Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Protests vs Prize Giving; LTW Readers Q&A | 8

A dilemma faced by many protest committees: The time it takes to do proper hearings and the scheduled prize giving. I received a readers question from Steven about this issue. He wrote me in an email:


Greetings from Barbados.

My name is Steven Kern, first president of the Grenada Sailing Association and National Judge for Grenada, residing now in Barbados and also member of the Barbados Sailing Association. The attached is a report to RC of a protest that occurred at Bequia Easter Regatta 2008.

The Race Committee (RC) were concerned that they were not called to the protest and more concerned that we conducted the protest which in doing so slightly delayed their last day’s prize giving ceremony.

Can you give us your thoughts on the need to call in RC as we had their report, i.e. no flag, and our decision to deem the protest valid on the word of protestor and a witness? Also input on writing facts found would be welcome.

Steven Kern

Bequia Easter Regatta 2008 Protest # 3 Padig vs Category 5

Protest within time limit – Yes

Protest valid – Yes

Protestor and witness acknowledged hail and flag at first reasonable opportunity. Protestor is bound by 61.1(a) and has an obligation to display the flag until she is no longer racing. There is no obligation on the Protestor to ensure that the R/C sees or acknowledges the flag at the finish. Protestor is “requested” to notify R/C of her intention to protest under SI 17.2 but this request is not an obligation or requirement. The jury is bound by 63.5 and the Protestor having met all the requirements, the protest is valid and the hearing shall be continued.

Notes: Jury found Protestor satisfied 61.1(a) and this was supported by a witness on the race course. This evidence was not disputed by the protestee. Jury having earlier called R/C received verbal report that R/C did not record the sighting of any protest flags at the finish of the race in question, and therefore Jury was well aware of R/C’s position.

Facts Found:

On the beat to the windward mark, Padig on port tack was sailing close hauled below the port lay line and was on a converging course with Category 5 on starboard tack.

At approximately 3 boat lengths to the mark, Category 5 on starboard tack, slightly above the starboard lay line, with boat speed of 7.5 knots, bore down to round the mark and became overlapped outside of Padig as the boats entered the 2 boat length zone.

Padig completed her tack onto starboard approximately 1/3 of a boat length clear ahead and a ¼ boat length to leeward of Category 5. Padig now close hauled with boat speed of 4 knots became overlapped inside of Category 5 as the boats entered the 2 boat length zone.

At 1 boat length to the mark Padig the slower boat now fully overlapped inside Category 5 began to luff to round the mark.

Category 5 responded to Padig’s luff and sailing faster broke the overlap and proceeded to bear away to set spinnaker for the next leg of the course.

No contact was made. Both boats rounded the mark and proceeded on the next leg of the course.

Conclusions and Rules that apply:

Category 5 outside overlapped boat at the zone continued to give Padig room to round the mark as obliged in Rule 18.2 (b). Padig having slowed through her luff and the cover from the overtaking boat, had to further luff above close hauled to round the mark.


Protest dismissed – No rules were broken and scoring as per R/C stands.


Who are the parties?

The RC is not a party to this hearing, only Padig and Category 5 are. Only parties have the right to be present throughout the hearing of all the evidence; RRS 63.2(a)

The RC can be a witness. But only if she is called to be so, by one of the parties or by the PC. If called as a witness by one of the parties, for instance by Category 5 to dispute the validity, then she must be heard; RRS 63.6 and M3.2 (fourth bullet). A party however is not obligated to call any witness. It is their decision.

The PC may also call a witness. In this case on validity, the obligations of the RC are dictated by RRS 63.5:

"At the beginning of the hearing the protest committee shall decide whether all requirements for the protest or request for redress have been met, after first taking any evidence it considers necessary."

There is no obligation to call any witness, the PC decides what it considers necessary to determine the validity. Since the fact that a protest flag was not recorded at the finish was already known, I see no need to repeat that in the hearing, save for the fact that parties might want to question the PC about that issue. But they are responsible themselves as well. Category 5 could have asked the PC as a witness to come to the hearing.

Incontrovertible Sailing Instructions?

Then there are the SI, specifically SI 17.2. I don't have the SI and can't read them on this point, but the PC did and they found that wording did not demand that the red flag was to been seen or acknowledged by the RC at the finish. If the RC want to make this a rule that must be adhered to, the wording in the SI should reflect that incontrovertible.

After the decision the RC could have filed a request for redress according to RRS 60.3(b) and then (as a party) try to convince the PC that they might have made an error interpreting SI 17.2.

Delay in the time of the prize giving is always a contended point between PC and RC. First of all the RC should allow the time after the last race to conduct one or two hearings in planning the prize giving ceremony. Protests are part of the regatta and not something bothersome to get rid off. They have a definite impact on standings, so should be part of the schedule.

Finish time of the last boat + protest time limit + 2 x 20 minutes for hearings = time to schedule prize giving. I can understand that the PC conduct the hearings, which have an impact on the prizes, first. After these have been decided, the prize giving can be held, with the PC continuing with other protests/boats.

The PC should make every effort to conduct the hearing in an efficient and timely manner. They can try to call the parties before end of protest time and do a hearing asap if everybody can attend. They don't have to wait, if all the evidence can be presented and witnesses heard.

For the sake of time the PC also may just give a decision and any penalties imposed. The other requirements of RRS 65.1, i.e. the facts found, the applicable rules and the reasons for it, can be done later. Promptly does not mean immediately.

Facts Found on validity should be included

I'm impressed by this PC because they have written down all the facts needed to come to a decision about validity. Something most PC forget to do. Especially when there's a contention about validity, it should always be part of the written protest. I would have put that part also in Facts Found and in the Decision, but that is just format.

The facts found about the actual incident are clear and precise enough to make a diagram. Only two minor points:

one: "....became overlapped the boats entered the 2 boat length zone." is a little ambivalent. Either they were overlapped, or they were not.

two: "Padig having slowed through her luff and the cover from the overtaking boat, had to further luff above close hauled to round the mark."
This does not need to be put in the conclusion. You could add it in the facts, but rules-wise it has no impact. Once Padig completed her tack outside the zone and was r-o-w inside overlapped boat, she could go head-to-wind to round the mark if that was what was needed.

Luffing above close hauled is something you would use for a situation involving rule 18.3 and then only for the outside boat.... to indicate that the tacking inside boat broke that rule.

Different conclusion

I have more trouble with the conclusion. From the moment Padig completed her tack outside the two length zone she became right-of-way clear ahead boat. She fulfilled her obligations to keep clear while tacking under rule 13 and she gave room to Category 5 to keep clear, once she completed her tack, under rule 15.

She was thereafter r.o.w. boat. First under rule 12 and then rule 11. She was not only entitled to room, no, Category 5 had to keep clear during the whole rounding. Rule 18 only applies when that rule conflicts with the basic r-o-w rules and in this case it does not.

So I would have written in the conclusion:
Category 5 to windward kept clear of Padig to leeward during the mark rounding. (RRS 11) No rules broken.
It however does not make any difference in the decision, protest dismissed.

Thank you Steven, for bringing this protest to everybody's attention. I hope my observation are of use to you, but feel free to disagree. The comment button is just below.


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