Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Blogging into the corners

I've copied an article from the latest Umpire Newsletter and printed it here. It's written by John Stanley:

Whose Game is it?

There was an interesting observation on one ofthe many blog sites that seem to be springing up these days. It reads
"Already today, we have two worlds: one of yacht racers (often with their own local interpretations) and one of rules scientists. And they are growing apart fast."

This comment was made more towards fleet racing, but it also applies to match racing to some extent. Last year we had several submissions to the Rapid Response panel, which were
highly technical, and in at least one case, probably impossible scenario. All these submissions were rejected for various reasons but they do illustrate the above comment. It is also interesting that these calls were submitted in the last year of the rules cycle and sought to change something that the majority had been happy with for the previous three years.
As umpires, we are there to Umpire, i.e. make decisions, and mostly only when asked, on what we see on the water, and to apply the rules. Is it really our job to dream up highly technical scenarios that not only complicate the game, but in many cases also confuse our fellow umpires?
Most umpires will, at least at times, come into the category of 'rules scientists' but we must be careful to make sure that we remain close to the sailors (our customers) and ensure that we umpire the game that they want to play.

On the same website a couple of scenarios have been posted recently. Both are interesting from a rules point of view but I believe the chances of seeing either manoeuvre at a match race event will vary between Buckley's and never.
I wonder why we spend our time dreaming up these cases. Of course we have a responsibility to respond to competitor's queries and to develop the rules to make them easier to umpire, and hopefully, one day, easier to understand for the all too small number of people who come to watch what we do.

Whilst it is important that we do not stifle discussion on 'hypotheticals', as this can lead to discovering flaws in the rules that can then be fixed, I think we need to be careful that we do this in a way that is not going to be disruptive to the way the game is currently being played.
We must not forget that this is a competitor's game, without them we will not have a game to play and it is important we do not allow the two games to drift apart.

John Standley

While I can understand John's argument, I do feel there should be a few places on the net where we can freely explore the "obscure" corners of the rules. I don't know if he specifically mend LTW, but if he did I have no regrets.
The new rules have more influence on the "game" then previously thought. And we do need to talk about how to read and interpret them. For instance, I don't think Mark-Room is fully explored yet.

We are just beginning to work with the new cycle and until now every event I've been too, a discussion has been held about them. If the rules do not reflect what the sailors play out on the water, how can we change them so that they do. If we ignore the "corners" and do not shine a light on them, how can we be sure that the dust that settles there, will not suffocate us in the long run.

What is your opinion?


  1. Could you post a link to the Umpires Newsletter?

  2. Since I asked permission to use the article it has now been published on the isaf website:


  3. Maybe the most important part of John's comments concerns the gap between sailor's undrstanding and use of the rules and the "rules scientists".

    I believe that this may be the "rules scientists fault, but not as John sees it. We need to spend far more time explaining the rules, and never assume that sailors have any detailed knowledge.

    I have been invite several times recently to give talks on the changes to the rules. I have found, in all cases, that what the sailors really wanted was a detailed explanation of the rules. So we have been going through the Part 2 rules in detail, discussing how one should read the rules (the importance of the definitions and the introductions to each section, for instance). For most of the participants this is the first time a "rules scientist" has ever taken the time to do this (2 90 minute sessions).

    A follow up -on protests- is also planned.

    Judges and umpires have to take on the role of explaining and comunicating.


  4. I think it's OK to be a "rules scientist". I have to plead guilty to occasionally exploring the darker corners of the rules myself (like on the whole Both Leeward Both Starboard thread I obsessed about on my blog for months.)

    The way I look at it is that the folk who are real experts will have the intellectual curiosity to explore some of the more unusual situation that might (or might not) occur on the real racecourse. These are the people who usually are best at teaching and explaining the rules to other sailors. It's a bit like having a Nobel prize winner teach college freshman chemistry.

  5. Hey I recently read somewhere the answer to the Both leeward Both Sratboard scenario. I can't remember where or who wrote it but the simple answer by the writer was, both boats break rule 14.

    Which brings me to my own dark corner of the rules.

    If both boats break 14 in the Both Leeward Both Starboard scenario are both boats then exonerated under 64.1(c)?

  6. Dick, both windward both starboard

    Bryan Willis did it in The Rules Guy on SA


    We also played around with it on Proper Course in these posts


    By the way, I think I prefer 'rules wonk' to rules scientist'


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