Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Knowingly breaking a rule

or - When to apply the basic principle? -
Guest Post by Luis Leal de Faria

Here is a thought that I would like to share with you and your readers:

In the same report that you mention in your post "Informing the boat within the time limit?" (06 September 2008), there is another issue which for me, is of utmost importance: just at the first paragraph we can read "There was concern about the extent to which sailors; particularly in the 420 class were knowingly infringing rule 31.2, and part 2 rules without taking penalties".

One may say that society is no longer as it was, sailors behavior is no longer as it was and all that bla bla, but it is my opinion that we, judges, mainly international judges, share a great deal of responsibility in that situation.

the Basic Principle "Sportsmanship and the Rules"

From the very first time that I was a member of an International Jury, at that time only as a national judge, I was surprised to see how reluctant judges are in applying the appropriate rules and penalties to boats who, being aware of having broken a rule, did nothing about it. Formerly there was Fundamental Rule D, now we have the Basic Principle "Sportsmanship and the Rules" and rule 2. The result in infringing either former Fundamental Rule D or current rule 2 is the same: DNE (formerly DND).

However, very seldom I see these rules applied. Also very seldom I hear the question "why didn't you take a penalty or retire?" or "did you know that you broke a rule?". More surprisingly to me, also very seldom a penalty of DNE is applied, even after the Jury knows that the competitor was aware of having broken a rule. It is also very rare that I hear any mention of the Basic Principle, the very first rule in the rulebook. However, it is not so uncommon to hear judges complaining of this sort of behavior from sailors.

As a competitor, I once protested a boat for breaking a basic rule (then rule 36, now rule10) and, both in the protest form and at the hearing, I mentioned the infringement of Fundamental Rule D. The protestee acknowledged being aware of the infringement at the time of the incident and not having taken a penalty nor retired, but even though the protest committee did not apply Fundamental Rule D.

Apply rule 2 more often....

If Protest Committees and, mainly International Juries, who are supposed to apply and enforce the rules above everybody else in the sport, do not apply them, why would the sailors care to apply them? It is my strong belief that if we, judges, would apply rule 2 more often to competitors who, being aware of having broken a rule, did not take a penalty nor retired from the race, certainly that sort of attitude would be discouraged and much less common. Sailing would certainly benefit from that.

Your comments are invited.


  1. Amen to that! Keep up the good work reminding sailors of the rules and the importance of sportsmanship, a great part of the tradition of sailing. I've come up against a few lately who could use an education.

  2. I think if a competitors knows to have infringed a rule he MUST be exonerate or retire himself with only one exeption (another boat oblijed him to ingringe and wants to protest).
    In all the other cases Rule 2 apply.

  3. I am constantly amazed at the number of competitors, even at club level, that think that they do not need to bother about the "fair sailing" and "principles of good sportsmanship" that apply to our sport... I know I am an idealist, and perhaps out of touch with his modern world, but if we cannot engage in a SPORT and tell the truth, and live (and "die") by the rules, then where are we heading, and why are we doing this ? Keep up the hard work of enforcing the rules, and bringing miscreants to account. Otherwise, we, and the sport we love, are lost.

  4. Many youth sailors are not being taught The Basic Principle. They all know that starboard has right of way as does the leeward boat (although they often are not sure which one they are!). The real problem is the culture of "if nobody catches foul" and some coaches are encouraging this. Coach Butch Minson said it far better than I. His e-mail was directed at Intercollegiate Sailors, but applies to all...

    Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 17:23:45 -0500
    Subject: [NEISA] Basic Principle of The Racing Rules Of Sailing

    I am Butch Minson and coach sailing for Maine Maritime Academy.
    At many regattas, I have observed competitors breaking rules ranging from major collisions to minor alterations of course. The majority of the time,no competitor acknowledges the fouls, observed or committed, by taking a penalty, retiring, or protesting. This damages college sailing as a sport
    and presents a dilemma to anyone participating as a skipper, crew or team as a whole. There are many competitors gaining an advantage by breaking rules
    at present, which poses an ethical question for the other competitors.
    Should they compromise their ethics by breaking the rules (and thus gain or keep pace), or risk becoming an outcast for frequently protesting the competitors breaking the rules?

    To eliminate this dilemma, all competitors must understand how rules are enforced.

    When a competitor breaks a rule, what should happen? The BASIC PRINCIPLE (RRS page 2) says "A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when
    competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty or retire." It does not say to only take a penalty if a boat hails "protest" or threatens to file the protest.

    What should happen if the competitor does not take a penalty or retire? The BASIC PRINCIPLE (RRS page 2) says "Competitors in the sport of sailing are
    governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce." RRS defines protest as "an allegation made under rule 61.2 by a boat, a race committee or a protest committee that a boat has broken a rule." The
    competitors involved in or observing the rule violation are expected to lodge a valid protest to enforce the rule. Rules are enforced by a Protest Committee. ICSA PR 28 says "The Jury shall take such evidence, as it deems
    necessary to determine the facts." Competitors observing the rule violation are expected to be available to give evidence as witnesses. RRS 64.1 (a)says "When the protest committee decides that a boat that is a party to the
    protest hearing has broken a rule, it shall disqualify her unless some other penalty applies."

    What if a competitor does not want to protest or witness? ICSA PR Part 1 says "All regattas within the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association of North America (ICSA) shall be governed by the Racing Rules of Sailing, 2001-2004
    (RRS) as promulgated by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and adopted by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING) and the Prescriptions of US SAILING, except as any of these are changed herein." RRS 3 says "By participating in a race conducted under these racing rules,
    each competitor and boat owner agrees (a) to be governed by the rules;" If you race, you are expected to enforce the rules by protesting and/or witnessing.

