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There was once a certain seaport. From this seaport, ships would sail twice a year to spice islands, to bring back cargo and make money. Over time, the two back-to-back trips developed into a race, and prizes were awarded to the ships who finished first and second. The ships which finished third through sixth would have a "bronze medal race", a short sprint across the harbour.
Most of the ships were owned by rather poor merchants, who could only afford to keep their boats afloat through the sale of the spices. However, there were six or so very rich merchants, who spent a lot of extra money on building faster ships, to guarantee winning the race ahead of the poorer merchants, whose boats were usually too slow. Indeed, these rich men often got into debt, just to add some new element to their ship in the hope of winning.
One year, the entire process started in tragedy, with a ship sinking in the harbour, leaving only twenty-three boats. Another ship lost most of it's crew, and had to use mere boys as temporary sailors. Nevertheless, the ships made it out for the first leg of the journey, returning home with spices to sell. The race itself was exciting, with many boats unexpectedly close together.
There were logistical issues in the harbour, which led to the authorities declaring that the boats should go out slightly staggered for the second trip to the spice islands, and would be timed at checkpoints. As the ships were approaching the spice islands for a second time, a massive storm came up over the region, causing tragic loss of life, and indeed, even the spice islands lost their crop completely. The ships had been called back to harbour once it was apparent that they could not dock at the spice islands, and they waited for the storm to clear.
The ship captains began to debate among themselves what to do. The rich captains demanded that they complete the second leg to the spice islands, so that the race could be finished. The poorer captains protested, noting that with the spices destroyed, they would not even be able to fund the voyage. This enraged the rich captains, who cared much more about the glory of winning the race. They told the poor captains that if they could not afford to race, they should sell their boats completely, as the race was the whole point. To which the poor captains replied that to them, continuing to be able to sell spices was the main point.
There was a certain poorer ship, painted with blue quarters, around which the controversy raged the most. This ship had a very wise captain, who had once barely steered the ship off deadly rocks years ago, and as a result had carefully improved his boat by painstaking handcraft over the years since. He only selected crew members who were brave, and full of character, and as a result, the ship had become one of the fastest, despite still desperately needing to sell spices to survive as a going concern. Indeed, they had set off last for the staggered second leg, and despite being in eighth place as the ships neared the spice islands, they had passed the last checkpoint in third, based on the time trial. It had therefore been proposed that, with the storm still raging, the first two ships should receive prizes, while the blue quartered ship should be allowed to be involved in the race across the harbour for the bronze medal.
The rich captains cast all manner of abuse at the blue quartered vessel and it's captain. Instead of respecting the hard work and wisdom which had gone into improving the vessel to such a degree as to compete with their ships, which they had simply poured money into, they disrespected and abused all involved with the success story.
"If you can't afford to race to the spice islands, you are a hypocrite to race across the harbour," shouted a particularly brash captain, who had previously promised to throw himself overboard if his ship did not finish in the top three.
"But there are no more spices, and we need the spices to survive," replied the captain of the quartered blue ship. "The harbour is a short sprint race, which we can do without fear of bankruptcy. Besides which, the storm still rages about us, and there is still loss of life. We only need a short period of calm for the race across the harbour, but we will never have enough calm to get out to the islands."
This did not pacify the richer captains and their crews, who continued to hurl abuse at those involved with the quartered blue ship. At last, the poorer captain stood up and spoke again.
"Unlike you all, who have gone into debt to win the race, we are not desperate to win the race. Do what you must. If we are allowed to race across the harbour for the bronze, we will be delighted. If not, we shall put all of our effort into being able to race to the spice islands next year."
The matter was put to the authorities, who announced that they would announce the announcement day at some time in the future, perhaps the day after the day after tomorrow, but they could not be sure.
So all of the people waited, and waited, and waited....