Many events are using a system with coloured windward marks. So the RO can quickly change the direction of the beat. In shifty conditions that might even be often.
With the preparatory signal a corresponding coloured flag is hoisted to indicate which windward mark has to be rounded. But, things being as they are, sometimes the sailors forget which mark to round – because it’s late in the day, because the beat was slow and long, because they were late entering and concentrating on that, instead on which colour was shown… take your pick. Once in a while boats sail to the wrong mark.
As an umpire I also sometimes forget – that’s why I added a couple of coloured clothespins to my kit. At the same time as the flag is hoisted at the entry, I stick one on a visible place (for us – not for the sailors) so I have a reference.
Anyway, sailors going to the wrong mark. As discussed in earlier posts just recently – that mark can be touched, it has no zone, it has no side to which it has to be rounded – it’s not a mark under the rules, at best it’s an obstruction.
But the boats behave as if it is a regular mark, with all the rights and obligations. Rule 18, rule 31.1, everything.
I’ll make my first question a simple one: The Blue boat, clear ahead, touches that wrong mark. The Yellow boat, not far behind, sees this and you see it also. Furthermore the crew of the Yellow boat see you at a place that it’s impossible not to see the touch by Blue.
Yellow shows her Yankee flag, you answer with a green/white flag (In Match Racing a boat cannot protest for rule 31.1).
What do you do?
If you do nothing you are telling the boats that they can touch (what they think is) a mark. From that they can deduce that this windward mark might be the wrong one….. Is that outside help?
Okay, you say, give them a penalty……
But, what rule have they infringed? On what do you base this penalty?
It’s even more complicated if the boats think that rule 18 is in play. You are umpiring solely under the right of way rules (perhaps, if needed, rule 19), but the boats behave as if there’s a zone, mark-room and everything.
Any call by the sailors MUST be umpired according to the rules – and that is usually as if that mark was not there.
Up until now I’ve solved this dilemma by sticking rigorously to the rules – what else can I do – but I’m not particularly happy with it…….
I’m posting this prepared blogpost from my B&B in Trapani, after a long day travelling. I’m here to umpire an extreme sailing series event.