Protest!

WHENEVER man has something that moves he will inevitably get into a competition as to who can move it the fastest. So it is with our Mirrors where the use of the personal skills of both the helmsman AND the crew are used in making our boats go faster and getting yourself in such a position so that other competitors do not hinder your progress.

Obviously the racing rules must be observed and it is up to each competitor to ensure that they are and to lodge a Protest when a violation of them is observed, even if there has been no real advantage gained by the violation. But we must also be reasonable and make our judgement based on each incident. When a large number of boats start in a race they will often be so close together that small touchings will occur between booms and sails which are of no consequence, and could not reasonably be resolved by a protest committee due to the very complex situation which occurs on most crowded start lines. But if a competitor breaks a rule on purpose, then you must put in a protest to be both fair to yourself and to the other competitors.

But what happens if you come across somebody in a race who (a) doesn’t know the rules, or (b) knows the rules but deliberately bends or breaks them to gain an advantage, or (c) who knows the rules but sees the facts at the time in a different light than yourself.

Well, the first two are fairly simple; in (a) you politely advise him of the particular rule so that he learns by experience; or you may bluff to gain an advantage as shouting for “room at the mark” and getting it although you are not entitled to it. In (b) it’s a simple matter of shouting “Protest”, showing the flag and going through the motions of filing a Protest, because we don’t really want that type of person in our races. Of course the threat of the Protest ritual, or the punitive penalty is often sufficient to discourage the taking of unnecessary chances. And (c), where the competitors have different interpretations of the same situation is the main reason that Protests get to the Race Committee for a hearing. So let’s examine the progress of a Protest.

Both sides of a Protest MUST accept the fact that there is a difference of opinion over the issue, and whatever you may think, the other competitor must be entitled to his opinion, so there can be no reason for either side to feel slighted or insulted. Hopefully the Protest committee will be able to determine the rights and the wrongs and up to this point both sides are on an equal footing and hopefully still friendly. Eventually it is hoped that both sides will have learnt more about the rules and racing tactics, and will end up better, more experienced sailors.

Filling out the Protest Form

The Figures reproduce a standard Protest Form. Fig. 1 records the facts such as the when, the where, and the who of the incident. Fig. 2 is for a diagram of the incident ‘in the opinion of the protestor’. In drawing your diagram remember that the protest committee has probably seen many others that day where everybody has shown the boats sailing from the bottom of the page towards the top of the page and where each square on the paper equals one boat length. Now if you come along showing the boats sailing down the page and at a different scale you will confuse some of the committee which may get you a poor decision from the protest. So follow the instructions on the paper; show the wind direction, and the current direction (if any). Use dotted lines to show the path of the boats, and each boat should be properly identified. Figure 2 shows one method that can be used. It clearly shows the wind direction, the mark, and the position of all the boats and any changes in courses that were made immediately prior to the incident. The main thing is to keep the report simple and clear. Do not include information that has no bearing on the incident. If your diagram is untidy, with errors or omissions, can you expect the committee to have full confidence in the truth of your story? Fig. 3 is a blank sheet for your written description. Again the secret is simplicity. This example gives the Protestor’s side of the story and is a pure summation of the facts.

Note:
(i) he has not gone into a discussion,
(ii) he has quoted the rules that he believes apply in (fig. 1), 
(iii) he has shown that he has tried to avoid a collision at the last moment,
(iv) he has shown that he claimed ‘right of way’ by shouting ‘No overlap’,
(v) he notes a possible witness (boat D) although he cannot give the sail numb er or a name,
(vi) he has not spoken for or given any reasons for the other competitors action. The other competitor will make his side of the story known to the committee at the hearing.

When the form is complete it is given to the committee. The race instructions or the Race Notice will give the details of when and how this should be done.

The Hearing

Appendix VIII of the race rules gives the procedure that should be followed by the Protest Committee, and Part VI of the Race rules says what SHALL be done. I do not intend to reprint from the rule book but there are a few items of particular interest. Rule 67 is one that bears emphasis. In effect it says that (i) when there is contact between boats, both boats will be disqualified unless one of them retires acknowledging fault OR there is a protest filed. (N.B. the provisions for ‘Alternative Penalties’ do NOT apply. The alternative penalties only apply to rules of part IV and rule 67 is in Part VI). (ii) a third party who sees an infringement of (i) above may protest both boats. (iii) The race committee can accept minor contact between boats as unavoidable and waive any penalties. The moral here seems to be that if two boats make contact, file a protest.

When you get to the Protest Committee and you have an objection to any member of the committee you should say so before the hearing gets under way. You may know something that could bias a member’s judgement and by explaining this now may save embarrassment later. The first thing that is done at a hearing is to have the protest read out so that everybody is aware of the incident that is going to be discussed. If you consider that you need more time to prepare yourself, this is the time to ask for a recess. Part of your preparation should be reading the appropriate rules that conc ern your case. Both parties will be present during the hearing. The witnesses are only present when they are giving their evidence. At this time you should be prepared with paper and pencil to make notes of quest ions that you will want to ask or points that will need further investigation. You don’t want a vital point in your favour to be forgotten and you may require it in your summation. During the hearing you must practice the patience of Job and remember that you must never speak out of turn or argue with anybody. Each party will be given the opportunity to (a) state his opinion of the incident, (b) question the other party and the witnesses, and (c) make a final statement.

You will note the similarity to the common court procedure, although most Protest committees are not that formal. The degree of formality will depend on the Chairman of the committee and the importance of the race where the incident occurred. Obviously there will be more formality at the World Championship than there is at a week night race, although the decision reached should be the same.

From the evidence that is presented to the committee the committee must determine and state the facts that have been established, i.e. that ‘A’ was on port tack; ‘B’ was on starboard tack; that ‘A’ hailed ‘B’ claiming no overlap, etc., etc. From the facts the committee will now apply the appropriate rules and make its decision. The decision will be made known to both parties and either party may ask to have the decision in writing, and may appeal the decision to the National authority, in our case the C.Y.A. But you should note that only the interpretation of the rules can be appealed, not any of the facts that were found by the protest committee.

You are a Referee

All this means that for a game of sailing there are rules which are enforced. As it is impossible to have a referee watch all the competitors all of the time as they do in baseball, hockey and other sports the players themselves are put on their honour to abide by the rules, and if there is a difference of opinion as to the interpretation, the race committee will rule on the evidence. We all know that in the heat of the moment and in intense competition we may not all see things the same way and there is no shame to find that the committee ruled against you. There are many cases where the Appeals committee has overturned the original Protest committee decision, and surely if the committee can make a bum decision in the unhurried calmness of their deliberation, it’s no crime to make a poor instant one in the heat of competition. Besides, it’s just as likely that it was the other guy who made the wrong decision as that it was you. Very, very few protests are ever filed against deliberate breaking of the rules and should you become involved in one of these situations and embarrass the other party, then you will have done your duty to your sailing friends by discouraging deliberate cheating. But remember. .
                  " . whatever happens . .
                                  always enjoy your racing”.

Peter Pugh, Canada

Editors Note: This article is from Reflections No. 26 October 1976, page 6 & 15. It has been captured by OCR, so typos & errors are possible.

Latest forum posts

More Topics »

Who's Online

We have 1595 guests and no members online