Tuesday, 24 January 2012

LTW Readers Q&A (58) - Red Flag

From the other side of the Atlantic, An US Sailing Appeal case submitted by Hugh.

Just heard a protest, which we found invalid, on grounds of inadequate flag:
Melges 24 - flag was 25 cm x 30 cm - housed in an Opti style pocket and suspended by a single corner. Displayed from the slack stern lifeline (i.e. below deck level).
I saw it at the finish line and it looked like an upside down tulip - not a flag.

It would be nice if you were to address the question of flags - specifically Case 72. In addition US SAILING Appeal 66 is useful and instructive. If you do not have access to US SAILING Appeals, here is the text:

Rule 61.1(a), Protest Requirements: Informing the Protestee
Rule 63.5, Hearings: Validity of the Protest or Request for Redress

A 2" by 8" protest flag on a 40-foot boat is not of sufficient size or of suitable proportions to be “conspicuously displayed.”
Facts and Decision of the Protest Committee
Near the windward mark, Leading Lady and Aliens Ate My Buick, two 40-foot boats, were involved in an incident. Leading Lady immediately hailed “Protest” and displayed a 2" by 8" * strip of red cloth from her backstay. The protest committee concluded that the strip of red cloth was inadequate to qualify as a flag on a 40-foot boat, and therefore found the protest to be invalid and closed the hearing. Leading Lady appealed.
(* For those of you in the metric system: 5x20 cm)

Decision of the Appeals Committee
The strip of red cloth qualified as a protest flag in the context of rule 61.1(a) because it was a red flag. However, rule 61.1(a) also requires a boat to “conspicuously display” the protest flag. This requirement is necessary to inform other boats in the race, as well as the boat to be protested, that a boat intends to protest.

The phrase “conspicuously display” must be interpreted in the context of the size of the boat displaying the flag. An object that is conspicuous is not merely visible; it “catches one’s eye or attention” or is “obvious to the eye or mind” (dictionary references).
Whether the flag is displayed conspicuously depends on a number of considerations, such as the place on the boat from which the flag is displayed, its proximity to other objects of the same or a similar color and, the size of the flag in relation to the size of the boat. On a 40-foot boat a 2" by 8" flag is too small to be conspicuous. In this case, the flag’s proportions also detracted from the conspicuousness of its display.

Since the requirement of rule 61.1(a) that the flag be conspicuously displayed was not met, the protest committee, acting under rule 63.5, should have found that the protest was invalid for that reason, and closed the hearing. The protest committee’s reason for finding the protest invalid is incorrect.

Leading Lady’s appeal is denied, and the decision of the protest committee is corrected as described above.

US Sailing Appeals Book App.66; December 1994

Relevant in this case is also Case 72 from the Casebook: (pillow)Case of the Week 41 - 72.


Chairman: "What did you do after the incident?"
Representative of boat A: "I yelled protest and put up the red flag"

Chairman: "Did you hear his hail and saw the red flag?"
Representative of boat B: "No I didn't, he never hailed and I did not see any red flag"

C: "Where were the boats relative to eachother, when you hailed, and where did you put up the flag?"
RA: "The boats were about 25 meters apart and he was upwind. Perhaps he didn't hear me. I put the red flag on my leeward shroud. We have a tube there, I only have to pull it out"

C: "Let me get this clear; You were sailing on starboard tack and you put the flag on the port shroud?"
RA: "Yes.

C: "Was the sail covering the flag?"
RA: "Well, eeeeh, yes, at first, but then we gybed and it was clearly visible"

Chairman looks at his fellow panel members and the says to the sailors:
"Can I please ask you to leave to room for a minute, while we discuss this?"

Give me your votes, please.


  1. How big are these boats? Assume M24s, so 8 metres, 25 meters apart is 3 boat lengths. Waiting until the boats are 3 boat lengths apart before hailing is not "the first reasonable opportunity".

    Invalid protest.

    Which is not to say that sometimes the phrase "There are none so blind as those who will not see" is applicable to protestees.

  2. Good catch Edf, but before I decided that this wasn't the first reasonable opportunity, I would want to ask why it took them so long. Perhaps they had to avoid other boats first? Or were capsized?.....

