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Slalom gates


Jody_Seal
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I had the opportunity last weekend at Still water tournament to talk to Chet Raley who was passing around a paper about changing the gate rule in slalom to a more skier friendly rule and or eliminating the need to go through them.

Their has been lots of discussion on this issue and as a judge it can be hard to judge very shortline skiers through the gates.

In our conversation it was agreed that the gate buoys were being displaced enough by the boat passing through that it makes it difficult for a skier at short lines to adjust and judge their gate entrance.

It was not until last night it occurred (my opinion) to me why this gate issue has really become a problem. Boats have become "Fat" they are wider and most are barely narrow enough to go down the course. As A Senior driver and judge I have watch many end course video over the last 20 or odd years and can attest that the boats of today take up far more space within the confines of the boat guide's then those of 5-10 years ago.

Long story short my Epiphany is simple! make the entrance gates wider! not sure what that width should be but a wider entrance gate will be less impacted by these wider boats going through them, and hence more defined for judging and a more stable playing field for the skier. I would start with a half a meter wider overall.

 

On with the discussion!

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One of the biggest problems I see with changing the dimensions of the course, is the fact there are thousands, if not 10s of thousands, 100s of thousands??? of courses on lakes around the world.

 

would be good business for EZ ed though!

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I like the idea. But I like other ideas even better. I think personally I'd rank the gate "fix" proposals in this order, and I'd "vote" in favor of any of them:

 

1) Skier must cross left to right somewhere between the right-hand green and left-hand red. (Basically a super-gigantic gate.)

2) Ignore gates. (The only reason I rank this lower than my #1 is that I think it would be a little unsettling to see longer-line skiers start on the right.)

3) Widen gates.

4) Some kind of mulligan rule.

5) Do nothing.

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another possible solution is for skiers to realize that closely brushing the right hand gate ball which sometimes causes a miss is not actually the very best path at shorter lines. as evidence of this the current mens and womens world record holders tend to split the gates instead.
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@OB , I like your thinking about either side course's however this gate issue is not going away and it will manifest it's ugly head in rules and more then likely the solution will not be in the interest of the general population of skiers but more in the interest of influential skiers or small group.
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I think creating a super wide forgiving gate gives advantage to left foot forward skiers. As the course sits now left foot forward skiers have three strong side turns but the disadvantage is they have a more difficult time turning in and getting through the gates. Remove the difficulty of the gate and I will for sure make my daughter ski left foot forward.
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@Klundell Super-interesting point, but I'm not (yet) convinced that huge-or-unscored gate makes anything any easier, at least not for short line folks. You still gotta cross somewhere pretty darned close to the gate to be able to run -35 and shorter, and with my RFF I'm still gonna have the advantage of that first critical move being my on-side.

 

Of course, I've never actually TRIED completely ignoring the gate, but it has never seemed advantageous at -38 when I've accidentally gone early.

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I think @Jody_Seal is on to something with this wide boat thing. I don't ski anything shorter than -38, and at those rope lengths I have pretty much NEVER missed a gate. Boat displacement isn't as much of an issue. At shorter lines I can see where it would matter. Why not try giving the path another 8 inches of room and see if it resolves the issue? I don't think boats are going to get thinner!

 

As an aside, that is actually an issue for me when I switch from driving my 197 or the club LXI or TXI to a Nautique 196. You drive that 196 and you have a foot of room on both sides of the boat. Takes some getting used to in order to find and stay centered. So too wide I think makes it tougher to drive now that many of us are used to driving the wider boats.

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Hmmm...thanks to Killer for the plug. Actually way back in the way back, the gates were 12 feet wide. And tournament boats were narrower. But, that was the foot-dimensioned course, probably also with the long endgates. And, likely with gi-normous size buoys. Some of the current problem may be that sites are not properly rigging the buoys with tension bands, as the Rules require. Such that the gate buoys can get pushed under easily, and/or maybe spring back right at the wrong time.

 

Think I've mentioned this before, but at one Tour site, we did put in a "Zero Buoy", at 41m back from the #1 gate longitudinally, and at 7.5m (vs. 11.5m) wide. Still left in the regular gate and also still scored as usual. Also remember it was a 4-buoy course, so no problem with taking some leeway with Rules. But, after one round, at least one top skier didn't like it. I sure thought that 7.5m was way out of the way. These days, people who ski on 8-buoy courses, such as at LaPoint Ski Park or Champion Lake in Florida, get a chance to experience a "Zero Buoy" that is at full 11.5m width, and might have some comments.

