(This is an instalment in a series of blogposts about the ISAF Case book 2009-2012 with amendments for 2010. All Cases are official interpretations by the ISAF committees on how the Racing Rules of Sailing should be used or interpreted. The cases are copied from the Casebook, only the comments are written by me.)
Rule 90.2(c), Race Committee; Sailing Instructions; Scoring: Sailing
A competitor is entitled to look exclusively to written sailing instructions and to any written amendments for all details relating to sailing the course.
Summary of the Facts
The sailing instructions included, among other things, the following:
- All races will be sailed under The Racing Rules of Sailing except as modified below.
- A briefing will be held in the clubroom 60 minutes before the start of the first race each day.
- Shortened Course will be signalled by two guns and raising of flag S and the class flag. Boats in that class will round the mark about to be rounded by the leading boat and go straight to the finishing line. This changes the meaning of flag S in the Race Signals.
At one of the briefings, the race officer attempted to clarify the phrase ‘go straight to the finishing line’ in item 3 by stating that when the course was shortened, all boats should cross the finishing line in a windward direction.
This would ensure that all classes, some of which might be finishing from different marks, would finish in the same direction even if that were not the direction of the course from the mark at which the course was shortened.
Subsequently, a race was shortened. Six boats, which had not attended the briefing, followed the written sailing instructions, were recorded as not finishing, and sought redress. The boats alleged that the race committee had improperly changed the definition Finish and had failed to follow the requirements of rule 90.2(c). The protest committee upheld their requests for redress on the grounds they had cited.
The race committee appealed to the national authority, asserting that the briefing sessions were a numbered part of the sailing instructions, all competitors should have attended, and the briefings constituted a procedure for giving oral instructions. Also, it argued that the sailing instructions were not changed but merely clarified by the race officer as to what the words ‘go straight to the finishing line’ meant.
Appeal dismissed. The remarks of the race officer amounted to more than mere clarification. This is borne out by the fact that the boats that did not attend the briefing acted as they did. Competitors are entitled to look exclusively to the sailing instructions and to any amendments for all particulars of the course. Rule 90.2(c) requires changes to the sailing instructions to be in writing. However, under no circumstance can sailing instructions change the definition Finish or the definition of any other term defined in Definitions (see rule 86).
There’s only one ‘escape’ in giving verbal instructions: That is also in rule 90.2(c):
“Oral changes may be given only on the water, and only if the procedure is stated in the sailing instructions.”
Any change that is discussed verbally in a skippers briefing, regarding the SI or RRS MUST also be written on the notice board with time and date at an appropriate time. Anyway, changing a definition is not permitted anyway.