Thursday, 12 February 2009

LTW Readers Q&A | 18 : "Significantly"

Received a question from Sen about the meaning of a particular word in the rules used in RRS 62.1

Dear Jos;

I always appreciate your great work in LOOK TO WINDWARD.

What is the meaning of “significantly”? Now the Japanese Sailing Federation (JSAF) has been confusing how to translate the word "significantly" into Japanese. I just found a description about the word in your CYA Appeals.
The preamble of the appeals is as follows;

PREFACE1 The Canadian Yachting Association Appeals, Interpretations of the Racing Rules, 2005 - 2008 follows a complete review of all of the cases previously published in the 11 June 2003 edition, and also includes Appeals 92 to 95, which were decided in 2004. Although few Appeals required substantive revision, there are numerous cases of editorial revisions to reflect changes in rule numbering, names or text. For example, rules relating to redress no longer use the term “materially prejudiced” and so wherever possible this term has been replaced by “made significantly worse,” as used in the 2005 - 2008 rules.

Would you please let me know how to understand which is the difference between “materially prejudiced” and “made significantly worse,” with easy English?
I would be very happy to receive your reply. But please don't regard this as an obligation because I know well you are very very ... busy.

Thanks in advance.
Sen Yamaoka

Dear Sen,

The word "significantly" in the redress rule is very subjective!
It is not a fixed quantity, but depends on several variables.

Perhaps a few examples will make things clearer?:
If a boat entitled to redress has only lost 1 place in a fleet of 40, her score is not "made significantly worse". But if that same loss of one place happens in a medal race and she loses a medal because of it, you could argue that one place is "significantly".

Last year the nomination to the Olympics of the American woman windsurfer was about a redress for one place. That Jury found it to be significantly.
In a normal fleet race with nothing else at stake, I would think that "significantly" should be at least 4 or 5 places.

From the dictionaries:
  • fairly large; by a substantial margin;
  • a difference among observed values, deemed large enough to be considered reliable;
  • having or likely to have a major effect; important: a significant change in the tax laws;
  • fairly large in amount or quantity: significant casualties; no significant opposition.

The old wording of "materially prejudiced" had a material component. Something had to be broken. Something that influenced the speed of the boat. That part is now covered by rule 62.1(c) and therefore no longer needed in the wording.

With your permission I’ll make an LTW Q&A about this.

As always, with highest regards,

Dear Jos;

I deeply appreciate your kind and quick reply.
I will be very happy you post my question.
In my district, the plum (Ume) blossoms are at their best now.
This flower smells very sweet.

Thanks again.
With kindest regards;
Sen Yamaoka

So, I had to look up the plum (ume) blossoms,

and found this picture and blogpost: Spring 2008 : Japanese Plum (Ume) Blossoms. Over here, in the frozen north, spring still seems like a million years away.... (sigh)

Thanks for reminding me that spring will arrive here too, Sen!



  1. Not everyone agrees with Jos.

    In my opinion when there is an improper action by the race committee, we should interpret 'significantly' generously in favour of the requester, so that even one place difference should be considered significant.

    We discussed this in Finishing Second

    where I think Sen had some comments to make.

    I made some comments there which I will take the liberty to repeat.

    I have some problems with Jos' approach in considering whether the worsening of a boat's score is significant..

    No doubt Jos would be right in most cases where the PC knows that the race is a Qualification race, and that any redress granted will make no difference to whether or not the boat qualifies, but Adriaan has given an excellent example of where there may be some factor not immediately obvious to the PC that would affect whether the change of the score was 'significant' or not.

    As a general rule, when I sit on PCs we try to avoid paying much attention to the pointscores, so as to avoid being influenced by whether or not a redress is likely to have a 'significant' effect.

    Perhaps more significantly, we should look closely at rule 62.1.

    Rule 62.1 requires that a request for redress shall be based on a claim or possibility that a boat's score has been made significantly worse.

