Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Look To Windward Readers Q&A | 3

A readers question from Andraz from Slovenia:

A boat loses her Y-flag during the pre-start. The umpires recover the floating flag. What now? :)

1/ Are they supposed to return it to the racing boat?
2/ Can the boat still protest without a flag?

My opinions are:

1/ No, the umpires must not interfere with the boats racing.
2/ The umpires should regard other actions of the crew to consider it as a valid protest against the other boats actions, such as hailing "protest" or flying a different flag, when the boats interact closely.

Competing in a match race and not be able to protest seems somewhat useless to me. Also, losing the Y-flag in the sea is not really "unseamanlike" handling of the boat, maybe it wasn't a fault on your own to lose the flag...

What do you suggest? Thank you for your time!
Regards, Andraz.

I mailed Andraz back. We agreed on putting it on the blog for all to consider.
Some of our first thoughts on the issue:
  • Is handing back the flag outside help? (RRS 41)
  • The possession of a Yankee - flag has no influence on the speed of the boat, so why not?
  • What if it wasn't a flag, but a spinnaker pole or a winch handle, would you then give it back?
  • The umpire manual says, the umpires should be of minimum disturbance to the competitors, also taking into regard the sound of the engine. Giving it back can have an disruptive influence.
  • Would you accept a call without a Yankee flag? I.e. shouting protest and waiving another flag?
  • Should the competitor avoid interaction with the other boat, if she is unable to protest?
Let us know your opinion.


  1. Option 1, boat pulls their spare Yankee flag out and races on.

    Option 2, boat doesn't have a spare Yankee flag, practice I've seen in Sydney is umpires award the next two penalties followed by a black flag against the boat without the Yankee flag.

    Of course you don't hand the flag back during the race (but you do hand it back afterwards, because round here losing a Y Flag forfeits $50 damage deposit).

    You don't accept anything but a Y Flag for a protest. Rule C6.1(a) does NOT say "clearly displaying flag Y or if flag Y is lost overboard something else ...".

    A match racer without a Yankee flag is like an umpire without a whistle.


  2. Suppose two boats get into a situation, the keep-clear boat infringes a rule, ROW boat must avoid the contact, in the unseamanlike action the flag is lost.

    This way the boat cannot protest anymore. She loses a "weapon".
    Which means, she cannot "fight" any more. So in reality there is no match any more.

    Is she entitled to redress, if she does not win the match? If she loses qualification for next stage of the event for only one point?

  3. Consider this:

    Rule C6.1(a) is quite clear: a boat cannot protest without a Y flag.

    What if a boat loses a Y flag overboard, and it sinks, or is otherwise not recovered by umpires or anybody else.

    No-one can give her a new Y flag, just as no-one can come alongside and repair a breakdown during a race (rule 41).

    Likewise, it would break rule 41 if a coach-boat picked up the Y flag and gave it to the competitor.

    Therefore, why would one think that a boat that was lucky enough to have her lost Y flag picked up by an umpire should be allowed to have it handed back?

    Andraz said:

    "Suppose two boats get into a situation, the keep-clear boat infringes a rule, ROW boat must avoid the contact, in the unseamanlike action the flag is lost."

    Analysing this:

    Was the loss of the Y flag caused by the give way boat breaking a rule of part 2 (rule 62.1(b)? Was it secured by its lanyard? Just dropping it overboard in the flurry of a contact situation isn't IMHO 'caused' by the give way boat's actions.

    Of course if, for example, the crew of give way boat, grabbed the other boat's Y flag and threw it away, I'd go to black flag (rules C8.3(c) and C5.4)

    So if the loss was 'caused' by the give way boat's breaking a Part 2 rule (although I can't really imagine how this might happen), the next question is was there injury or physical damage? (rule 62.1(b))

    I suppose that if the Y flag was properly tied in with a lanyard, and it became entangled in the other boat and the lanyard broke, then the broken lanyard was physical damage. I suppose that if crew was holding the Y flag up and it was knocked from his or her hand by the other boat, there might by injury.

    But what then? The boat's remedy is to request redress (rule 62). There is no on-water remedy.

    In this case, whether the boat red flags for redress, or on observing the incident (loss caused by give way boat) umpires might suggest to the Race Committee that the match should be abandoned and resailed. They should do nothing else.

    Why is Andraz talking about unseamanlike actions?

    There is no rule requiring boats to sail in a seamanlike way. The only mention of "seamanlike" in the rules is in the definition of "room" which refers to a hypothetical boat manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way to describe what room is required.


  4. Dear Andraz,

    In my opinion the umpire is not allowed to even touch the floating flag. It is an improper action of the race committee. Doing so, he deprives the crew of the boat of the possibility to pick up the flag.

    Greetings, Adriaan.

