Saturday, 20 February 2010

AC 33 | Rules and explanations – part 5

When AC 33 match two was postponed again and again last Sunday, everybody was dreading the moment that the PRO Harold Bennett would have to pull the plug and send the boats back in. Fortunately the wind filled in and just before the cut-off time of 16:30 he was able to start the match. But it took some doing!

For those of you who haven't heard about the difficulties he faced and what happened, here are some excerpts from different sources:

Later in the evening Scuttlebutt came out with an extra edition with some astonishing news:

SCUTTLEBUTT EXTRA 3 - Sunday, February 14, 2010 (An update to supplement Scuttlebutt 3028 (and Extra 1 and 2)
By Cory E. Friedman, America’s Cup analyst
Valencia, Spain (February 14, 2010) - By now many ‘Buttheads know that challenger USA 17 crushed defender Alinghi 5 in both races to win the 33rd America’s Cup. However, reliable sources tell Scuttlebutt that even when you thought it could not get any worse - it did. The defense club – Société Nautique De Genève’s (SNG) - had their Race Committee actually go on strike and refuse to start Sunday’s race ordered by ISAF approved PRO Harold Bennett. To begin the second race of the Match, Bennett was forced to draft Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) observer Tom Ehman and a Guardia Civil cop on board the RC boat and ordered them to run the flags as Bennett counted down himself.
* From Thomas C. Price, Annapolis, MD:
I'm sorry but if what your Scuttlebutt Extra says is true, (SNG tried to manipulate the RC to their advantage) that calls for sanction by ISAF against Mr Bertarelli. This absolutely cannot be allowed to pass without resolution and it's clear that it's he ISAF who must resolve it! If true, no Alinghi team should ever sail a sanctioned event again! What a shame. After the awkward "Cumbaya" moment at the press conference, where the parties shook hands, this news is reprehensible.
* From George Morris, Inverness, Scotland, UK:
If the SNG race committee really did behave as described then this will surely require a Rule 69 referral to ISAF. If the RC members who refused to raise the flags are members of SNG then that club would surely be banned from holding any more yacht races and if they were acting on instructions from Alinghi then surely that team would be banned from all future competition. AC events are not quite the same thing as ordinary sailing club regattas but there is a point at which the two sports touch each other, and that is on the racecourse. If Alinghi attempted to fix the result by buying the race committee, then they have disqualified themselves from future competition. Tell me it isn't true.

From an interview with Harold Bennett in Sailingworld: The 33rd Americas Cup Lawyers, Guns and Money.
Harold, what happened on the boat when you tried to start Race 2? Is it true that the SNG members on the boat refused to perform their jobs?
We had a bit of a mutiny. I don't think SNG wanted to go, so they decided they weren't going to do flags. So Tom [Ehman, BMW Oracle Racing's head of external affairs] took the AP down and my boat driver, who's also an international umpire, he shot up forward and did the rest of the signals.

Does this stray into Rule 69 territory. Would you normal write a report for ISAF?
Yes I do have to and obviously that's going to be included in any report. That's what you do, you've got outline what's going on on the boat, whether it's good or bad.

What could've been their motivation? The wind was as light as it could get and still be stable.
We had a perfect breeze the way I saw it. I had good weather information from the Alinghi weather team. It was perfect, everything lined up, 8, 9 knots up the course. And it was like, well, let's do it.

Have you heard of a race committee at any regatta deciding they want to prevent the race being run?
No. Well I've certainly never experienced it. No. I've never heard of that before.

It has been a week since the match and some lively discussions have begun on the sailing forums. In this post I'll give you some of my personal notes and thoughts on this subject:
Lets have a look at the rules.

There's rule 85; Governing Rules
"The organizing authority, race committee and protest committee shall be governed by the rules in the conduct and judging of races"
And if you look at the definition of rules, they include: (g) any other document that govern the event.
Any, in the NoR, SI or other relevant document, regulated boundaries for wave and wind, become therefore rules according to the definition.

And rule 90.1;  Race Committee
"The race committee shall conduct races as directed by the organizing authority and as required by the rules."
There are no individual Race Committee members in the rules. The RC may consist of many people, doing different things, but in the rules they are all considered part on one ‘entity’, which is called the Race Committee.

The PRO/RO is responsible for everything his team does. If the mark boat has not recorded the rounding correctly – the RO gets the blame. If a flag setter on the committee boat doesn’t want to put up the flag, the PRO is the only one who can ‘fire’ him and find someone else to do the job.

The wave and wind limitations are part of the rules and should be discussed on the RC-boat. But in the end, only one person takes the decision - simply because it is his responsibility, and that is the RO.

