Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Abandoning a Finished race by the RC

I came across an appeal decision on the US Appeals Committee page answering an interpretation requested by the Noroton Yacht Club. Published in February: Question 100

In it the US-Appeals Committee states that it is a proper action for a race committee to abandon a race for one of the reasons listed in rule 32.1(a)-(e) after all boats have finished or retired. There is no need to do this on the water, and if ashore, posting a notice is sufficient. The RC can take this decision provided it first considers “the consequences for all boats in the race or series.” And there's no time limit to take this decision.

So far I don't disagree with this interpretation of the rules. But personally I would need a very powerful reason to ever to this. And doing it after protest time has ended is showing disrespect to the sailors.

The first reasons to abandon a race RRS 32.1(a) trough (d) all are reason which occur during the race. Only in 32.1 (e) there might be a reason which only becomes obvious after the race, like in this appeal question, the appearance of fog and the influence it had on the race. Nevertheless all sailors finished the shortened course. If we go with the "fairness" of the race as an argument to abandon, I would be very reluctant to do so other than based on an argument of several - if not the majority - of the sailors. In my experience there are always one or two sailors who think that a race wasn't fair - sometimes solely based on a their finishing place.

And perhaps a time limit on a decision like this would be needed too. Imagine abandoning the first race of a series on the final day five minutes before price giving. That would constitute an improper action in my opinion, although the rulebook doesn't say it is.
What is your opinion?


  1. I was at an Opti regatta a few years back: it was a drifter with a whisper of air, only 7 of the 90 boats finished in the alloted time.

    We all thought it would / should be abandoned, but it was never called off.

    The next day we arrive at the venue for the 2nd day, and the PRO did abandon the race and the regatta was re-scored while we slept.

    It was the right thing to do in my opinion, and admired them for making the call, which of course had to be agonizing and difficult after the participants were off the water.

    We were all glad the rules allowed this. Used judiciously, it is a good thing.

  2. I believe that the power to abandon a race after it is completed should be used rarely, if at all. If some sailors finish the race, following the RRS and complete within the alloted time limit, later abandonment discards their efforts. If it were 5 out of 50 that were able to do it, that is simply the vagaries of wind and weather which are part of the sport. To abandon to please the majority is wrong, in my opinion.

  3. To me the value of Question 100 is to clarify that a race may be abandoned once completed, i.e. even after all competing boats finished.
    I remember traditional interpretations that lead to keep the scores of the top boats regularly finishing and awarding redress to others, not to harm the points obtained fairly by those.
    I cannot comment in deep on Question 100 case. As written if offer poor facts that could lead to abandon decision.
    We may consider, just as an example, big windshifts at the top mark causing a huge change on relative positions with the RC (usually with short number of control boats)unaware of it until reaching ashore and being told. It could be a case of logical abandon after racing.

  4. It happened at the North American Formula 18 Championship in 2005. The air was lightish for one day of the 5 day Championship and it was held off the shore of Virginia Beach. The SI's said that "there must be 5 knots at all marks of the race course at the start of a race as determined by the race committee". There WERE times where the wind was less than five knots but there was a steady breeze at the start of the race. The race happened. Several people were caught off guard - some not even on the water thinking that a race wouldn't happen. A protest was lodged that based on sailor opinion, there was not 5 knots of breeze on the course. A CLOSED protest hearing was had, the RC contested that he believed he had 5 knots on all corners of the course though he couldn't prove that he had it on the r/c boat because he didn't have a digital wind gauge (mark boats did). The judges abandoned the race and through it out. MUCH calamity resulted as it had a large impact on the results of the regatta. I could go on and on...those of us not party to the protest hearing filed for redress but were unable to accomplish anything. After the event was over, we should have filed for appeal - it was the worst example of regatta judging I have ever witnessed in my life.

  5. I wonder if this rule came out of the controversy over the last race of the 1984 Finn Olympic trials. One of the top contenders did not start the race but still sat all over another contender, John Bertrand, pushing him back far enough so that the first boat won the trials, even with his DNS. After months of argument, higher authority decided that the race organizers were at fault for not abandoning the race as soon as they noticed the violation of the unfair sailing rule. I believe they then were not empowered to cancel the race retroactively. As one of the organizers (who could not be on hand because of a family crisis), I had a stake in this hornet's nest and accepted the ruling as the only solution to the problem. This rule offers another out.