    Whether or not a boat's score has been made worse will nearly always be a simple matter of fact. Whether the worsening is significant is a matter of judgement. If the PC concludes that the boat's score has been made significantly worse, there is no problem, but if the PC is tending towards a conclusion that a boat's score has been made worse, but not significantly, the PC needs to be very careful. To close the gateway on the redress, the PC needs to decide that there is no possibility that the worsening of the boat's score was significant.

    In my experience, a PC will tend to take it for granted that a boat's score has been worsened, and consider the rule 62.1 issues in the following order:

    • whether there is an improper action (or one of the other things listed in in rule 62.1(a) to (d));

    • whether that improper action or other thing caused the boat's score to be worse;

    • whether the boat's score being worse was also caused by any fault of the boats;

    Only if and when the PC concludes that those criteria have been met will the PC turn its mind to how much the score has been made worse, and hence whether or not this may possibly be significant.

    In my opinion, once having decided that every criteria for granting redress has been met except for 'significance', it will probably be safer and more cost-effective for the PC to give redress than to deny redress on the grounds that the worsening could not possibly be significant. My reasons for this are:

    • all the hard work about fact finding, and what caused the worsening of the score has been done

    • having heard all the evidence, the requester will have had it demonstrated that there has been an improper action (or other qualifying cause)

    • not giving redress, is open the PC making a mistake about the possibility of the worsening of the score being significant;

    • the requester will feel a sense of injustice (particularly where the cause is an improper action), if no redress is granted: It seems pretty unfair to say: The RC made a mistake and caused you to lose a place but you cannot have this fixed because your loss was not significant enough.

    In my opinion, a decision to deny redress because an otherwise redressable worsening of a score was not significant could be overturned on appeal, but a decision to grant redress, on the possibility that the worsening may have been significant should be almost appeal-proof

  2. Thanks Jos;
    Spring is just around the corner without "obstructions" and "keep clear boats".

  3. Hi, Jos and Sen:

    The way I always understood "materially prejudiced" is that it means exactly the same as its replacement "made significantly worse". The impression I got was that they wanted to use the language that the average person can understand, rather than "lawyer" language. When one says "That is immaterial." one means "That does not matter." Therefore "material" used as an adjective would indicate that the item being described matters = is important = is significant. Hope this helps.

  4. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

    Look at Henry Reed's poem, Naming of Parts
    Apart from his thoughts on spring, I like the phrase 'Which in our case we have not got'. So useful on so many occasions.


  5. And, if it is one of the last races of a three day regatta with 10 races scheduled or an earlier race, would have some influence on me. How shall we know if a boats score in race 2 will have a significant effect until the 10th race is completed? I agree with Brass but would not hestitate to look at the current scoring results for guidnance when it is a race on the final day of the regatta.

  6. Sen,

    It just occurred to me that a useful way of translating 'significantly' might be 'not trivially'

  7. Thanks everyone;
    Your kind explanation is a great help for me. All of you are my sailing teachers and moreover English teachers.

    The word 'not trivially' is delicate expression, but may be relevant.
    When I served as a Jury at an overseas National Optimist Championship last year, I found an uncommon sentence in the SIs.
    SI no.17 PROTEST AND REQUEST FOR REDNESS says "Protest and requests for redress or reopening shall be delivered there within the protest time limit, accompanied by $30, which is refundable if the protest is found not frivolous.”
    As it was the first time for me to see the word "not frivolous", then I asked the Chair of Jury what your intention was. The chair gave an answer to me that a lot of protests had been delivered from Mothers in the old days!!! In Japan, these mothers are called “Mother on a wharf”. Of course, at the regatta, there were not frivolous protests, all money were refunded.
    I guess the word 'not trivially' is similar to "not frivolous".
    Sen Yamaoka

  8. Here's an example where it was found that a boat's score was 'not significantly' worsened:

  9. I dont think 'trivial' is the same as 'frivolous'.

    In Brass's example, the effect on the boat's score was trivial. I should not say the request for redress was frivolous.

    Trivial means small. Frivolous means silly.

    A frivolous protest might, for example, arise from an argument between parents at an Optimist regatta rather than an incident on the water.



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