Scuttlebutt Website SCUTTLEBUTT
Who's Online WHO'S
Log in LOG IN         

Forum Index: .: Dock Talk:
RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start
Team McLube


The Publisher

Jul 26, 2011, 10:33 AM

Post #1 of 10 (24220 views)
RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start Log-In to Post/Reply

by Rob Overton, International Umpire

Rule 32.1 allows a race committee to abandon a race for several specific reasons:
(a) errors in the starting sequence;
(b) foul weather;
(c) insufficient wind making it unlikely that any boats will finish within the time limit; or
(d) a mark missing or out of position.

Then rule 32.1(e) plays a trump card, allowing the RC to abandon a race “for any other reason directly affecting the safety or fairness of the competition.” The rule then goes on to add one caveat: “However, after one boat has sailed the course and finished within the time limit, if any, the race committee shall not abandon the race without considering the consequences for all boats in the race or series.”

I understand the reason we need the catch-all reason for abandonment in rule 32.1(e): Suppose the race committee learns that a big ship is about to come through the race area and the RC decides that the probability that someone will get hurt or drown is too great to continue racing. Even if the fleet is able to get out of the way safely, the race will have become disastrously unfair to those who had to turn on their engines to avoid being run down by the freighter or got caught on the wrong side of the ship. Of course in such circumstances the RC should abandon all races currently in progress and wait for the ship to come through before restarting.

But in the absence of big ships, deadly squalls and other similar catastrophes, I’m not at all sure what rule 32.1(e) allows, especially with regard to fairness. I’ve heard it said that if the wind changes more than X degrees (30? 40?) or drops below Y knots (4? 3?) the race should be abandoned, even if it’s on its last leg. But suppose a competitor carefully studies the weather patterns before going out on the racecourse and concludes that there will be a big shift to the right sometime in the midafternoon.

If she protects the right side in each race after 1 o’clock, is it unfair to the other competitors when she’s in the right place to take advantage of the shift when it occurs? Or is it more unfair to her if the race committee abandons the race because the beat is now almost a fetch or the run is a reach? Suppose a competitor expects the sea breeze to fill in and heads offshore to pick up the first bit of it; is it unfair for her to lead that race by a mile when the sea breeze does fill in? Or is it more unfair for the race committee to take that huge lead away from her by abandoning the race?

One person’s luck is another’s skill, and before abandoning a race RCs should make very sure that whatever happened that made the race ”unfair” in their estimation was really not predictable. -- Read on:

The Publisher

Jul 26, 2011, 10:34 AM

Post #2 of 10 (24215 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

By Tom Duggan, International Race Officer

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.


Jul 27, 2011, 12:47 AM

Post #3 of 10 (24156 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Hard cases almost always lead to bad law... With UK national law you quite often see astonishingly dumb legislation brought in because "something must be done" about an unpleasant but very rare eventuality which ends up having little effect other than creating a lot of hassle for perfectly innocent people. Its a complex world. Bad things happen to good people. Sometime its best to accept you can't legislate for every circumstance...


Jul 27, 2011, 5:53 AM

Post #4 of 10 (24119 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

We just had an incredibly similar situation arise at our club races last week. We finally came to the decision tonight (1 week later) that abandonment under RRS32 would be the best scenario - unfortunate, given that it was 15 to 20 knots, warm and sunny (champagne sailing), but the best solution.

As a new NRO, I find that RRS32 is under-utilized because we tend to want to "save" the race. And sometimes, we may hang on to a race a little too long, when it should be abandoned.


The Publisher

Jul 27, 2011, 6:28 AM

Post #5 of 10 (24108 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

With regard to Rob Overton's post on abandoning races, here is a discussion paper I put together after the leaders in a World Champs were swept to the wrong side of what should have been the gybe (jibe) mark when the wind died yet the tail-enders caught a new breeze from behind to sail around them!:

Draft RO ‘Race Fairness’ Guidelines - Discussion

Rule 32.1e obligates ROs to consider abandoning or shortening races in the interests of fairness. What constitutes circumstances that directly affect the fairness of the competition, i.e. what are the circumstances that warrant RO action under Rule 32.1e?

