Welcome to Challenge 4 of the Irish Sailing Lockdown Sailing Rules Quiz! Take part as an individual, as a class team or a club team. Please feel free to share with your club or class or team and just submit one answer per team.
- The scenario below describes a common issue that arises in coastal and offshore racing. You, as the competitor in the scenario, must describe what action you should take so that all boats follow the rules. Please back up your proposal with reference to the relevant rules
- Send back your answers (before Friday 1st May). Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org (max 200 words)
- On Tuesday 5th of May at 1700hrs we will have a short webinar to discuss the answer. There will be a panel of 3 International Judges to answer the questions and discuss the scenario (Gordon Davies, Chris Lindsay and Cxema Pico)
- The webinar recording will be able for you to download afterwards if you are not able to make the time.
For once the weather was fine, your crew was available and someone else was running racing. It was a perfect day for the club’s annual coastal race for the cruiser class.
The course set lead out of the bay, round the Head and then anti-clockwise round an island before heading back to the finish. To keep boats away from the rocks the course required boats to leave a navigation buoy to port at the far end of the island, about half a mile off.
Your boat, the Green Banner had sailed along the island shore to keep out of the current, and then struggled to sail out to, and then sail round, the buoy.
It did not help that as you were fighting the current you noticed Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon creeping round the point, taking advantage of a counter current without sailing out to the buoy.
The crew is indignant, and insist that ‘something must be done’. However, the two boats are now over a mile away.
What should you do? Please refer to the rules and any other sources to justify your answer.
Challenge 4 Correct Answer
Has a rule been broken? If so, at what point is the rule broken?
Yes. In this case, Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon have failed to sail the course as required by RRS 28.2. However, they only break the rule when they finish (WS Case 112, Answer 2).
RRS 28.1 requires a boat to ‘start, sail the course as described in the sailing instruction and finish’. How a boat is to meet these requirements is set out in RRS 28.2. The last sentence of RRS 28.2 allows a boat to ‘correct any errors to comply with this rule, provided that she has no finished’. This leads to the conclusion that a boat only breaks RRS 28.2 when she finishes, as she may still correct an error until then (see WS Case 112).
What should be done?
‘Green Banner’ should protest both boats
It is unlikely, unless they have despatched a vessel to verify the mark rounding, that the Race Committee is aware that the two boats have failed to sail the course. This is often the case in coastal and offshore racing.
In any case, the Race Committee is under no obligation to protest. The conclusion to WS Case 39 states that ‘a Race Committee is not required to protest a boat. The primary responsibility for enforcing the rules lies with the competitors.’ This conclusion applies the Basic Principle, Sportsmanship and the Rules: competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce.
So, if the crew insists that ‘something must be done’ it follows that Green Banner must protest. The rules set out clear procedures for protesting. These procedures should not be seen as administrative hurdles to prevent the hearing of a protest, rather they provide guarantees, in particular to the protested boat, that they are informed of any intention to protest in good time, either to take an appropriate penalty, which may be to retire, or to prepare for a protest hearing (which includes finding witnesses).
In this case, there is no requirement to hail ‘protest’ or display a red flag but Green Banner must inform the other two boats either before or at the first reasonable opportunity after they finish (RRS 61.1 (a)(3). The rules make no mention of the use of VHF radio to communicate with the other boats. A protest committee may find that, in an event at which boats are required to carry radios, an attempt to contact the protested boats by VHF is the ‘first reasonable opportunity’. Personally, I would favour informing competitors of this interpretation at the start of the event. Some colleagues may not agree!
For the protest to be valid ‘Green Banner’ must demonstrate that she has informed Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon at the first reasonable opportunity. She has no obligation, other than social, to inform Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon before they finish, but if she does not do so she must take steps to inform them at the first reasonable opportunity after they finish. Informing the other boats can be:
- - by hail on the water or in the harbour;
- - by calling on VHF and receiving acknowledgement
- - by mobile phone or text.
- - by talking to a member of the crew
It is important to note that the rule states that the protestor shall inform the other boats at the first reasonable opportunity. This raises the question as to what happens if no reasonable opportunity arises. There are frequent problems at regattas which are based at several venues (for example Dun Laoghaire Regatta). In the same way, at the finish of offshore races, the first boats may arrive long before the last boats. It may be possible to ask the Race Office for the contact details of the boats that you wish to contact (although there may be data protection issues to resolve). As a last resort, if reasonable but unsuccessful steps have been taken to inform the protested boats, then a notice clearly visible on or next to the official notice board, posted before the protest time limit, would demonstrate that an attempt has been made to inform the protested boats.
It may well be that your crew feels strongly that Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon have acted in a way that is unsportsmanlike. They may feel that there was no possible error or confusion in the way the course was communicated to competitors, or that the two boats knowingly sailed a shorter course in order to gain an advantage. In which case, it may be wise to steer the protest committee in this direction by including in the protest a reference to RRS 2, which requires a boat and her owner to compete ‘in compliance with recognised principles of sportsmanship and fair play’. The Protest Committee may also decide to invoke RRS 2, even if the protest itself makes no mention of this.If, subsequently, it is clearly established that these principles have been violated then the Protest Committee may penalise the two boats. If the Protest Committee believes that there has been a serious breach of RRS 2 they should consider opening an action under RRS 69, Misconduct. WS Case 138 provides guidance, including a list of examples of Misconduct.
Finally, Green Banner should deliver a completed form to the Race Office (or follow any other procedure set out in the Sailing Instructions) before the time limit. It would be prudent, but not obligatory, to inform Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon that she has done so.
- If Green Banner alleges that Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon have not sailed the course as required by RRS 28.1 and 28.2 she must protest.
- Green Banner has no obligation to protest before Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon finish.
- Green Banner must then inform Yellow Peril and Blue Horizon at the first reasonable opportunity.
- In addition, Green Banner may consider protesting under RRS 2, Fair Sailing.
- Deliver protest form before protest time limit.