Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Last of the Royal Snooty Nose

A guest post by Brass.

Bad Manners at the Royal Snooty Nose presented a simple rule 69 problem, and Mike B gave a very complete answer at Snooty Nose 2.

Thank you Jos for drawing attention to the recently published RYA Misconduct Guidance.

People other than RYA members might find the old RYA guidance material more succinct and containing less RYA procedural matter that may not apply elsewhere.

Here are some notes, highlighting the things I had in mind when I wrote the problem.

Questions were:
Question 1: What do you do next?
Question 2:  Supposing the PC has decided to call a rule 69 hearing:
  1. Analyze the allegations and rule 69.1 and list what will need to be proved if the PC is to penalize Brass Spiderman.
  2. Draft the written information that the PC is required to give to Brass Spiderman under rule 69.1(a).
What do you do before calling a hearing?

There were two Questions. The first one was 'What do you do next after showing the complaint to other protest committee members?'

The key issue here is that the protest committee, as a group must make a decision whether or not to call a hearing, before taking any further action, such as giving a notice to a competitor. It might help you to clarify issues if you do the analysis of what needs to be proved, and perhaps prepare a draft notice before you have that meeting, but you must not pre-empt the decisions of you fellow protest committee members about whether or not to call a hearing. As we saw, if Mike B and I had been on the protest committee we would have had different opinions about whether to call a hearing or not.

There was a little side issue in the first question, which Mike B picked up, which was the effect of one of the protest committee members being the son of the Commodore. Clearly he is an interested party and should be asked to remove himself from the protest committee for all considerations of this matter. Fortunately in this case, there are three protest committee members still left, so there is no problem. If you had less than three protest committee members left, it would be necessary to find a third member for any hearing, but I think you could safely proceed to make the preliminary decision whether or not to call a hearing with just two members.

Analyse the elements that need to be proved

Once you have decided to call a hearing, it will be necessary to give a written notice to the competitor, but before you do that, you must get clear in your mind, so that you can include proper details in the notice, what it is that the competitor is alleged to have done, and how that may have been a gross breach of a rule, good manners or sportsmanship, or may have brought the sport into disrepute, and exactly which one or more of these breaches are alleged.

Mike B quite rightly listed three elements

  1. Was a competitor
  2. Was during the event
  3. Had committed an actionable breach. Rule, Good Manners or Sportsmanship, or sport into disrepute.

Mike also listed some other important considerations, but I don't think these are things that the protest committee needs to seek proof of.

Note that if the incident had not been at the event venue and during the event, it would be necessary to prove that the incident was sufficiently associated or connected with the event to be subject to a rule 69 hearing by the protest committee. Guidance on this is contained in the RYA Misconduct Guidance, Section 8.

I would go a bit further than Mike on the third element.

Firstly you must identify which one of these it is:

  1. is it a breach of a rule, if so which rule?
  2. is it a breach of good manners?
  3. is it a breach of sportsmanship?
  4. is it some action that may have brought the sport into disrepute?

It is unlikely to be all four, and probably will be only one. It is not fair in a notice to the competitor, or in a hearing to say 'You are alleged to have committed a breach of a rule, good manners, or sportsmanship, or maybe have brought the sport into disrepute: we don't know, or won't tell you which: now defend yourself'. Different evidence and facts will probably be required to prove each different sort of rule 69 breach.

At the Royal Snooty Nose, no sailing rule was broken and there was no effect on the competition, so it's not a breach of a rule or sportsmanship. The incident was wholly within the yacht club, and arguably is only noticeable because of the high standards of the yacht club, so it's unlikely to bring the sport into disrepute. If it's anything, it's a breach of good manners only.

Secondly, if it is a breach of a rule, good manners or sportsmanship, that the breach was so 'gross' as to warrant rule 69 action. This may pose some difficulties. It is going to need some sort of examination of standards or norms.

