Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Serious Damage and Mayhem

In the NYYC Judges Round Table there was a discussion about the definition of "serious damage" in the Racing Rules of Sailing.

From the report:
" In the open session, Rule 44.1 brought the most conversation. Many were interested in discussion on "serious damage". We never reached a consensus but agreed that the term might apply differently to events of different types, where one might consider intrinsic value, and a different event might rely on the ability to continue sailing, or safety issues. Something that needs to be discussed with the OA for guidance prior to an event perhaps."

This is what the IJ Manual says about damage:

11. Damage and Injury
These important words are used in conjunction with four rules and despite their importance; there is very little case law to guide a jury as to their
• Damage
Rule 14(b), penalize a boat for contact that causes damage
• Serious damage
Rule 44.1, taking a penalty for a part 2 infringement
• Physical damage
Rule 62.1(b), granting redress
• Serious damage or serious injury
Rule 60.3, protest brought by a protest committee

11.1 Damage
There is no definition of exactly what constitutes damage; however ISAF Case 19 makes some suggestions:
• was the market value diminished?
• was an item or equipment made less functional?
• was a crew member injured?

11.2 Serious Damage
This is not possible to define but a protest committee should ask:
• was the performance of the boat or crew seriously impaired?
• was the market value of the boat significantly diminished?
• was a crew member seriously injured?

11.3 Physical Damage
An example of physical damage is:
• real damage to either boat or crew
Examples of what is not physical damage are:
• capsize with no damage, causing a loss of places
• rigs or lifelines entangled

11.4 Serious Injury
An example of serious injury might be an injury that required medical attention beyond minor aid but not necessarily hospitalization.

Remember that a PC is free to ask as many questions as they think are needed, but that a conclusion on "damage" always will be subjective. And that's fine, three or five reasonably headed people should be able to come up with a fair assessment.

How about this one?
"Damage to a boat is something a prudent boat owner would address immediately after a race, either by repairing or preventing further deterioration".

Do you have a (serious) damage criteria?


  1. I have always assumed that "damage" for the purposes of Rule 14(b) is any kind of physical damage to the boat, even if quite minor. If the gelcoat of my boat is scratched or nicked then I would consider that as "damage" and expect the boat that caused it to be subject to a penalty under 14(b) if the rule applied to its actions.

    That is a little different from your definition as I would not necessarily repair a nick or scratch that day.

  2. I'm not comfortable with the 'any scratch or nick' suggestion from tillerman.

    If that was the right meaning then RRS 14(b) would be meaningless.

    Damage has to be not trivial or insignificant, or only such that would be upsetting to a particularly 'boat-proud' owner like tillerman.

    Looking at the IJ Manual criteria, I would be inclined to add "or that would cost a significant amount to repair".

    I think perhaps the best way to deal with this would be to leave the RRS as they stand, and, if the particular OA wishes, to insert some amplification of Damage or Serious Damage, possibly by reference to cost of repair.


  3. In Match racing there's a guideline from ISAF which awards half a point penalty only, with a damage for which the repair-cost exceeds $100,-

  4. To me, a minor scratch is not damage.

    A half-metre gouge that penetrates the gelcoat and tears into the underlying fibreglass most likely will not immediately impair the boat's performance, but will require significant effort to repair the boat to maintain its value and prevent further damage (water intrusion, delamination, etc.), and certainly is damage.

    A torn sail that can't be patched up with sail repair tape can be a huge impairment on a boat whose one-design rules don't allow a spare to be carried.

    A hole in the boat is serious damage; even holes above waterline may not stay above waterline if conditions change.

    Broken stanchions can readily qualify as serious damage since they affect the safety of the crew as well as prevent crew from hiking.

    One tricky one for me -- I think any visible damage to standing or some running rigging (shrouds, stays, chain plates, spreaders, spars, etc.) has a high potential to be serious damage. But, it could be very tricky even for a professional rigger to tell whether the rig is in danger of failing. It's rather like checking a person out for whiplash or concussion after a collision. If boats hit hard, I would consider giving the benefit of the doubt to an owner who believes his or her rig has been compromised.

  5. On the issue of 'serious damage', to me this means:
    1. Damage that impairs the seaworthiness of the boat in the existing conditions, or
    2. Damage that impairs the ability of the boat to compete in the race, or
    3. Damage for which the cost of repair is a 'significant' proportion of the value of the boat.

    I would define "damage" as an injury that a reasonably responsible owner would repair. I would include any gelcoat damage as damage under Rule 14, other than insignificant scratches.

  6. I define damage as what happens to your yacht and serious damage as what happens to mine.

  7. I once had a US sailing judge run over my pushpit and tell me that the resulting 3" hole in my deck and broken lifelines would not be defined as serious damage. Of course, I found him incompetent.

  8. ISAF Case 19 is the closest you can get from the case law


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