Friday, 11 July 2008

Timing (in) the rules

In rule 61.1 there's a critical timing in displaying the red flag and hailing protest with the words: "first reasonable opportunity for both".

PC's are asked to give a decision on that timing when the validity of an protest is being investigated. In my opinion there are a couple of criteria that should be considered before deciding this:

  • Where there any safety issues that delayed the hailing or displaying the flag?
  • What was said first?
  • Was the flag available to be displayed immediately?
  • What where the circumstances? I.e. waves, wind strength, type of boats, place of the incident, etc, etc.

After rule 61.1 there is another directly linked timing issue in rule 44.1: How much time does a boat get to decide to take a penalty after a protest has been hailed and a flag has been shown?

The wording in rule 44.1 is a lot less specific: "may take a penalty at the time of the incident" The penalty itself in rule 44.2 may have a specific short time: "... as soon after the incident as possible", but that time only starts after you have decided you may have broken a rule. Something that now has been emphasized by the other boat showing a red flag....

"... at the time of the incident" ?

Well, for sure, not half an hour later on a different leg or just before the finish. But a minute? Or maybe two? Or should it be within seconds?

Can we find a couple of criteria that should be considered when faced with this question? For instance: Is the other boat close enough to recognize that the hailing and red flag are about a specific incident? Is there a good reason for delaying in taking a penalty? Could a boat see and react?

A balance between common sense and the rules.

With a group of three judges the probability they will get that right, is about 85%. That increases to 92% with 5 judges (an International Jury) and even to 98% with 10 people (some appeals committees), but decreases to maybe 80% if there's only one (arbitration). And that is only if the members in all these panels are fairly competent....

Please think about this and give me your opinion:
What would you accept as " at the time of the incident "?


  1. I’m not the man to put forward an opinion in this case, but it gives me the opportunity to tell what happened many, many years ago.
    A competitor showed the protest flag not at the first opportunity, the protest committee I chaired decided. The helmsman of the two men/woman dinghy brought forward these facts.
    - The incident was at a mark. The boat showed the flag when she had completed the whole next leg and had rounded the next mark. That was the first opportunity, the helmsman declared, as:
    - his crew was a young woman and not physical very strong and had her hands full with all what she has to do as the wind and the waves were not easy;
    - the flag was not at hand;
    - it was not safe to do something with the flag;
    - he could not show the flag without loosing places.
    I was taught that the flag must be showed at least in the same leg. In these days it was not possible to take penalties (360’s).
    The helmsman appealed and the decision was that he was right. His arguments made sense.
    The national authority sent the case to the IYRU, now ISAF, and it was printed in the case book. I do not know it is still in the book, as I’m told by someone who had the job to rewrite the cases as the rules were changed, that he did not agree with a lot of the cases, including this one, with the result that some are no longer in the book.
    Adriaan Pels

  2. 1. At a big international regatta a few years ago, my pupil filed a protest that was the similar incident. When my pupil and I, as an interpreter, attended the protest hearing, the decision was invalid and the international Jury explained politely that “first reasonable opportunity” means nearly “immediately” because we were not English speakers.
    I agree on this opinion as usual.

    2. Concrete examples in US Sailing Appeals
    Note: APPEAL 67 only looks like APPEAL 82.

    - APPEAL 46, B did not display her protesting flag, until five minutes after the incident. This was not the “first reasonable opportunity” as required by rule 61.1(a).

    - APPEAL 61, “First reasonable opportunity” means as soon as practicable, not as soon as convenient.
    The maneuvers performed by PW after the incident and before hailing clearly demonstrate that her hail was not made at the first reasonable opportunity. PW’s appeal is denied.

    - APPEAL 67, Failure to display a protest flag during a period of time when some member of the crew is not otherwise occupied is a failure to display it “at the first reasonable opportunity.” If a protest flag is not displayed at the first reasonable opportunity, the protest is invalid and the hearing must be closed.
    Thistle 635 did not display her protest flag “at the first reasonable opportunity,” as required by rule 61.1(a). During the time before the spinnaker was hoisted, two crew members had a reasonable opportunity to display the protest flag, but did not do so. Thistle 635’s appeal is denied.

    - APPEAL 82, A boat is not obligated to give priority to displaying a protest flag at the cost of the crew failing to act to keep the boat under control or delaying a spinnaker set.
    The protest committee found that V-751 hailed within three to five seconds after M-9 hit the mark. Three to five seconds was short enough to justify the conclusion that the hail was made at the first reasonable opportunity after the incident.
    The protest committee also found that V-751 displayed her protest flag between 12 and 20 seconds after M-9’s boom hit the mark. The committee concluded that “reasonable opportunity” in this case was determined in part by the need for all crew members to hike to windward to keep the boat under control and to hoist and set the spinnaker. For these reasons, M-9’s appeal is denied.

