cabin clearly in the lead as the boat veers off course
The APP even quoted Booth’s lead in their social media channels from the event saying, “Your current leaders for the US Open of SUP distance race are halfway through. Michael Booth has a huge lead over the men, but Candice Appleby is battling with sprint champion April Zilg for the women’s lead.
Booth reported the mix-up happened somewhere around mile 5. He says Danny Ching, also in the lead pack, waved over the No. 2 safety boat and was brought back by the GPS from this boat to the shore to find the finish; however, no one told the other runners, including Booth and Arutkin.
Non-competition decision overturned: athletes upset
Tristan Boxford’s initial decision to label the race “no contest” was later challenged by other athletes who felt they had crossed the finish line fairly and earned their points and podium places respectively. An hour after judging the course “without competition”, Tristan Boxford reconsidered his decision.
“We were rejected as bettorsBooth explains. “We do this for our job and Arthur and I had come a long way to be in this event, I understand that other athletes felt they deserved to win based on the fact that they thought they were the best of the day, but the race officials who give rules and make a decision and then change them are arbitrary.”
Booth, a new father and husband, traveled from Australia to attend the APP US SUP Open event in Santa Monica. “I have a family and a young son now,” he says. “So whenever I’m going to be away from them, it has to make sense. It has to be fair competition.”
Arutkin came from France to participate in the Santa Monica Pier Race. Both athletes pay for their trip to compete.
“We have to do better”: where is the rule book?
According to an APP World Tour insider who asked to remain anonymous, the sport of stand-up paddleboarding on the APP World Tour currently has no rules to follow. Sanctioned by the ISA, Standup Journal has contacted ISA officials for clarification, but has yet to receive a response.
Is the professional side of stand up paddling – even with multiple world championship tours – still adrift due to the lack of comprehensive guidelines to ensure paddlers, race directors and organizers know and adhere to the same rules?
Booth goes on to say, “As I was paddling I waved down the boat and asked ‘are we going the right way?’ He (the race director) said: ‘Yes, keep following me.'”
On the sand, things got even more confusing when, according to Booth, “They issued a decision of no contest. Results and points would not stand. Cash prizes would be distributed to qualified APP athletes, which was a fair decision even though it didn’t help me at all. Once given, a few athletes…. started screaming and continuing. Then APP officials said they haven’t made a decision yet… Then they left and came back with their new decision that points and prizes would be based on when riders arrive on the beach..” It was a complete reversal of decision. “We must do better,” he said.
Declaration of APP Versions: Stand of the Leaderboards
Last night, the APP released the following statement:
“Yesterday at the US Open SUP in Santa Monica, Calif., the lead boat in the distance race responded to a safety issue in the middle of the race, thus failing to stay on course. It was an unfortunate incident that caused confusion and affected the performance of some of our athletes in competition, 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 has happened. APP competitors are world-class athletes who work tirelessly at their craft. They should only focus on their performance and they shouldn’t have to worry about course management or other logistical aspects.
The APP is committed to thoroughly reviewing all rules and regulations and developing the best race management and safety processes. The APP will learn from this incident and take steps to ensure that such a situation does not happen again in the future.
All results from yesterday’s distance race will stand.”
Unfortunately for world champion riders Michael Booth and Arthur Arutkin, this statement only further aggravates their concern over the rules and regulations. The two have agreed to step down from the APP World Tour and focus elsewhere on the competitive sport of stand-up paddleboarding.
We must do better.