Thursday, 29 December 2011

Protest 1 in Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race 2011

The line honour winner of the 2011 Sydney – Hobart Race was protested by the RC for a possible infringement of rule 41 and sailing instruction 49.1.

Up until now it is the only protest lodged in this years race – according to the website. The International Jury published there findings: RSHYR11_Protest_Decision_1.pdf.

To understand you might also want to have a look at the Sailing Instructions:

image The case hinges on the questions asked by a crew member of the winning boat to a helicopter pilot not long after start of the race and if the answers could be considered “race information”. In other words, were the answers helping the asking boat in there their race, tactically or otherwise?

The International Jury concluded that there was a clear commercial and personal interest by the crew-member in asking these questions, and of no ‘help’ as provided in rule 41 to the boat.

But even if that question was answered with yes by the IJ, the penalty would have been at their discretion. (SI 49.3).

Lets assume, for the sake of discussion, that there was no personal interest. Then I would ask the following questions:
  • Rule 41 clearly provides for unsolicited information, so asking information is already breaking that rule, is it not?.
  • Also, is information about which sail a opponent is using to be considered “race information”?
  • Does it help the boat tactically or otherwise and break SI 49.2?
  • What kind of discretionary penalty would you impose, if you answered yes to the previous question?
This is NOT to seconds-guess any Jury decision. I completely agree with there findings. Its is just to get some feedback on the issue. An issue that might be before your PC-panel in the next regatta…….

Please, give me your opinion.

Feed me, Seymour!


  1. In answer to your first and second questions, Rule 41 only prohibits "help", not information as such (solicited or otherwise.) So simply asking for information which is of no "help" in the race, is not an infringement of Rule 41.

    In respect of your third question, SI 49.2 as I read it places restrictions on the information that a boat gives during an interview, not what it receives.

  2. I protest:
    1. Lack of a question mark at the end of the 4th paragraph.
    2. Use of "there" instead of "their" which in this fine essay.

    Now that I have dispatched those distracting irritants, I'll express my opinion that any communication between surface and air, solicited or unsolicited, providing sails used, position, or wind conditions is proscribed. In short, if any info not otherwise knowable by competitors is communicated by outside sources, there should be a penalty.

  3. @Tillerman
    I agree on your answer to the first question.
    But do you not consider knowing which sail your opponent has hoisted as tactical information, to which you may decide to set another sail yourselves?
    Thanks for the help in spelling; I've turned my chair twice round....
    What about surface to surface?

  4. Colin on the Swan30 December 2011 at 08:00

    Whilst I can see the angle taken by the jury on this protest, there is something about the whole affair that does not smell quite right.
    1. I'm very intrigued as to what sparked Michale Coxon to ask whether Wild Oats X1 was flying their trysail in the first place - it seems an odd question to ask on its own? (WOXI had trouble with their mainsheet winch before, during and after the race start and had to replace the drive mechansim, but did not seem to have any problem with the mainsail.)
    2. Does a gain in confidence from knowing that a competitor is having gear trouble constitute "help"?

  5. Jos - Yes, I do think that knowing what sail a competitor has hoisted could be help under Rule 41 but I guess the jury's ruling implied that it was not help in this case.

    However SI 49.1 is more restrictive than Rule 41. "A boat is not permitted to request....information relating to weather conditions or race information..." It doesn't have to be "help". Any request for race information is prohibited.

    There is an exception referencing SI 49.2 but it's hard to decipher whether 49.2 excuses the actual request for race information. I guess nobody envisaged that an authorized broadcast commentary from a boat would include a request to a helicopter pilot for information about another boat.

  6. By the way, is this the first time a drawing in a protest form has included a picture of a helicopter?

  7. Surface to Surface is an interesting idea. In my fleet, if I were to query another boat about wind in the outer reaches of a beat in drifting conditions, I would have to pre-arrange an alternate radio channel. That's because other competitors would pounce on me with a protest, especially if I received any info. All information is aid and assistance.

