Today I umpired in Bayone, Spain for the Master de Espana, a grade 2 event.
This is the first time I worked with observers on board of the boats in stead of a wing boat. On the stern of these Beneteau boats an observer stands behind the backstay and signals clear, overlap or contact, using hand signals. An outstretched arm sideways, means clear, a raised arm means overlap and tapping on top of the head, means contact. After a few initial problems this system works well. You don't need to hear the wing, the signal is right in front of you and it is always there.
The observers are all girls/ladies who sail or even have match raced. They stand at the back holding on with one hand and signalling with the other. Some have hooked themselves to the boat, others use a line from side to side behind there backs. They all have an overlay-vest which is yellow or blue - just flip inside out and you have the other color. All have been issued with corrector weights so they are all equal.
Today was a light day with not so much wind so the manoeuvres were fairly slow. All the observers could do there work without a chance they would fall overboard. But what if the wind picks up and one of them would?
They are not part of the crew, so the rules governing a boat not to continue in the race without its crew, do not apply. I bet however that the other boat - specially when loosing - would request redress. If only because of the weight difference. Also, a boat needs to help anybody in danger... But, most times the observers would probably be picked up fairly quick by an umpire, so how much danger can there be?
We discussed the issue among the umpires and decided we would only deal with this issue when it occured. But a little thinking before hand, is never wasted.
What do you think?
Should redress be granted to the looser, if an observer is missing from the winning boat because she fell in the water. Do the circumstances why she fell play a factor?
Or should we write a Sailing Instruction declaring that the observer should be regarded as part of the crew in reference to rule 47.2?