In our series about definitions the next one in my rulebook is the definition of finish.
Finish A boat finishes when any part of her hull, or crew or equipment in normal position, crosses the finishing line in the direction of the course from the last mark, either for the first time or after taking a penalty under rule 31.2 or 44.2 or, under rule 28.1, after correcting an error made at the finishing line.
In an earlier post I've talked about a situation where a boat crosses the line twice. You can go here and here too refresh you memory.
The definition specifically defines a normal position for anything on board. For instance, if a boat finishing on the run, lets the spinnaker blow forward by easing the sheets and halyard gaining a couple of meters in front, it doesn't finish when that spinnaker crosses the line, but when the bow crosses. Only the bow is then in a "normal" position. Same if a crew member stands on the bow and reaches forward with a hand.
The direction from which side the line is to be crossed is also defined. When a race committee commits an error in putting that line, for instance by choosing the wrong side of a rounding mark when the course is shortened, you have a case for redress if you stick to the course and cross from the wrong side and are not scored. Remember to always make a note about who finishes in front of you and who finishes behind.
You don't have to cross the line completely.(RRS 28.1) You can shoot the line and after crossing with your bow, fall back to clear the line. Once you've done that, you must - if reasonably possible - not interfere with a boat that is racing (RRS 22.1) Rules of Part 2 however, stay in effect (Preamble part 2). If you touch a finishing mark after you have crossed the line but haven't yet cleared it, you must do a penalty round (anywhere, but clear of other boats) return to the course side of the line and cross again (RRS 31.2). Once you've cleared the line and then somehow touch the mark, you don't have to do anything.
It's usually a good idea to record your time when you finish. If you add the time stated in the SI for protests - or two hours if it's not, you have a rough idea on when you have to hand in the protest form.
Two abbreviations in the scoring sheet have to do with finishing: DNF: Did Not Finish and RAF: Retired After Finish. The first is pretty obvious, but is the second? Retiring after Finishing can be done anytime after the race. It can be done right away - don't forget to inform the RC - or in a series, even after a day or longer. It happens most often after a sailor becomes aware he or she has made a error and infringed a rule. If for instance in a protest hearing it becomes clear that there is serious damage, the boat who has broken a rule, should be given the opportunity to retire. I've served in panels where the chairman specifically asked if anyone wished to retire, after all evidence was presented. You run the risk of a DNE (Disqualification not Excludable) if you don't, because in addition to have broken a rule in part two, you then also break rule 44.1.
The race committee can score you, without a hearing, for not finishing only if you don't cross the line according to the definition. They can't give you a DNF if they see you sail the wrong course or touch a finishmark. All they can do is to score you according to your finishing place and then hand in a protest. (RRS A5). If they do score you DNF in that situation, you should request for redress under rule 62.1(a). Because a hearing can only be about the incident described in the form, a PC may not disqualify you for not sailing the course in that redress hearing. You should however consider retiring, because you haven't sailed the course. It may not make any difference in actual points, but is RAF not better then DNF?
Blue flag or shape; This race committee boat is in position at the finishing line.
flag S; The course has been shortened. Rule 32.2 is in effect. If the race committee signals a shortened course (displays flag S with two sounds), the finishing line shall be, (a) at a rounding mark, between the mark and a staff displaying flag S; (b) at a line boats are required to cross at the end of each lap, that line; (c) at a gate, between the gate marks.
Oh, in most races the committee on the finish boat, blows a horn or a whistle when a boat finishes. Be aware that is only a courtesy. Nowhere in the rules it is stated that the RC has to do that. You can still be scored OCS even when when you hear a sound signal on the finishing line.
After this long piece I have a question for you to think about: Just before she crosses the finish line a boat capsizes. Both crew in the water, push the boat - with her masthead in the water - over the line. When does the PC score the boat as finished ?