    New question. A boat loses her Y-flag (or a spinnaker pole) during the pre-start. But she has a spare one aboard and let the lost flag (or pole) in the water. What now?

  5. Brass, I don't understand Option 2.
    "boat doesn't have a spare Yankee flag, practice I've seen in Sydney is umpires award the next two penalties followed by a black flag against the boat without the Yankee flag."

    What rule does a boat break by not having a Yankee flag?

  6. A boat doesn't break any rule by not having a Y flag, but the other boat is entitled to attack them, they cannot protest to defend themselves so the other boat will rapidly draw two fouls and a third.

    Looking at Andraz' remark about losing their 'weapon', in fencing, if a competitor drops their foil, they're defeated, so it's not to be expected that in a contest a competitor should be given a special allowance to pick up a dropped 'weapon'.

  7. In response to Adriaan, in my (limited) experience, a boat that has dropped their Y flag is not practically able to recover it, and shows no signs of trying to do so.

    IF a boat was trying to recover the flag and the umpires interfered, then I think there might be a problem, but otherwise I don't think there is.

    Secondly, and more technically, Adriaan refers to an improper action by the race committee, so obviously, redress under rule 62.1(a) is contemplated.

    Rule 62.1(a) covers an improper action ro omission of the race committee, protest committee or organising authority.

    Rule 88.2(b) requires the OA to "appoint a race committee adn when appropriate, appoint a protest committee and umpires". This means that umpires are NOT part of the race committee. An improper action by umpires is not a grounds for redress under rule 62.1(a). This is consistent with the general approach in Appendix C that a boat may not challenge an umpire decision (which, of course, puts a great burden on umpires to do the right thing).

    Even if a rule 62.1 redress was heard, redress is dependent on a boat's score being made worse by an improper action, AND THROUGH NO FAULT OF HER OWN: the whole incident was caused by the boat dropping the flag: No redress.

    As to the dropped spinnaker pole, rule 47 does NOT require a boat to finish with the same equipment she started with. Rule 45 requires her to try to recover an anchor, but not any other equipment. Rule 51 requires her to not move any ballast. The general rule is that a boat may accidentally lose something overboard. Unless there was some class rule that required her to carry a spinnaker pole (that would include a rule requiring a boat to carry a spinnaker pole in a particular position) (not that I have ever seen a rule like this) a boat breaks no rule by leaving a pole overboard.


  8. I don't agree with this statment by Brass: "the other boat is entitled to attack them, they cannot protest to defend themselves so the other boat will rapidly draw two fouls and a third."
    The boat that lost the flag may not protest, but only if she infringes a rule she will be penalized. So, if she is carefull enough and sails better than her opponent she still may win the match. On the other hand, when the other boat protests she may be the one to be penalized, so the boat that lost the flag still keeps her chances.

  9. Dear Brass,
    The opinion of the umpire whether the boat is able to recover the flag, or shows signs of trying to do so, does not matter. The boat always can say "it was my intention but you stole my flag". Being a part of the race committee or not, grounds for redress or not, it is still an improper action of the umpire. (Or would you say it is a proper action?)
    As it was during the pre-start, the race committee should have postponed the start or given a general recall.
    The whole problem started when the umpires recovered the floating flag – losing the flag did not cause a rule problem. It is not the umpires job and they should not bring themselves in a disputable position.
    And besides all this, in my book there is a rule saying: ... The protest committee may decide to consider giving redress in such circumstances (on a claim that an action by an official boat was improper) but only if it believes that the official boat, including an umpire boat, may have seriously interfered with a competing boat. So, jury’s are not immune, they can do wrong.

  10. Adriaan, in two cases when a boat lost her Y flag, she didn't try to pick it up, even if the flag was floating and they had no spare...

    I agree with Luislf about penalties.

    I agree with Brass regarding the redress, providing the redress would be (maybe) justified if the flag was lost as a consequence of the other boat infringing a rule.

    It is not forbidden for the crew members to carry their own Y flags, so why not use it, if they have a spare.

    As far as the spinnaker pole goes, my thoughts were concentrated about the idea of returning it to the boat, if it fell overboard, unattached. No, I wouldn't do that.

    If the boat has a spare pole, she can use it, providing the other boat also has two poles (the spare pole is listed as part of the equipment on both boats).

    If the two Y flags are provided by the OA, then both boats should have two of them.

    As a general principle, boats should be the same regarding the equipment and possibilities they offer.

  11. Jos, when can we read your comment?

  12. I've shared the question with two other IU on a recent MR and their response was the following:

    - an umpire shouldn't touch the floating flag, until the match is finished or abandoned
    - RC should take no action regarding the situation (abandonment, postponment) because of the lost flag
    - lost flag is hardly subject for redress
    - boat cannot protest without the Y flag

    Hence, skilled teams have their own Y flags onboard.


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