UPDATE : Some interesting photos of the start, that perhaps settle any discussion as to whether there was an infringement!
The incident raised a number of questions that merit wider discussion. Should we encourage more protests in club racing? Why don't we have more protests in club racing? What about arbitration (as opposed to full protest)?
My personal view is that protests are a good thing, for the following reasons:
- Unless we have protests or arbitration at a club level, we can expect the same infringements to be made on a weekly basis, as there is no consequence for the sailors involved. We have no referees or on-the-water umpires.
- As a result of this particular incident, I think there are a number of positive consequences - (i) Dave will hopefully modify his approach into a starting mark, (ii) all the sailors who read this will think twice about reaching into a starting mark, and (iii) protesting (or asking for arbitration) may be viewed as a more viable option for those who feel they have been infringed on the race course.
- They do not take as much time as people think, especially at this level (we aren't talking lawyers in the Americas Cup here). It can not have taken Max more than 5 minutes to complete the form, and we had no problem finding experienced independent sailors to form a protest committee.
- Understanding the rules is a good thing, protests and arbitration help explore areas of rules that may not fully understood.
I have little sympathy with the view that 'its only club racing, and protests are completely over the top' (but I didn't feel you were in the right emotional place to have that discussion yesterday Dave!). There has to be a consequence for breaking rules.
Having said all that, there are situations where protesting may not the most appropriate course of actions. For example, my view is that more experienced sailors should provide a degree of lassitude with the less experienced racers in the fleet. Our role is to encourage novice racers, not to shout rules and protests at them.
As a club, I think there are a couple of things we can do. First, hold some rules training, Second, introduce arbitration as a alternative to protesting. Third, make sure everyone understands the options available to them. Something for Sailing Committee to discuss (if I'm on it next year anyway).
Comments welcome from all quarters, especially if you disagree!