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And, speaking of Chet, he does have a "left-hand" course at his training site in Boca Raton. Reports are that it takes a few tries to get used to. At one time, he was contemplating having a tournament where you had to ski at least one round on the Lefty.
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@Edbrazil I was referring to EZ-Slalom Ed, but I guess you'd have some work to do as well! I love your posts BTW, intrigued by the history of the sport. It brings a hell of a lot to this particular discussion as people seem to think because things have been a certainly way for so long that they can't change, but forget or didn't know they have changed in the past to get where we are today. the size of boats today is a very valid arguement for gates IMO

 

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@Jody_Seal, I haven't really watched the buoys that closely. When the boat pushes them out, how soon do they rebound in relation the entrance of the skier? Obviously line length will come into play, but pick a length like 38. When they rebound, how much narrower than standard width do they go? If anything changes I guess I would just favor not judging entrance gates. No dimensional or hardware changes please!
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If what @thompjs says is accurate, and I had suspected already that was the case, it should be advantageous for the skier at that particular line length. The gates would be wider and what Jody and Chet said about making it difficult for a short line skier to judge the gates would a moot point. Just keep going like you first planned and you'll be farther inside than you thought. No ham done!
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Gordon’s proposal is the best one I’ve seen. Add only 1 gate buoy on each end of the course, to the right side of the boat, 41 meters from the 1 ball gates (same as from 1-2 ball). Enter the course from left to right any time after the skier passes this new buoy and you’ve made the gates. Get back to the wakes before the new buoy, after 6 ball, and you’ve run the pass.

If Nate makes a 1 foot mistake in timing on the gates, then all of his efforts for the pass are canceled and the set is over yet I’ve seen him make a 5 foot mistake inside the course at 9.75 meters and still run the pass. We have all done the same at our on level. The penalty for a mistake on the gates is grossly out of proportion. You can cross the wakes anywhere you want going from one ball to the next. Why not going to 1 ball?

I spent a few sets going early on the gates. I also removing the right hand gate buoy and went whenever I wanted while watching the remaining left hand gate buoy. I found there to be very little advantage because it still comes down to your timing, technique, and speed. My initial opinion is national rated skiers would see anywhere from no increase to less than a 1.5 buoy increase in their average and the list of names would stay in the same order they are now. The best skier on tournament day would still be the winner, with much less possibility of controversy.

Our sport is melting away. I think this gate change would increase participation in tournaments by making it a lot easier to judge, a lot easier to conduct a tournament, a lot less punitive to the skier, a lot less intimidating to the beginner, and a lot safer because of the additional time to get back to the wakes after 6 ball.

 

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I'm all for redesigning the entrance gates. As Ed has pointed out, our current slalom course has evolved over the years, and now that skiers are consistently skiing into 41' off, making accurate gate calls nearly impossible, it seems like a good time to revisit this stuff. That is not to say that I don't appreciate @OB 's curmudgeonly take on change. I fear change as much as the next guy!

 

 

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Whatever is done, if anything, can we please get rid of the onerous requirement for endgate video? While still making it so that the scoring is fair and accurate. So much $$$ and hassle to look at just one small aspect of the run.
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@edbrazil - I wish there were multiple awesome's for that comment. Having video setup that is very expensive, hard to do, and still allows room for error would deter many (IMHO) from even considering a tournament! Lets make tournaments easier to host!
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Don't force people to change every slalom course in the world. Change the rule but use the buoys we've got in place. I agree with this order...

 

1) Skier must cross left to right somewhere between the right-hand green and left-hand red.

2) Don't judge the gates.

3) Some kind of mulligan rule.

4) Nothing.

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I am aware of a Regionals that did not have bungies on the gate balls until well after the start of the tournament. The effect was that each time the boat went though the gates disppeared under water in the wakes, at very near the time the skier went through. Numerous skiers had their gates pulled, until the deficiency was identified and corrected. From the towers, the wider hulled boats do appear to be causing a similar visual issue. We could fix it with a rule change involving moving the buoy or making sure the gate did not move laterally somehow. Some courses have quite robust, permanently poured anchors with surveyed locations for gate buoy anchors. They will not be so easy to adjust...
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So if we change the gate rule to make it more skier friendly, how much do participation and tournaments really increase? 5%? 10%? I think we're overestimating the impact of a rule change. It's not like there are hundreds of would be skiers waiting on the shore saying, "if only they would change that gate rule, then I would ski."
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Exactly! The issue does not involve participation in the sport but rather a perceived issue by many that too many gates are being judged no credit in tournaments.

What the answer is will come down too the loudest squeaky wheel! Changing the entrance gate width is not a great answer but I believe will lessen the impact by the boat displacing the buoy and keeps the current gate judge rule intact.

Another idea is just to soften up on the judging as a clear miss as in not even striking the gate ball.

Another reason gates are being judged no credit is because the quality of a lot of cameras and monitor's being utilized for judging. I dont judge from towers too much any more but the few times I have in recent years the image quality has been less then adequate!

Put the judge in a position to judge the gates rather then in the middle of the course looking at a TV monitor we will probably see a lot less gates pulled!

 

Just my opinion!

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Widen the gate and move towards the next boat guides by an amount that doesn't change the existing angle to one ball. This way, you really aren't changing anything. However, it would really affect those who already split the gates when they go through. They would have to be more careful than those who get close to the right hand gate ball. This would take care of the "fatter boats" problem.
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