The Club system for protests
When racing and there is a collision between 2 boats or other infringement of the rules of sailing, the sailor in the wrong should take a penalty or retire. If they chose not to do so, they should be protested by the other sailor (or indeed any other sailor in the race or by the race committee) and the incident is arbitrated by the protest committee. If a sailor was in the wrong he is usually disqualified from that race.
But, protesting is “not done” in the Club (and indeed in the Harbour Clubs) because of the time it takes and the formality and the inquisitorial nature of the proceedings. The trouble is, not protesting when rules are broken leads to the general disregard of the rules and subsequent ill-feeling. Over-enthusiastic regulation on the other hand leads to feelings of pettiness and resentment that sailors are using the rules to win.€ť
The Club system
When 2 sailors can’t agree on the water and neither takes a penalty, they inform the race officer, who with his assistant or another sailor not involved in the incident, convenes an immediate hearing between the sailors, with the aim of deciding who was in the wrong and also of everyone learning about the rules in the process.
The race officer uses a whiteboard, boat models or similar aid, the book of rules and a quiet area where the hearing can take place. He asks both sailors to describe what happened (with witnesses if they are available) then, with all concerned present, describes his understanding of the incident. He then confers with his assistant and reaches a decision which he announces to the 2 sailors concerned. Instead of disqualification if one is in the wrong, a time penalty is awarded of 5% of their elapsed time in that race.
If the OOD is not sure of the rules himself, he may ask for assistance from any other sailor not involved in the incident.
All Club members are asked to abide by the race officer’s decision, but if after the hearing a sailor is convinced he has been wrongly penalised, he may appeal to the Sailing Committee for a full Protest..
- You don’t need to learn the rules but you do need to learn what your rights and obligations are on the water.
- The correct thing to do when you do something wrong (even if no-one else is there (like touching a mark) is to do the penalty. Sailing relies on everyone â€śdoing the right thing€ť
- If a collision or incident is not your fault you do not have to take a penalty or retire, unless there is damage or injury.
- If you are in an incident and neither of you is sure of what the rules are, ask the race officer for arbitration after the race. On the other hand, doing a 720 will lose you less places than 5% of your race time!
- Faster boats avoid getting in these situations. Think ahead all the time and sail to ensure your rights, but to avoid time-consuming confrontations.Â Talk to other sailors about the situation that is building up and be unequivocal about what you think is happening:
For instance, coming up to a mark with another boat behind you, if you say “No overlap...no overlap...3 boat lengths now, no room”€ť then (providing you are correct!) you have given the other boat a clear indication that they cannot have room at the mark.