Wednesday, 17 February 2010

AC 33 | Rules and explanations – part 3

image The third post in this series is about the red flag on SUI and the penalty they received in the prestart.
To explain the latter I will have to show you a diagram of the start area.  But first a few words on Match Racing.

Because of the special nature of a match race – being one on one – its is not important to finish as fast as possible, as in a fleet race, it is only important to finish first. Finish first is key, however long that may take!
Match race is about control. If you control your opponent, you can win. A controlling position is therefore paramount. In the AC 33 dogfight we see little of this because the boats are all about speed. But – yes – if you are ahead far enough, you control the race. And in Match 1 USA managed to control SUI for a couple of minutes in the prestart.
To get that control you need to engage your opponent. And that engagement begins well before the start. Now if we do anything like a conventional start as in fleet racing, the two boats in a match race will never know when to begin looking for each other to gain that control.

Therefore in match racing there’s a special procedure in the rules which allows a controlled beginning of the pre start manoeuvres. We have a sort of ‘start’ before the actual start line crossing.
To get there, each boats is assigned to a side. The Yellow side next to the RC-boat and a Blue side next to the pin end of the start line

prestart MR ACPicture from a presentation by Henk Plaatje;

 In the AC33 Match 2, SUI was assigned the Yellow boat and USA the Blue boat.

From the Rulebook:
At her preparatory signal (five minutes in AC33) each boat shall be outside the line that is at a 90 degrees angle to the starting line through the starting mark at her assigned end. …. (C4.1)
Within the two minute period following her preparatory signal, a boat shall cross and clear the starting line, the first time from the course side to the pre-start side. (C4.2)
To check that precise line the umpire boat and the wing boat each place themselves on that line, one below and one above the starting line. If a boat is anywhere else then in its “box” when the preparatory signal is given, she gets a penalty. Be it still sailing to get there or be it sailing too soon over the line to get to the other boat. Outside your box equals penalty.

In match 2 of AC 33, SUI was still sailing below the starting line towards her assigned end, when the five minute preparatory signal was given. That is the reason SUI was given a penalty. The wing boat signalled this to the umpire boat and they switched on the yellow light.

Why, you might ask? Why was SUI not there?

Remember the red flag SUI tied to a back stay halfway up the beat? Brad Butterworth declared in the subsequent press-conference, that SUI felt that there where too many spectator boats in that area. They felt that they could not safely navigate and therefore where outside. A red flag for a request for redress.

Looking at the videos specifically, you can see some spectator boats on that side, but they are at least a couple of hundred meters away from the committee boat. Plenty of room to sail there. Might it be that they were not fully prepared to race so late in the afternoon? With a start only five minutes before the official cut-off time? I can only speculate.

Fact is that earning that penalty was unnecessary. SUI should have been in her yellow box. An unforced error, which most match racers make only once. Unfortunately AC33 does not give you second chances……

If SUI had felt that a crucial factor in loosing this match was because of the penalty in the pre-start, I’m sure she would have gone trough with her request for redress. As it was, the difference in boat speed between her and USA was so big, that it was not a deciding factor. Besides, getting redress would be next to impossible.

To conclude this post I have a question for the rules-nerds among you: (Don’t blame me, blame Tillerman for introducing this wording into the AC33, I would not have dared to use it otherwise.)

WHAT IF there were too many spectator boats in Yellow box and SUI could not safely navigate there? How would you decide in the subsequent request for redress?

Next time in AC 33 | Rules en explanations: the Cross on the Port lay-line.

Stay tuned.


  1. My first inclination is to say that the Race Committee is not responsible for spectators or any other marine traffic, and competitors must take the rough with the smooth and navigate among other seafarers as best they can. No improper action, no redress. I would also be inclined to say, sailing in a ridiculous freak of a boat that cannot manoeuvre among other seafarers is a fault of (both of) the competitors, and thus there is 'fault of her own', so no redress.


    SI Attachment 2 indicates that the RC intends that there will be specific places for specator boats, other than the necessary 'entry areas' outside the H, so I guess the RC has represented to the competitors that they will have reasonably clear entry areas. If the entry areas are not reasonably clear then, I guess there is improper action. Note that in the actual scenario where SUI was downwind, below the Start Line, just having a crowd of boats in the designated spectator areas, BETWEEN where SUI was and her entry area, upwind of the Start Line, as long as the entry area itself was reasonably clear would not cut it. In that case SUI should have manoeuvered earlier to get into or close to her entry area.

    If the entry area was packed with spectator boats, then I guess the competitors can't be resonsible for that, so no fault of her own.

    Coming second, or being disqualified in a match race is a 'score made significantly worse'.

    OK, redress granted.

    What redress then?

    I'm inclined to think that in match racing the only appropriate redress for an incident in a particular race like this is ABN. You can never say whether, if the improper action had not caused the boats to be so far apart, one would have passed the other or not.

  2. Well, Alinghi was in the lead most of the way up the beat so they can hardly say that the RC's error delayed their start. The only way in which their error affected their performance was in the need to do a penalty turn. So, if Alinghi had arrived near the finish in the lead, and then had lost the lead and the race while completing a seamanlike turn, it would seem fair that the PC should give redress by adjusting their score and making them first in the race.

    Now I have no idea if this would actually be done. I'm just using common sense!

  3. In Tillerman's hypothetical, Alinghi would not just have gone into a penalty turn at the finishing line if there was any chance of USA passing her. She would have attacked BMWO in an attempt to create more favourable circumstances for her to take her penalty, for example by forcing BMWO away from the finishing line.

    Having once optimised her chance of taking her penalty successfully, if she fails to do so, then I think that it will be too close for the protest committee to call a results reversal with certainty and that ABN (and resail) is the better decision.

  4. If there was not a real possibility the outcome was influenced by the penalty, I would go for no change in score, even though the redress was granted.
    If the penalty was possibly the deciding factor, then I would vote for a re-sail.

  5. I wouldn't get as far as the above. Rule C6.3 says that "A boat intending to request redress because of cirucnstances that arise before she finishes or retires shall clearly display a red flag as soon as possible after she becomse aware of those circumstances....." Alinghi clearly became aware of the circumstances before the five minute signal. From the reports that I have seen the red flag was not clearly displayed until some point on the weather leg.

  6. @AndrewA, good point. However the rule says: "...becomes aware of those circumstances..." part of those circumstances is the effect of taking the penalty. If that has no influence on the match, no redress request necessary. If the penalty does influence the race, redress is on the table.
    SUI has until 2 minutes after finishing to decide in my opinion.


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