  3. Dear Pels;
    I am very interested in Pils’s comment.
    The following is only for reference, but not my opinion.

    I have successive Racing Rules of Sailing books after 1981-84 and some explanations books in my limited library. It would be happy these books to be helpful to look over a little past history of the RRS.

    A. Racing Rules of Sailing books since 1981-84:
    In these RRS books, the words "first reasonable opportunity for both" have never been changed at least since 1981-84.

    B. Explanation Book 1:
    [Paul Elvstrom explains the Yacht Racing Rules 1985, edited by Jonathan Bradbeer]
    "The flag must be flown as soon as it is practicable following incident.”

    C. Explanation Book 2:
    [Eric Twiname The Rules Book 1985-88 International Yacht Racing Rules, edited by Brian Willis] states;
    A protest flag must be flown in the rigging, except in a single hander where it may be waved by the protesting helmsman soon after the incident and waved again on finishing.
    A protest committee is only allowed to hear a protest for which no flag was flown when:
    1. The facts of the incident were not known until after the finish - for example, when a boat is alleged to have touched another and her crew was unaware of any collision at the time. But ignorance of a rule interpretation or a sailing instruction does not rate as a reason for failing to fly a protest flag at the time of an incident (rule 68.2(b), IYRU case 47.)
    2. Seeking redress about some action or omission of the race committee (rule 69).
    3. The boat protesting is dismasted (USYRU case 1 53), capsized or sunk.
    4. A boat sees a collision between two others and neither of the colliding boats goes
    through with a protest, although one or both flew flags soon after the incident (rules
    33.2 and 68.3).

    Otherwise, a protest flag must be flown 'at the first reasonable opportunity' after the incident (rule 68.2(b)). This is vague, but appeal cases have made the intention fairly clear. Two legs after the incident is too late (USYRU case 174), but the flag must be flown 'a reasonably short time' of the incident (USYRU case 3). When a clear statement of the intention to protest is made at the time of the incident, more latitude may be allowed in putting up the flag - although allowing as legitimate a flag which first appeared two miles after the incident (USYRU case 105) is a unique case and should not be quoted as a precedent. In extremely heavy weather, the 'first reasonable opportunity' in a boat which relies primarily for crew weight on stability may well be after the finish.

    D. IYRR 1993-96
    [IYRU Racing Rules 1993-96, Appendix C1 – Protest Committee Procedure] states;
    “When a protest flag has not been properly displayed or a hail not, the protest is refused, except when the protest committee decides that it was impossible for the yacht to have displayed a protest flag because she was, for example, dismasted, capsized or sunk”.

  4. Humm, my recent experience is
    that the protest commitee,
    applied an interpretation of
    "reasonable" that was not
    consistent with the intention
    of this rule, which is to give
    the offending boat oportunity
    to take penalty turns.

    So we are approching a windward
    mark on starbord (two boat
    lengths away), a port tacker
    approches, we hail starboard,
    they do nothing. We have to
    alter course to avoid hitting
    them amid ships, thay tack
    underneath us, we hail
    protest, and we both round the
    mark. We hoist our spinikar as
    soon as we round the mark
    (30sec after hailing protest)
    (takes 2-3min to hoist, we had some problesm with th hoist)
    and immediatly after fly our
    flag after it is set. At this
    stage we are about 1/4 way
    down the leg to the next mark,
    so port tacker had ample time
    to take turns. Our protest was
    deemd invalid because we
    didn't fly the flag before
    putting up the spinikar. Seems
    harsh as its a two person boat
    and the crew and helm were
    busy rounding the mark and
    hoisting the spinikar, we were
    still racing we didn't want to
    loose further ground by not
    getting the spinikar up. cost us the series :-(

  5. The rules writers who make this stuff up toil over perfecting the words, I have seen them at work and they are tedious about it. There is an "intent" they make that doesn't always come across in a common sense way.

    Could they ever write in a common sense way?
    Your protest flag must be wound up on your stay in clear view and ready to pop open in a moments notice. You shall fly your protest flag and hail the word "Protest" right away without delay at the first time of the incident. Without this, you don't get a hearing. There are few exceptions, which would be either an injured crew, damage that required action to prevent further damage, or a grounding.

    Do you know what? The common sense approach is what the rule says, but many just don't get what the rule says, and toil over the intent. Sometimes they work so hard to "save words and keep the rules shore" sometimes I wonder if longer rules that are written with more common sense would be better?


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