  8. >> Lets assume, for the sake of discussion, that there was no personal interest. Then I would ask the following questions:
    Ok, these would be my answers:

    Q1: Rule 41 clearly provides for unsolicited information, so asking information is already breaking that rule, is it not?.
    A1: Yes, it is breaking the Rule 41.

    Q2: Also, is information about which sail a opponent is using to be considered "race information"?
    A2: Yes, it is "race information", see A3(a).

    Q3(a): Does it help the boat tactically or otherwise ...
    A3(a): It does help. For example - by knowing which sail(s) boat A uses, boat B could determine approximate wind strenght and wind direction at boat's A location. By comparing this information with his own weather data, boat B could choose different route / different sails to gain on her opponent.

    Q3(b): ... and break SI 49.2?
    A3(b): Yes, it breaks SI 49.2 as well as SI 49.1

    "To broadcast a commentary" does not equal "asking for information". In my interpretation, "broadcast" means information flowing in one direction (just like radio station broadcast). Please note - information, not communication. Communication could be in both ways - i.e. Race Official asks questions and competitor supplies relevant information.

    Q4: What kind of discretionary penalty would you impose, if you answered yes to the previous question?
    A4: I'll pass on this one. It requires some extensive ocean racing experience to determine what would be fair. Some time penalty perhaps?

    Side note
    SI 49.1 and 49.2 do not contain any reference to modifying Rule 41, so it still applies. Only SI 25; 35.3 and 43.1 modify Rule 41, but these are not applicable here.

    Best regards and Happy New Year!

  9. @Colin (4)
    The reason that is given for his questions have to do with personal and commercial interests.
    Knowing about gear failure might prompt a boat to take less risks, perhaps?

    @Tillerman (5&6)
    The wording in the SI will be changed for the next edition, I suspect.
    Where did you see this picture of a helicopter? Can you send it to me?

    @DHD (7)
    Your point of view would stop any public radio contact with ocean racing boats. Surely we must be able to write SI's that allow this?

    @Anonymous (8)
    Your answers are the reason why the RC protested in the first place. That in the subsequent hearing the protest was dismissed, does not alter that. Sometimes things must be brought out in the open to get rid of any unwelcome (and unresolved) stain on the score.

  10. I think the decision is very poor, to say the absolute least. Knowing what sails another boat is using can be of great benefit, and come under the definition of help. To not penalise Loyal merely because the didn't intend to break the rule is very poor. Does this mean that as a port tack boat I can ignore a starboard tacker in a close crossing simply because I didn't intend to break a rule?

  11. @Jos
    Here's the nice picture of the helicopter:

  12. Heh, I think you will find that is a joke, doctored image - anything posted on Sailing Anarchy is by default suspect. The "diagram" is clearly a computerized pen, not part of the original photograph. Here is the actual protest form which has no diagram, from a reputable news site:

  13. Not directly related to this incident, but a question around rule 41.

    The RYA and International Jury's have cases that ruled the use of online weather sites was allowed under 41(c), therefore implying the solication of information is allowed. As once an internet connection is obtained the information must be requested, also the Sydney Hobart SI explicitly state you can use the standing page.

    If a boat did not have internet access, would phoning/radioing someone to ask for information on a freely available website (and only this information was given in response) mean the boat was breaking rule 41?

  14. @Anonymous (11) & Jeremy
    Thanks for you efforts. I smiled when I saw the helicopter and understand why some would take the trouble of doctoring it in the protest form. The Internet being what it is, this constitutes as a harmless fake.

    @Anonymous (13)
    I would conclude that such a request breaks rule 41. If a standing Internet page is made available to the boats, it is their responsibility to access it, including the means to do it technically. That would be covered by 41(c).
    Asking a third party - whether that being a boat or someone else - is breaking rule 41(d), in my opinion


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