Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Look To Windward READERS Q & A | 5

In our posting-series from LTW-blog readers today a case written by Luis. He has some questions about the consequences of a boat being scored OCS under the black-flag rule:

I have seen different decisions about requests from redress from sailors that claim having been compelled by other boat to be over the line under black flag. I would like to share my opinion and receive comments on this subject.

The issue is known: Black flag up, a boat is caught over the line in the last minute and scored BFD. She protests another boat, claiming that this other boat, because of breaking a rule, has compelled her to be over the line, and requests redress.

Frequently the protest committee decides that it was not exclusively due to the other boat’s action that the boat was over the line, and refuses any redress. Some judges will say that she shouldn’t be there, because it is too risky, and will not accept exempting her from responsibility (I have heard this during a hearing). Is there any rule to cover that position? I don’t think so.

So, if the protest committee finds as a fact that, if it were not because of another boat breaking a rule, she would not be over the line, what to do? Rule 64.1(b) is clear: “When, as a consequence of breaking a rule, a boat has compelled another boat to break a rule … the other boat … shall be exonerated” (my underline).
So, she shall be exonerated for having been over the line, thus breaking rule 30.3 - but for that fact only.

Under which conditions a redress should be given?

There may be a few different actions after the incident at the start, both by the boat and by the race committee (RC). I will try to summarize on a table those that occur to me (I assume that there is a provision in the sailing instructions, changing RRS 30.3, that requires that a boat retires immediately if her number is shown on a board at a mark - normally the windward mark - and that failure to do so is scored DNE):

(1) Although I have never seen or heard this happening, I find nothing in the rulebook that prevents a boat from coming back to start after a black flag start.
(2) The “improper action” from the RC was not to allow the boat to race, while she should have been exonerated. If the race is sailed after the hearing the boat should be allowed to start.
(3) The “improper action” from the RC was not to allow the boat to continue racing, while she should have been exonerated. If the race is sailed after the hearing the boat should be allowed to start.

I know that many race officers will be reluctant to accept that following RRS 30.3 or the sailing instructions may be an improper action. In fact, they do not have the power to exonerate de boat that was compelled to break RRS 30.3. I am sympathetic with that point of view but, according to RRS 64.1(b) the boat SHALL be exonerated. If the PC finds that it was only because of another boat’s fault that the boat broke rule 30.3, is there another way out? Is it fair to disqualify a boat by the rules, if the same rules say that she shall be exonerated? In doubt, shouldn’t the benefit go to the sailor?

I would like to hear other judges comments.

Good winds, best regards,
Luis Leal de Faria


  1. Let's look at the case no. 3.

    Boat is OCS, black flagged, returns to the prestart, starts correctly, she is recalled at the mark but continues racing. She files a protest and request for redress.

    PC concludes, that another boat infringed a rule, forcing the OCS boat over the line.

    Why shouldn't she be given redress, her actual scoring?

    One can always count on an average, but why should he, if he sailed better?

  2. Thank you for your comment.
    According to the sailing instructions mentioned, if a boat had her number displayed at a mark, she should retire. Even if her number is wrongly displayed, there is no other option for a boat but to retire, and then request redress if she thinks that her number shouldn't be there. In case 3 the boat chose to keep racing. So, even if she should be exonerated for being over the line, she should not be exonerated from breaking the rule (SI) that required her to retire (she was not compelled to break that rule). No reason to redress, she should be scored DNE.
    Agree that if there is a better option the score for a redress shall not be average points. For instance, if the incident that originates a redress is about 20 metres from the finishing line, a fairer redress should be her position at the time of the incident, even if that meant more points than the average. In case 7 the redress mentioned is "according to her finishing position".
    Good winds


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