Sunday, 2 December 2012

Club racing : To protest or not to protest

Cause for great excitement in the Race Box on Sunday, when Slipper had the first protest lodged in a club race for a number of years.   After the Race Officer recovered from the astonishment of finding a protest form in the hut, it was duly completed by Max Jones shortly after the race.  The protest concerned an incident on the start line between two lasers, and alledged 'barging' at the hut end of the line.

In the event, the Laser being protested opted to retire, thereby negating the need for a hearing.  I spoke with a number of witnesses to the event - from both clubs - all of whom confirmed that retirement was perhaps the most attractive option (ie, we all think you would have lost Dave!).

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!


  1. So, 1min44secs before the gun, I was standing pushing the boom out and backing the boat up, with Wendy just above me and Jez behind me but slightly lower, and the post on my nose; and as seconds counted down, moved the boat back n forth from the post and back about 5metres. The photo shows me clear of the post

    At about 40secs, I could see a Laser (I didn't yesterday and don't look normally who, its another boat and thats it) coming in behind and underneath probably 2 metres away going slowly and trying to back up aswell as the line approached. I moved down a bit to give myself some room; next time noted was 17secs before
    Backed up a bit more, post just above my nose (about a metre to the right) with room to get the boat through easily, though tight enough to prevent others sitting behind me to get in if possible. I wish I had my go-pro running as you could see it didn't take much boom pushing to get the boat to go backwards, therefore showing the wind direction and how little you would have to point to be into wind. I think the second photo also shows the rest of the boats and angle to sail and Max's boat with tight sail into wind

    The other Laser was stil 2 metres away and with 6 secs to go, I started to sheet in and accelerate (it was possible); with 1 sec to go, saw the other Laser push his nose up to windward and come towards me about my midships and started calling "up" - I think as Dave A rightly said to Mark, you cannot just point the boat into wind to luff anyone and also have to give the other boat time to move - in Sundays wind, there was not much I was able to do without by that time banging the post with my boat and watching others pile into me from behind, also not being able to react. My view is that the call was unnecessary. I didn't want to damage my boat, or others and he didn't have the right to point into wind and luff. Others may say they saw different, though others saw a boat pointing into me and it was obvious what he wanted to do - as before should have had my go-pro running - next time ??
    I said he had no rights to luff me up in his position, his nose was between amidships and the stern plus the pole was there and I couldn't move, and once past the pole pointed up to give space. My view I thought was sound, as I was then at least a boat length ahead, and if the other Laser hadn't pointed into wind would have been along side me or ahead as he would have had speed. He said he wanted to file ! I was concentrating on the rest of the race !

  2. Just relooked at protest form, he even shows his boat as pointing into wind !

  3. The first photo shows a clear overlap and that you had plenty of opportunity to keep clear - you would have been the wrong side of the IDM though.

    The video of Sam's terrible start in H&H7 (about 4m30 in) shows a very similar incident, with Sam being luffed the wrong side of the post by Bruce.

  4. OK so thats the right to reply done, we will now leave people to draw their own conclusions. Otherwise we might we introducing a new form of resolution, known as the 'protracted dispute on a blog a couple of days after the event', which I'm not willing to entertain or arbitrate!

  5. Gareth's comment sneaked in before I posted! Thats the last one!