Wednesday, 19 March 2008

When the Race Committee Postpones or Abandons a Match.

Received Issue 1 of the ISAF IU newsletter in my mailbox yesterday. In it an explanation about abandonment by the RC in a Match Race. A nice addition to our discussion about the US Sailing Appeal decision about abandonment after finish in a fleet race. You can read the whole newsletter here

When the Race Committee Postpones or Abandons a Match.

At several events last year, the race committee postponed or abandoned a match without consulting with the match umpires. This occurred in situations where something unexpected happened.

One example was an incident where Yellow got entangled with the race committee starting vessel's anchor line as she attempted to enter. Blue entered correctly, but the race committee postponed the match. Blue was understandably quite upset about this, because she was in a very favorable position with Yellow stuck on the committee vessel and likely to pick up one or two penalties before she started - if indeed she would have been able to start at all.

Some have argued that in such a situation, the fairest solution to all involved would be to have Yellow start the re-sail of the match with a penalty. There is at least one example of an International Jury that has made this ruling last year. Since then, there has been a strong pressure upon umpires/protest committees to make the same ruling, when a match is postponed or abandoned in a situation where one of the boats is clearly in a position to win. There have even been situations where sailors have requested to start a re-sail with the lead they had at the time the match got abandoned.

The purpose of this article is to make all umpires aware that the ruling described above is not in accordance with the rules.

For a protest committee to give redress because of a race committee action, there has to be 'an improper action or omission by the race committee' (rule 62.1(a)). Thus the question is whether the race committee abandoning the match in the example above was an improper action or omission? Let us look at the rule that applies:

Rule 27.3 says: 'Before the starting signal, the race committee may for ANY REASON postpone or abandon the race.'

Since the race committee could abandon for any reason, the postponement could not be an improper action. Therefore, a competitor cannot be entitled to redress when the race committee postpones or abandons before the start.

The Racing Rules of Sailing includes a list of circumstances under which a race committee may shorten or abandon a race that has already started. For match racing, those specifications have been replaced by the following standard SI:

RRS 32 is deleted and replaced with: 'After the starting signal the RC may abandon or shorten any match for ANY REASON, after consulting with the match umpires when practical.'

Again, it is within the race committee's jurisdiction to decide when to postpone or abandon a match that has been started. Although there are circumstances where a good race committee would never do that, it can never be judged as an improper action, because they can do it for any reason. Therefore, that decision can never lead to a competitor being given redress.

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