If an individual RC-member does something that has an influence on the race – positive or negative - you cannot protest that individual. In fact, you cannot protest the RC at all. If you disagree with something that has happened because of the RC, the only thing you can do is request redress. And we all know that getting redress is not only depending on "The RC made a mistake or did not do something they should have done". There are other 'demands' before redress can be granted.

But if anything outside the rules in the RRS or the instructions in the NoR & SI is done by an individual RC-member, that has significantly influenced the results/score in a race or series, your only recourse is to request for redress. The Jury might find that you are indeed disadvantaged without any fault of your own and grant redress, but it cannot punish the RC as a whole nor the individual in question.

There is no provision in the rules to start an individual hearing against any member of the RC. You cannot disqualify a member of the RC. You cannot hold a rule 69 hearing against that person.

It becomes complicated if a connection between a competing boat and a RC-committee member can be found as fact. Then the Jury of that event can start a investigation and if appropriate start a rule 69 hearing, but only against the boat or persons competing, not against the RC-member.
An International Jury must be absolutely sure of the facts before it can decide in a rule 69 hearing against the competitor. And again, if appropriate, the Jury can only penalize the competitor, not the RC-member.

What about Interested Party?

The definition of Interested Party is only about a person who may gain or lose as a result of a protest committee's decision, or who has a close personal interest in the decision. The definition does not include someone on the race committee boat who has ties with a team or competitor.

Only when an actions or non actions influences the score in a significant way, and without any fault of the boat, that boat can request redress and get 'compensated' if necessary.

Since the match was sailed and the 'other' boat won, there's no redress possible.

That leaves only one rule.
That is rule 69.2; Action by a National Authority or Initial Action by the ISAF

When someone - RC-member, coach, parent, or anybody who has anything to do with the event - does something that could be a gross breach of a rule, good manners or sportsmanship, or might have conducted him/herself in such a manner that it brings the sport into disrepute, rule 69.2 gives the possibility to write a report and send it to the National Authority or to ISAF.

The MNA and/or ISAF can start an investigation and, when appropriate, conduct a hearing. It may then take any disciplinary action they think is appropriate against that person(s), team, or club.

Like Harold Bennett stated in the interview, a report will be send and the conduct of RC-members will be included. It is now up to the MNA or ISAF to decide what to do with that report.
Rule 69.2 gives them a choice. They may or they may not conduct an investigation and take this matter further.....

"¿Dónde están mis fresas?"



  1. It’s a reference to the WWII Book “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk. Have a read at:

    I translated the most famous sentence from that book in to Spanish because this ‘mutiny’ happened in Valencia on a Spanish boat.
    And I chose this book because the mutiny was about legal issues, not about violence like on the Bounty.

    Good book (imho)

  2. Jos,
    You have incorrect facts in your personal notes and thoughts.

    It is the Deed of Gift that takes precedence over all other rules that govern the America's Cup. Therefore trying to impose wind and wave limits that are in conflict with the Deed is an improper action by the Organising Authority. If you don't believe me, read the AC Jury decision on the subject.

    The wind limits where measured at 60m! The only place where this could be measured was from Alinghi 5. You must see the total inappropriateness of such a rule.

    Why would the governing body of our sport insist on appointing a PRO for the event when ISAF's regulations don't require them to? It is because ISAF DID realise the need for the sport to have a fair playing field in what is the highest profile regatta in the sport.

    Once the Jury granted the redress and removed the wind and wave limits, SNG took actions to undermine that decision. Go and do some simple investigation and find the facts. Let me give you an initial push in the right directions, look for what documents are needed to run a regatta in Spain, then look at the actions of the "race committee" including the totally democratic voting system that SNG tried to impose.

    You want a good story regarding the actual implementation of rules in high pressure situations, go talk to the jury.

  3. I absolutely agree with Jos that the PRO, in submitting his report to ISAF, will have taken all the action that is necessary to enable ISAF to take any action that it thinks fit under rule 69, and that the International Jury at the event would have had no jurisdiction to conduct a rule 69 hearing on any person other than a competitor. I agree that with an experienced IRO and a full International Jury on the spot, if they have not already proceeded under rule 69 at local level, it is highly unlikely that they could or would have been able to find any evidence of misconduct by any competitor.

    Unfortunately, I think that there could be a clearer explanation of the hierarchical structure of a race organisation. Jos has perpetuated the misunderstanting in some of the quoted media articles that race officers and other persons on race committee boats are members of the Race Committee.