To make a fair decision about 'good manners', I think we have to do just a bit more analysis:

  • What does 'good manners' mean? I can find a dictionary definition of 'manners' which is The prevailing customs, social conduct, and norms of a specific group.
  • What behavior is alleged to have breached good manners? Mike B, in the draft notice identified the following:
    • improper sexual advances to the Commodore's wife and daughter,
    • an assault on the Club’s doorman, and
    • remarks concerning international judges

I would be inclined to include 'getting falling down drunk' in there as well.

Maybe we could set this up in a table as follows. Fill in the blanks in the Norms columns, then you can test Brass Spiderman's behavior as established by the evidence against the norms. To establish the norms, consider the protest committees own experience and standards, and relevant evidence from, say the Commodore, and possibly other club officers, members, or staff.


Norms - Generally

Norms - At RSNYC



Interaction with persons of the opposite sex  asking for sexual favors


Interaction with persons of the opposite sex touching


Interactions with persons associated with authority Flag officers and their families


Interactions with persons associated with authority Yacht Club Staff


Interactions with persons associated with authority International Judges


This may seem over-elaborate, and in this case, you might be content with relying on your own opinion, but remember, in a more difficult case, you might be considering behavior that could earn a competitor a one or two year ban, or alternatively could be hotly contested on appeal or in a Court or an Arbitration.

Draft a notice to the competitor

Once you have clarified what the competitor is alleged to have done, you are in a position to write the notice informing the competitor of the alleged misconduct and the time and place of the hearing. Of course, you will schedule the hearing so that there is sufficient time for the competitor to prepare for the hearing after being given the notice.

Mike B has used the form provided in the RYA Misconduct Guidance Appendix J1.1. If you belong to the RYA, you should use this form. I have a concern that the form, in referring to Gross Misconduct, does not sufficiently specify whether the alleged breach is a breach of a rule, good manners or sportsmanship, in a way that is fair to the competitor. I would suggest a somewhat shorter notice as follows

Dear Brass Spiderman,


The protest committee of the Snooty Nose Cup Regatta believes that, while a competitor in the Regatta, you may have committed gross breaches of good manners and has decided to call a hearing under rule 69.1

The breaches of good manners alleged are that, between about 10:30pm and 11:00pm on 21 February 2009, at the Royal Snooty Nose Yacht Club you:

  • Were drunk
  • Used abusive language
  • Made improper sexual advances to Madame Van Snoot
  • Made improper sexual advances to Ms Van Snoot
  • Were openly disrespectful of International Judges
  • Sang out of tune

You are required to attend the hearing at TTT on DDD at PPPP.

The hearing is to decide if these allegations are true, and if so, what action to take. Possible action is specified in rule 69.1(b).

Protest Committee Chair

I could be persuaded to omit the last two dot points.


I hope that you have enjoyed this adventure of Brass Spiderman. Who knows there may be further adventures of Brass Spiderman, in America or at the Upper Kumbucta Sportsboat and Mud Wrestling Club.

Hopefully, you have exercised your mind about what to do if an unwelcome rule 69 situation comes your way.


  1. 1. If a breach of good manners rises to the level of a breach of criminal law, when might it tend to bring the sport into disrepute? Paradoxically, would the same violation not bring the sport into disrepute if it is handled quietly ("hushed up"), but would bring disrepute if police were called? National norms and laws may vary greatly, as well as club norms.

    2. Would any special considerations apply to handling evidence provided by an "interested party", that is, the example of asking the Commodore about club norms? Would the evidence be less subject to being attacked as biased if it were supplemented by evidence from a non-interested party?

  2. Norms certainly vary. Guidance is provided in teh ISAF Judges Manual 12.2.4 and the RYA Misconduct Guidance (8.2 and 8.3 new version and Question 1.4 old version). Briefly, it is when the misdeed is sufficiently associated, in the eyes of the public with the event or with the sport. That is what the PC will have to decide.

    A PC is not bound by the rules of evidence. There is nothing wrong with hearing evidence from an interested party: it is up to the PC to give the appropriate weight to any evidence it hears. Certainly independent evidence is good.


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