  6. I sailed in the race in question, and the main argument in favor of abandonment seemed to be that a World Championship shouldn't have a two-leg race in it. In principle, I agree with this concept, but I think it needs to be spelled out in the NOR if the RC is going to take the somewhat radical step of abandoning the race after everyone's finished. The maddening thing about this situation was that, though short, it was probably the fairest race we'd sailed up to that point in the regatta. It was personally aggravating because, had the results stood, we would have been leading the event, and we spent some time that evening trying to get the decision reversed. Problem is, all they had to say was "we considered all competitors", and then they can do whatever they want. The amazing thing was that after deciding to abandon the race, the RC took the even more radical step of not resailing the race, so that the 7 or so boats who were black-flagged at the start were no longer carrying a BFD.

  7. I too competed at this event. I believe the RC acted properly. The fog was so thick when I finished, in a cluster of 15 plus boats within 10 seconds, that I would have filed for redress to ask the finish boat how they could properly finish boats on the leading edge of their spinnakers (especially the white ones!). I believe they couldn't because I could barely see my own windex at the masthead, 30 feet up, so how could an RC see the fine edge of a white spinnaker from 3-4 boatlengths away? Also omitted from the race description was the 6-8 knot increase in pressure with the fog from a direction that allowed for a no-jibe run.

    What I personally found eye-opening was that the some comptetitors could look someone in the eye and say that a 25-28 minute, race consiting of two 0.7 mile leg was a "fair" test at a World Championship. I won a race in very light and shifty conditions at this same event. I am glad it was not abandoned, but if it was I wouldn't have been out preaching what a "fair" race it was.

    As far as the not re-sailing the race goes, 1: once it is completed, how can it be re-sailed? It's done. If all boats don't finish, then it is not complete and to me, can be re-sailed, and 2: The BFDs were determined to be partially the RCs fault for starting the race with a line that was never adjusted, despite the RC re-setting the windward mark (and posting such on the course board) in response to a 20-degree right shift. That being said, I was surprised and shocked at the decision to not resail the race.

    In the end, the Champion was the boat that truly deserved it.

    As a potential remedy, I suggest that all Championship events should adopt a paragraph in their SI's / NOR that state, "3 races will constitute a series, and in each, three legs must be completed to constitute a race." or similar. Possibly even add a minimum time limit for races?
    Rick D.

  8. Thank you all for visiting and commenting!

    For Anonymous (1); What about the first seven boats who did manage to finish? If it's that light, the PRO might have used his judgment and abandon before anybody reached the finish. Now the "consequences for all boats considered" was reduced to "the majority is right". It was however a brave decision by the PRO and like you stated, probably not one taken lightly. But in my opinion the weather is seldom a sufficient reason, when some boats have finished.

    For Anonymous (2); I agree completely.

    For Ion: Told by whom? Probably not by the sailor who managed to take advantage of the shift and finish first.

    For Jake: Sound some serious errors were made by the PC. That is always a pity when it has such an impact on the results. Like you stated, appeal is then something you should consider seriously.

    For John Rousmaniere: I understand your dilemma and of course if all fails, this rule might give a way out. I'm not saying it should never be used. The case you describe however, can be dealt with in a protest between the two boats. Sailing was and still is, a self policing sport. And if the RC sees unfair racing or behavior, they too can lodge a protest. That way the other boats can keep their sailed results.

    For Bill L and Rick D: I agree that if something is decided on an “unspoken or unwritten” argument, sailors do not know in what circumstances they have to compete in. Sometimes getting enough races to award the championship, is paramount in the RC mind. Unlike the sailors they have other considerations to think about. Sponsors, Press, Success of an event, Money etc, etc. It shouldn't be a factor for the sailors, I know. But it is. You don't want to pay tenfold of the entry fee.

    The definition of Abandon: A race that a race committee or protest committee abandons is void but may be resailed. Opportune word is "MAY." There's no obligation to do so. But I agree this is taking it to another level. RC are not infallible, a better solution would have been never to have started.

    If you want a restriction on minimum time or number of legs in the SI, talk to your Class association. They are able to tell the RC what they want in a championship. Both are perfectly valid additions, if the sailors in your class agree on it.

  9. In the wholly unanticipated and all but unprecedented event I described, the offending boat did not start the race so was not racing and subject to protest. Only the race organizers and jury could act, but they didn't have the power that this appeal gives them. But it's obvious that this power must be exerted with great care.