    Let me try to outline the hierarchical organisation a little more clearly.

    Races are organised by an Organising Authority (OA), which is usually a Sailing Club, Association, or can be ISAF itself (rule 89.1). You can tell who the OA is because it will be included in the NOR (rule J1.1(1)). for AC33 it is the SNG.

    The OA must appoint a Race Committee (RC) (rule 89.2(b)) which is required by rule 90.1 to "conduct races as directed by the organizing
    authority and as required by the rules".

    The RC is an intangible 'body corporate'. It is capable of making decisions, but it needs one or more human individuals to carry out those decisions. Thus the RC appoints one or more Race Officers (RO), and usally delegates quite a wide range of decision-making power to a Principal Race Officer (PRO). However, all the actions of any Race Officers or any other persons under the rules which affect racing on the water, are taken to be the actions of the RC. The RC obviously expects the PRO to coordinate, control and supervise the actions of others, and to that extent the PRO is 'responsible' to the RC, but ultimately any improper action by any person in connection with the conduct of a race is the responsiblity of the RC.

    There is no obligation in the rules for the OA to publish who the members of the RC are. According to the only two old Protocols I can find

    The RC shall consist of the Regatta Director, the Principal Race Officer (appointed by the Rwgatta Director), and such other officers as are necessary (appointed by the Regatta Director). Thus it is clear, at least, that the Race Committee consists of more than one person, and includes the PRO. But not all RO, Assistant RO, and other race management personnel are members of the RC. In fact it would be expected that very few of them would be.

    Put succinctly, the actions of a RO are taken to be the actions of the RC, but the RO is not necessarily a member of the RC.

    Thus, although there may have been some members of SNG who were members of the RC on board the RC boat, performing the duties of RO or Assistant RO, it is probable that there were other members of SNG performing the duties of RO or Assistant RO who were not members of the RC.

    Note that in this particular race, there was no improper action by anybody that made any boat's score worse, so there is no question of a redress hearing and no occastion for the protest committee to consider whether there were any improper actions at all.

    In the case of RO or Assistant RO who refused to obey the instructions of the PRO it makes little difference whether they were members of the RC or not: the issue will be whether ISAF or a MNA considers that there was gross misconduct.

  4. @Lord Rumpunch
    I think your missing my point. There is no redress, so no jury involvement.
    The rules have only one recourse to deal with this issue.
    You are probably right about RC and not RC- members. But even if they are not, if they under direct or indirect control of the (P)RO, the rules stay the same.
    Even if they are part of the OA it changes nothing in the use of 69.2

  5. I said that, according to the Protocol, the RC was to consist of the Regatta Director, the Principal Race Officer and such other officers appointed by the Regatta Director as are necessary.

    I note from reports that Harold Bennett was both Regatta Director and PRO. Unless Harold Bennett appointed other persons to the RC, then it is possible that the Race Committee was a committee of one.

    Has anybody ever seen any details of who was formally appointed to the RC?

  6. No matter what happens - or doesn't - with ISAF & rule 69, it's clear that the name & honor of SNG is besmirched by the failure of some of its members to be impartial while acting in an official capacity. It reminds us of the subjective scoring abuses in other sports.
    I predict we'll see a revision to rule 90.1 for dealing with siuations in which the OA is an "interested party" (in the eyes of most observers, if not the definition in the RRS). The RRS give tremendous power to the OA: Write the NOR, Appoint the RC who wirte the SIs & conduct the races. I doubt our rules-writers like what they saw here.

  7. Stop splitting hairs !

    If the "spirit " of rule 69 is is broached , the people involved can be disciplined.

  8. @Brass (comment 6)
    The lack of information on that front is great. No Race-committee members & no Umpire-members on the Official Website - only the Jury.
    I hope HB has included some names in his report, otherwise it will be a mess to sort out...

  9. Jos, I don't think there is a problem. As you indicated in comment 5, whether or not anybody deserves a warning or penalty under rule 69 should not depend on whether or not they were members of the race committee: unsporting conduct is unsporting conduct. Maybe membership of the race committee would weigh in deciding on the appropriate warning or penalty.

    The SNG people involved, their status and appontments within Swiss yachting and the fact that they were not ISAF officials has all been spelt out in detail elsewhere.

    I'm not all that het-up about this: if ISAF allows multi-billionaires to run races and write their own rules why should the rest of us bother?

    But given the lynch-mob sentimenst expressed by some, do you think it's time for the Further Adventures of Brass Spyderman on the Race Committee Boat?

  10. BS on the RC? LOL
    Perhaps. Let me find out if anything is happening, okay?


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