    What can we do to eliminate this dilemma from ICSA sailing?

    Race Committee: Announce at the skippers meeting "any competitor breaking rules shall promptly take a penalty or retire." Use the eyes of the entire fleet to find violations of the rules. Announce "all competitors shall lodge a valid protest (or witness) whenever a competitor breaks a rule and does not take a penalty or retire." Do not in anyway discourage protests or infer that a competitor that protests is creating the problem. The problem
    is the presence of competitors who break rules and do not take a penalty or retire. Enforce all rules by penalizing all competitors who break rule(s)
    and do not take a penalty or retire.

    Coaches: Teach compliance with all rules. This includes the Basic
    Principle (competitors are expected to take a penalty or retire when breaking rules and enforce the rules by protesting and witnessing). Do not
    tolerate violations of any rule.

    Competitors: follow the Basic Principle - take a penalty or retire every time you violate a rule and lodge a valid protest for all rule violation incidents involving you. Immediately ask boats around the incident to be
    witnesses. If a competitor asks you to witness, give evidence at the hearing regardless of which competitors are involved. If you do not want to protest or witness, then don't race.

    Rules violations will diminish drastically if competitors understand that every other competitor will lodge a valid protest whenever any rule is

    Sail smart, sail clean,
    Butch Minson

  5. 1. I, and probably my judge colleagues, think that Rule 2 is different from other rules and given special treatment. I don’t have deep knowledge of English, but the words ‘may’, ‘only if’ and ‘clearly’ in Rule 2 must be meaningful. Therefore the applying to Rule 2 requires circumspection.  

    2. "Did you know that you broke a rule?" or "Why didn't you take a penalty or retire?" is very important question upon the start of protest hearing. It is also my favorite phrase.

    3. We judges have to be aware that a lot of sailors, especially not veteran or young sailors, don’t know the RRS and don’t want to understand the RRS. There is every reason not to do so, because the RRS is too complicated. For instance, rule books of football, rugby football and baseball, etc are simple and clear. (These are my fun sports after Sailing.)
    For that reason, sailors always are skeptical about the RRS and don’t want admit their mistake for themselves. That is to say, it would be difficult for sailors to understand what the principles of sportsmanship and fair play are.
    Sen Yamaoka

  6. I am still working regularly as a sailing coach for junior sailors and college students. And then I often use the following ‘Ten Racing Rule Commandments’ as a teaching material. And highly recommend;
    - If you have broken a rule, take a penalty
    - It is better to give way than to spend hours in a protest room.

    ISAF WAVES Dec. 14, 2001

    Racing Rules for Sailors:

    In talking with Ding Schoonmaker, and others we has often expressed
    ISAF's concerns that the Racing Rules are too complex for those sailors who love the sport and compete just for the shear enjoyment of the game at home.
    In many sports there are simple rules for the recreational competitor as distinct from the Elite International Competitors. Sailing should do the same.
    I stood up and cheered when I saw the clear set of simple rules proposed by Don Becker, US Sailing Senior Judge, who challenges us all by offering the following:
    Ten Racing Rule Commandments:
    1) Port keeps clear of starboard.
    2) Windward keeps clear of leeward
    3) The boat astern keeps clear of the boat ahead.
    4) A boat Tacking or Jibing keeps clear of one that is not.
    5) Avoid collisions. Racing Rules are defensive to prevent collisions not offensive racing tactics.
    6) If you gain right of way or change course, give the other boat time to keep clear.
    7) The inside boat(s) at two boat lengths from the mark is entitled to room to round the mark.
    8) A boat that is backing up or not racing keeps clear.
    9) If you have violated a rule, take a penalty
    10) It is better to give way than to spend hours in a protest room.

    I believe that ISAF/MNA's should publish these rules as the broad base Commandments and also Sailing Clubs should also endorse these truly simple rules to encourage regional racing.
    Sailing is a participatory sport run by volunteers and this sure encourages those who love to go to sea to race and then return for good fellowship with their competitors.
    The best day you can have in your life is two great races, back to the club to smile a lot, rehash the race and join together with other sailors who will become your lifelong friends.

    Compliments of the Season!!
    Paul Henderson
    President ISAF

    Sen Yamaoka

  7. Its easy to see why we have this attitude. The first thing a Protest Committee does is look for any excuse not to hear the protest. "Flag not displayed in 2 seconds flat?", "Right we're not hearing the protest" and so on. The whole message is the fine detail of how to submit a protest is far more important than whether a significant rule breach occurred.

    Its hardly suprising everyone has got the message that protests are an irritation that is firmly discouraged and breaches of Part 2 aren't important. Its sent out every time you go into a hearing.

  8. I'm not disagreeing with the importance of sportsmanship, but I think there are two sides, as well, in some instances. Now, if I'm the only boat around, and hit a mark, or something, then there's no question I need to make the appropriate turns. But while racing, during the interaction between boats -- at least at the club level -- there are some infractions that are, I'd say, waivable. Came too close? Not proper course? Had to tack, or not? Let's just get on with the race. Other sports, rugby and soccer, for example, include an "advantage rule" where technical violations give way to keeping the game going where there is no advantage. So I'd submit that sportmanship includes just keep racing and an understanding that honest competitors may well not protest in the interest of staying out of the protest hearing and just doing some sailing. I don't see it as bad sportsmanship if a competitor doesn't fly the flag on an arguable call, and we all just keep racing.


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