  3. Protest not valid. Protestee, boat B, could not see flag displayed behind a sail on boat A, until sometime after the incident when boat A chose to jibe.

  4. Protest invalid! Goal of flag is to notify the protestee so that alternative penalties can be taken. Flag was not visible, therefore no notice.

  5. If we want to be a self-policing sport then why are we so keen to put obstructions in the way of self policing?

    One of our fundamental principles is that a yacht that realises she has broken a rule shall take a penalty. "I didn't do turns because no-one protested" is a breach of the fundamental rule.

    There may be an argument for a lesser penalty than disqualification if there is inadequate or no notification of protest, but ultimately the protestee should already know they have broken a rule and be preparing to take a penalty before the hail.

    1. I agree. But as long as this "loophole" exist, people will use it to get away with infringements.
      The problem with your suggestion to use a lesser penalty is that then we have to judge in the room if someone knew he broke a rule or not....

  6. I am afraid that the flag issue is taken advantage of every day. Competitors know they can get away with challenging the flag. No I did not hear protest, no I did not see a flag and so get the protest thrown out on the technicality.
    A little while ago a friend owns a J105 and had never raced. He asked me to come along and sail his first race he wanted to try it. During the first upwind leg Sailing on port another port boat to leeward suddenly tacked and tried to duck us. He miss judged it and destroyed the pushpit, and hit my friend. I yelled protest. At the hearing we went through the same process. Did you inform the other party, yes. Him I did not hear. Did you put up a flag, No the owner does not have one, plus we had to deal with his injury. Protest dismissed.
    The sad part about this apart from the other boat not owing up to their responsibility is my friend never raced again, and in fact tells anyone he can about his bitter experience. There are many cases of fair play on the race course, but also too many people take advantage. We wonder why the sport is not growing.

    1. Why did the PC not allow the protest to be valid according to rule 61.1(a)(3)? The damage was obvious to both boats!

    2. wow, that is crap!. obvious damage and possible bodily injury should be enough. i hope that at least the other person's insurance carrier paid for any damage and possible bodily injury. that is much more important than whether the other boat was tossed although should have been. other boat should have just withdrawn and said they were sorry and bought a beer back at the club and volunteered to take care of any damages. and yes, agreed, that is why new people come in and out of the sport too often.

  7. I was in a protest last week for the first time in years. It was a frostbite race. we were on port and the other boat on starboard downwind. When we met we jibed to avoid and thought that was that. The sailed underneath us and about 30 seconds or more later jibed to the leeward mark. It was light air, easy conditions, we stared right at them waiting for them to jibe so we could jibe since past layline. They had a bad jibe. Ours was good, we rounded mark and never saw them again. We hear the next night we were protested. We never heard a hail, we never saw a flag. We had no idea they thought we fouled them. If we did not have these rules, things like this might actually be heard and the so-called at fault party has no way to exonerate themselves. It is not a loophole. Say Protest and fly the flag right away conspicuously.

  8. I am getting tired of hearing this is a loophole. It is a way for a boat that is "accused" of a foul to exonerate themselves. I have only been in a few protests in many years but was in one last month. Light air conditions and calm waters. Two boats on opposite jibes and we were on layline on port. Another boat came in on starboard and forced us to jibe. They sailed under us and we were quietly waiting for them to jibe so we could follow them into mark. It was not even close to right away but they jibed and totally blew the jibe getting their assym inside the headstay. We were able to jibe correctly work up to the mark and round in front of them and never saw them again in the race. We heard the next afternoon that we were being protested. The other boat said they yelled "do your circles" which I questioned since we sat quietly about a boatlength from them looking straight at them and heard nothing. They threw their flag after the bad jibe was cleared up and say that took 10 minutes. They worded it that we forced them to jibe and had no time to put up flag. Protest was disallowed. And should have been. Quit trying to change these easy rules for those that just can't get it. We did not think we fouled them. We did not even think they thought we fouled them. Not fair for us to find out next day and expect that would fly.

  9. And there we have both sides of the coin.


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