Monday, 12 March 2012

(pillow)Case of the Week (11/12) - 19

(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.)
(Don’t look for case number 16, because again it is deleted in the Casebook)

(pillow)Case picture
Rule 14(b), Avoiding Contact
Rule 44.1(b), Penalties at the Time of an Incident: Taking a Penalty
Rule 60.3, Right to Protest; Right to Request Redress or Rule 69 Action
Rule 61.1(a)(3), Protest Requirements: Informing the Protestee
Rule 62.1(b), Redress
Rule 63.5, Hearings: Validity of the Protest or Request for Redress
Rule 64.3(a), Decisions: Decisions on Measurement Protests

An interpretation of the term ‘damage’.
Is there a special meaning of ‘damage’ in the racing rules?
No. It is not possible to define ‘damage’ comprehensively, but one current English dictionary says ‘harm . . . impairing the value or usefulness of something.’
This definition suggests questions to consider. Examples are:
  1. Was the current market value of any part of the boat, or of the boat
    as a whole, diminished?
  2. Was any item of the boat or her equipment made less functional?
RYA 1968/2


In my experience as judge I’ve come across this issue more than once. It is always a judgement call, but one with far reaching consequences. If you deem the contact to have caused damage, the right of way boat can be penalized in for infringing rule 14. If you decide that is wasn’t damage, the right of way boat can not.

Personally I like this criteria: “Damage is something a prudent owner would repair immediately” 
So a scratch on the hull that can be repaired in the next scheduled maintenance is not damage, even if the owner puts a piece of duck tape over it, to prevent further deterioration.

The list of rules at the beginning of this Case are the rules in the book where damage is mentioned. But there is a difference. I’ve made two columns to show this 

Rules involving damage Rules involving SERIOUS damage
14(b) 44.1(b)
61.1(a)(3) 60.3
62.1(b) 63.5

As to when damage becomes serious damage is also widely discussed in the PC/Jury circles.
What do you think? What would you consider serious damage?


  1. Hm... is this one of those things that are very hard to try to define by clamping down quantifiables, but where agreement among non-interested parties is common?
    I'm sure each boat class has a very different limit in terms of where the damage is "serious"... is cosmetic vs. functional damage a place to start?

  2. It is also difficult for Protest Committees to determine the difference between 'damage' and 'serious damage'.
    Any guidance you can give on this would be appreciated.

  3. I'll think about what I would consider serious damage. Usually in a panel we come to an agreement.

  4. I have seen schedules of 'estimated man hours required to repair' used in match racing to help the umpires determine the proportion of the point to be deducted following a collision with damage.

    I have served on large Juries (multiple panels) where, to ensure consistency, a rough definition of damage (and serious damage) is reached during the organizational meeting. It would be good if there were a Case that went into more detail than this one.

    1. Do you still have a report of those meetings?

    2. Apologies. I don't but in general damage was something that a prudent owner would repair before the next event - so a gelcoat scratch would count. Serious damage involved a reduction in the performance of the boat (sometimes but not always requiring retirement from the race in question) or safety of the crew (i.e damaged stanchions such that a crew could not hike safely) and which must be repaired before racing again.

  5. What about consulting the Match Race Damage Guidelines for a starting point?
    But on the subject damage I have a question: "Can we consider 'damage' or 'serious damage' equally in a small cruising yacht club regatta and in a multimillionaire event?
    I would appreciate any idea or opinion you have on this

    1. Sure, you can start with the A, B and C categories as used in Match Racing. But in those events there's usually an independent 'bosun' who can assess the damage.
      Your question is valid, but in my opinion it should make no difference. The rules should not make difference for someone who's rich.

    2. "The rules should not make difference for someone who's rich." No, but they might depending on the normal use of the boat. What would be considered normal wear and tear on a NASCAR machine would be considered serious damage on the family van, or on a classic Mustang convertible. People who use their boats primarily for cruising, especially visiting other yacht clubs, have much less tolerance for cosmetic damage than those who only race.

    3. Don't we end up in a totally arbitrary judgement about 'serious' if we go that way?
      In my opinion it should be a much more 'same for all' border.
      Perhaps the repair costs as a percentage of value of the boat would work. below a certain percentage would be damage, above serious damage.

  6. I like your definition of damage although perhaps it's not sufficiently inclusive to achieve maximum discouragement of contact.

    For "serious damage" I'd include anything that hampers the performance of the boat; stops the boat starting or completing the race or; affects the seaworthiness of the vessel.

    1. I've seen SI's where the definition of keep clear has been adjusted (illegally according to the RRS) to include a minimum distance between boats. That also does not work.

      Avoiding contact is sufficiently discouraged in the current rules in my opinion, the rest is much more a question of character then rules.

      A boat can also be seriously damaged without hampering the performance or seaworthiness, but it those are good staring criteria.

  7. "Serious" damage, in around the buoys racing, is when the boat is not able to continue that race due to that damage. In ocean racing, a seriously damaged boat would have no choice (as long as it remains afloat) but to continue.

    A dinghy capsized by the improper action of another boat may not be "broken" but is it damaged by what happened to it? I think so, in the sense that the team was unable to proceed until they righted.

    1. Unfortunately the rules do not support your second statement. Although a boat may not be able to continue in the race until righted, (and she is not damaged by that) none of the rules involving damage can be applicable.


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