Over at Proper Course, Tillerman spends a lot of time blogging about how anal the International Laser Class Association can seem to those of us who are not at one with the karma of Lasering - to those of us who just don't get the whole Laser Gestalt.
I always assume he exagerates just a bit for comedic effect. After all, there are about a billion Laser sailors in the US alone, according to the last census, and most of them seem like perfectly affable and reasonable people.
Certainly, they must insist that their class association behave in a responsible and sober way.
But I was recently wandering around on the ILCA website (please, don't ask why) and discovered this shocking little bit of evidence that all may not be as under control in the world of Lasering as Laserists would have us believe.
Click and zoom in to have any chance of deciphering this
This diagram is the Official ILCA visual representation of the Application for Entry process that you must understand and negotiate if you want to 'attend' ILCA European or World Championships. By 'attend' I think they mean these are all the steps you have to go through to actually compete in a World Championship. I sure hope you don't have to do all of this if you just want to show up and watch. Some of us just like to watch.
You can tell from the diagram that this is an organization in crisis.
First of all, there are all of the colors. A good workflow diagram shouldn't need colors. You should be able to just draw a bunch of boxes and arrows and done. I think they started out that way and, when they were finished, took a step back and examined what they had done.
"Uh-oh. We're in trouble. There are just too freaking many boxes and arrows for anyone to make head or tail out of this. Maybe adding color coding will help make some sense out of this mess."
It was probably at that point that the workflow chart got assigned to the Color Code Assessment and Evaluation Committee (the CCAEC). After a few weeks of evaluating and assessing, the committee decided (by a 7-4 vote, with two abstentions) to adopt a four-color simplification scheme for the visual representation of the Application for Entry process.
I'm not sure how they arrived at four colors. I think two colors would have worked better. You know, one color could have stood for 'good' and the other for 'you're screwed'. A simple red and green scheme could have helped guide you down the right path for entering a Laser World Championship. Keep landing in the green boxes and you're OK.
Probably the losing side of the 7-4 vote (with two abstentions) thought two colors would have been plenty. I'll bet that one of the committee members was assigned to write up a minority opinion on the value of a two-color system. But the majority of CCAEC members held out for more complexity.
Complexity clarifies, right?
So, in this workflow chart, I'm not sure what color you should be aiming for. I'm pretty sure green is still good and red means 'you're screwed', but what does the yellow mean? If you start out on yellow, what does the transition to green mean? And I don't want to even think about purple.
Another sign that the ILCA is plainly admitting that this is a hopelessly complex, unfathomable process is that they had to abandon straight lines before they were even half-way through.
The mark of any good workflow chart is nice, unambiguous straight lines leading from one step to the next. Having to draw curving (or worse yet - 'S'-shaped lines) is a tacit admission that you forgot to plan ahead. It means you kept adding extra steps as you went along that you'd completely forgotten about when you started. Curving lines on a flow chart are like detours on a road map.
The result is a flowchart that leaves me - admittedly a Laser outsider - completely baffled. I thought just staying on a Laser without falling off was hard enough, but I think sailing a Laser is probably the easy part.
Anyone who manages to successfully enter a Laser World Championship should get some kind of trophy just for that.