Friday, 1 August 2008

Significant advantage

This Friday a post from a mail from Robert Stewart. He has been hard at work to get up to speed for the IJ-Test:



Must thank you for sharing questions and tests from around the world. I have used them to test and expand my writing skills for decisions.

At a recent event in dinghies, there was a protest associated with a mark rounding dealing with RRS 44.1 and that one boat, that broke a rule, took a penalty. The part of the rule that the protestor has issue about, was the part "or gained a significant advantage in the race or series by her breach her penalty shall be to retire".

In other words, the protestor didn't think that the two-turns penalty was enough of a penalty for the infringement

A decision was made and we were all in agreement.

Looking back at the protest, I am not having second thoughts, but to further expanding my understanding of the rules, I have the following question. Definition of "significant" used as an adjective means "fairly large". Well, what is fairly large? 10 places in a fleet of 20 boats? Maybe 10 places in a fleet of 100 boats? I could not find any case.

I have my notes on how the protest was written, but am interested in how others would have written the facts, conclusion and decision.

Last, are there others who are thinking about writing the ISAF IJ exam and are interested in forming a study group?

Thanks again,



Thank you for your mail and question. We all sometime need to make a judgement on what an adjective in the rules means. In requests for redress it is always a factor.

If I take your question and apply it to Match racing - where a red flag penalty is used to increase the "punishment" if someone gains control by breaking a rule - it is already significant when the infringing boat gains one place. Because in fleet racing there are many other factors which determine a finishing place, I don't think that an absolute number can be used - be it 50% or 10 %.

Normally between two boats in a fleet race where one takes a two-turns penalty, that boat will end up behind the infringed boat. As it should be, there's no advantage.
If the infringing boat was in front at the time of the incident and still is front after taking a two turns penalty, I will already start to look for other factors. There is an advantage. Results in the series, which race, last or first? Things like that, which determine the extent of that advantage.

The discussion in the panel should then be about if the advantage is significant or not. Again, something without an absolute value.

If there are more boats involved - say at a mark rounding - and one boat takes room inside infringing rule 18 ending up in front of the pack, doing a two turn penalty and is still in front of most of them, she has gained a significant advantage in my opinion.

In all cases the advantage must directly be related to the breach in the rules, not because later on she happened to choose the right side of the beat and gained five places.


If people are interested in contacting Robert for his study group - something I can recommend to prepare for the IJ-Test - please send me an email and I'll get you in touch with him.


  1. Jos,
    I have a question about including "Results in the series, which race, last or first? Things like that," in the decision about significant advantage. Don't we risk interjecting our interest in the results if we go out side of the race at hand to make a decision about whether the advantage was significant or not. I realize that the competitors will consider these factors when making their tactical decisions, but unless we have some evidence that the foul was deliberate, can we.
    Grant Noel

  2. I think the PC must always consider what would have been the position if the offender had sailed according to the rules. Now that a rule was broken, the penalty should put the offender in a worse position after the incident, not just the position he would have reached by sailing by the rules.

    If this is not done, we encourage sailors to break the rules. So I suggest to evaluate "significant advantage" in this context.

  3. for Noel:
    The PC has no interest in the results. It is in my opinion up to the sailor to give evidence. And result in the series is part of that.
    for bam:
    All things considered, the effect of a two-turn penalty is to disadvantage the offending boat.
    However the rule makers have put "significant" in the wording. We cannot decide on what we think is "fair", we have to follow the rules.
    Your basic premise is however a good starting point.

  4. To All

    What we did was to looked at the positions of the boats leading up incident, thru to the incident. We determined that part of the incident that got the protestor in his position was of his own doing. Next was the determination of advantage being significant. It did not pass the test.

    Pose a question How would write the decision.


  5. for noel:
    In addition to my first reply:
    We must go outside the race at hand if relevant: Rule 62.1 states: ....boat's score in a race or SERIES has, through....


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