Jul 26, 2011, 10:34 AM
Post #2 of 10
By Tom Duggan, International Race Officer
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start
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Rule 32.1(e) is little used, but it is an important tool to have in a race manager's tool box. Sometimes something unforeseen happens in a race, making a race unfair that cannot be solved by any other means. I have had to employ that rule for non-safety reasons. Here's one example:
The wind had shifted in a multi-fleet race. Two weather marks had been employed; both were moved to different bearings in response to the increasing wind shift. As a fleet of 19 one design boats approached the leeward gate, they were properly signaled by visual signals and by radio on the fleet channel several times. Bbut for some reason the 11th, 12th, and 13th boats through the gate sailed to the old weather mark and then back to the finish, finishing first, second, and third.
Since the mark boats were busy setting and resetting marks, they did not see it happen. Since we had four fleets approaching the finish from two different places, we on the signal boat didn't see it either. Two boats from the fleet saw it happen and called on the radio after the race to express their intent to protest. BUT - although both saw the incident- neither flew a protest flag. The race committee was unable to protest, because we did not see it happen. Then, later on shore, although the rest of the fleet saw the results posted, no one filed for redress within the time limit because they assumed the filed protests would solve the problem.
The international jury was obligated to find the protests invalid because no protest flags were flown. A flurry of redress submissions were then filed the next morning- but were invalid as they were not timely as regards to the posting of the original results. Learning that a protest committee acted properly by ruling a protest invalid does not open the door to redress. The 11th, 12th, and 13th place competitors declined to retire from the race as they insisted they had done nothing wrong and had not been properly notified of the change so a rule 2 protest didn't seem proper.
Somehow, despite everyone's best efforts, we had a misunderstanding that led us all into a corner. Without the opportunity for the jury to intervene, grant redress or abandon the race, we were stuck with a race result that was obviously unfair. The two winning boats, whatever the reason, had sailed a different, shorter course than the rest of the fleet. After a lot of thought, and a discussion with the jury and the organizing authority, I abandoned the race under 32.1(e). Abandoning the race was no magic fix, as some boats with legitimate good results in that race lost those results- but, in the end, it was the least unfair result available. But without 32.1(e), we would have been obligated to allow the result and the scrambled standings.
There seems to be a bit of a movement afoot to eliminate 32.1(e) as it makes some uncomfortable not to have every situation fit into a nice tidy box with a nice tidy answer. Unfortunately the nature of our sport doesn't always allow for this. Stuff happens during a sailing race that just wouldn't happen, for example, during a 100 meter dash in a track meet. Sometimes our race officials need to step up and make tough decisions for the good of a regatta.
Restricting 32.1(e) to safety issues only, or eliminating it altogether, would most certainly make my job easier - believe me, there is nothing that gives me worse heartburn than the prospect of abandoning a race before or after a finish. But this would lead to a classic 'good news bad news' scenario for competitors. The good news would be that, no matter what - safety aside, without a valid reason to involve a jury - no race with a finisher could be abandoned and the result would stand. The bad news would be that, no matter what - safety aside, without a valid reason to involve a jury - no race with a finisher could be abandoned and the result would stand.