  10. First a word of caution: US Sailing appeal decisions are not binding internationally, like ISAF cases are. I hope USSA will make this a case submission to ISAF as this seems to need clarification (and in my opinion, rejection of the US Sailing decision).

    Rule 32 is in section 3 of the RRS, which is titled "Conduct of a race". Once the race commitee is ashore it is no longer conducting a race. Decisions about abandoning, redress etc. are then entirely in the hands of the protest committee.

    An RC that decides after the race that it should have been abandoned, or some other redress action taken, must act under RRS 60.2 (b) and request the PC to consider redress.

    The US Sailing appeal decision opens the potential for total chaos with the RC and the PC both making decisions about the fate of a race after its completion.

  11. Thank you both for commenting.

    For John: I can't say anything about the rules in force in 1984. If this would happen today, the preamble of part 2 would certainly give boats the opportunity to protest against a non racing boat. And, even if a boat has not started according to the definition, for instance by being OCS, she entitled to protest other boats and can be protested by others.

    For bam: Interesting, I'm not yet sure about your restrictions on "Conducting a race." If a RC postpones ashore is she not conducting that race? I'll have to think about this.
    I agree that this appeals decision has the potential to mess things up pretty bad. But if the rules allow it, the PC cannot interfere, they HAVE to follow the rules as they are written, not as they think they should be or want to be.. And I do have a high opinion the experts in the USA appeal committee.

  12. As to the F18 North Americans, I feel that I need to respond to Jake, since I was on the protest committee. First of all, it was the third day, not the first day. The race did not get stated until the middle of the afternoon due to no air. Also, the RC shortened the race because what wind there was was dying. Yes, the hearing, involving some seven parties as well as the RC was CLOSED as are most protest hearings. We took testimony from all parties as well as around a half dozen witnesses. The decision was based on the testimony of all of the people we heard and the fact that the only wind reading that was on race officer's tape was 4.5 kts plus his statement when he was asked what he determined the wind speed to be, he stated that he "honestly did not know". The problem was when he said he did not know, then that meant that the RC did not determine the wind strength as required by the SI's and, consequently, it left the decision up to us. All three of us really did believe, from the testimony, that the wind was probably not 5 kts. at the start. If the race officer had stated that he determined that the wind was 5 kts. at the start, then he would have met the requirements of the SI's and the case would have been closed. The SI's did not state how he was to make the determination. Also, the jury has to make a decision that we think will stand up under appeal. Remember, the thing that juries do is take testimony from witnesses on both sides and, from that testimony, try to determine the facts. The facts we determined were: there was not 5 kts at the start and the finishing places of the protestors were made substantially worse through no fault of their own. Using that conclusion and US Sailing Appeal 54 as a guide, we decided to abandon the race. The next day, around 20 of the other competitors filed for redress. That evening we held an OPEN hearing and let everyone speak their mind. The Race Officer also spoke, and when asked by a member of the protest committee, what he determined the wind speed to be at the start, he again replyed he "honestly did not know". After deliberating about another hour, we reached the same conclusion we did the night before. Later, that night, since the forecast was for futher light air, I assisted the Race Officer in writing a change to the SI's eliminating the wind speed requirement and letting him be the sole determing factor as whether to race or not. There were nine more races sailed, for a 14 race regatta. Do the math, the abandoned race had little or no effect on the outcome. The winner, who got to go to the Worlds, won by 51 points.

  13. I won that Sonar World Champion race in case 100 and was very disappointed that the PRO abandoned afterwards as it was the only Ablebody World Championship reqatta I ever attended, and to have won a race would be a fond memory. However as a certified US sailing judge and PRO, I look back at the race and feel "taking into account all competitors, a 2 leg race with the fog comimg in just after I finished created an unfair race and it was right to abandoned it later. Its not the wind shift or the new wind that should even be a factor. Its the fog that made the finish line imposible to find for many boats. The PRO should have reasoned that a World Championship race should not be shortened to 2 legs, no mater what. Abandon at the leeward mark or let us round the leeward mark and abandon when the fog makes everything chaotic.

  14. "Rule 32 is in section 3 of the RRS, which is titled 'Conduct of a race'. Once the race commitee is ashore it is no longer conducting a race. Decisions about abandoning, redress etc. are then entirely in the hands of the protest committee"

    Titles in the RRS are not rules by definition so I'm not sure if this line of argument is valid.

  15. hearing filed for redress but were unable to accomplish anything. After the event was over, we should have filed for appeal - it was the worst example of regatta judging I have ever witnessed in my life.


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