Let’s consider some typical circumstances and then try to categorise whether they warrant such action in the following categories: action definitely required, possibly action required, and action should not be taken.

Action required:

>45° shift on the first beat. 180° shift during the race; complete shuffling of the fleet. Wind hole then it fills in elsewhere causing significant place changes especially if compounded by current taking parts of fleet downstream (i.e. no chance to do anything about it).

Possible action required:

Circa 30° shift on first beat. Start Line heavily biased (postpone and try again rather than 32.1e action). 180° shift during the race; significant place changes. Wind hole then fills in significant place changes. Wind dropping such that even though the leader will make the time limit, there is a likelihood that many others won’t.

Action not appropriate:

<20° shift causing some to gain, others to lose (that’s sailing!). 180° shift during the race; no significant place changes (take the result as another race completed). Wind hole then fills in no significant place changes.

The thinking on the wind going flat, especially if there is current, is that even the best sailors can do nothing about this so it can’t be a matter of skill. No sailor can make a boat go to where the wind is filling in (legally!) if the wind is nonexistent in the part of the course he/she is in.

Another contributory factor, or indicator of unfairness, could be whether it can be expected that the sailor avoids the problem i.e. there is freedom of choice on course (e.g. a beat or run where the problem is evident and the sailor can go the other way to avoid it). The converse is a ‘rhum-line’ leg where the ‘proper’ course is straight and the wind ‘problem’ affects only the leaders, for example.

We could debate each of the above ‘top of the head’ examples and, I’m sure, add more. If you think this is worthwhile, and would assist ROs in decision making, we could develop it further?


Steve Pyatt


Jul 27, 2011, 7:54 AM

Post #6 of 10 (24091 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

In response to Tom Duggan's post:

He certainly did the least bad thing the rules allowed him to do. It's obvious to me, at least, that the rules are at fault. The idea that a jury cannot decide to hold a hearing even though a protest flag was not flown is the real problem in his tale. The jury should be empowered to search for justice (or the closest thing possible) in any situation that comes to its attention. The intent of flying a flag is to notify protested yachts that they may have broken a rule, not to create an arbitrary hurdle for protesting yachts. The boats that would have been protested for sailing the wrong course were not any worse off because the protesting boats did not fly flags. If a race officer can abandon a whole race--apparently without a hearing in this case--surely a jury should be empowered to dispense with procedural requirements to hold a hearing.

Tom Donlan

The Publisher

Jul 27, 2011, 8:31 AM

Post #7 of 10 (24086 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Phil Mostyn:
Referring to Tom Duggan’s example in issue 3392, why didn’t the RC request Redress under rule 60.2(b)? Alternatively, of course, the PC could have called a hearing to consider redress under rule 60.3(b).

From Brent Boyd:
Commenting on the RRS 32.1 example by Tom Duggan in Scuttlebutt 3392, the three tools who sailed the wrong course and would not retire should be banned from sailing for one year - reason being “lack of sportsmanship”. I hope they will enjoy looking at their ill-gotten trophies for a year while their fleet continues to race.

Bruce Thompson

Jul 27, 2011, 1:56 PM

Post #8 of 10 (24032 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I agree that there ought to be more reasons available then just safety. Sportsmanship perhaps?

I was at a Laser regatta that started in a light offshore wind then came under the influence of a highly predictable lake breeze. I and two others sailed out into the new wind and smoked the rest of the fleet. We stood on the beach waiting for the time limit to expire! Later, we were approached by the chief judge with the news that the RC had forgotten to note the start time and therefore could not clearly define which boats other than the three of us had finished within the time limit. He asked us to consider allowing the jury to abandon after finishing to avoid embarassment to the RC and to simplify the process. We discussed the matter and agreed that the race should be abandoned (in effect we retired after finishing). Having been asked for relief by the RC and treated with respect for what we had accomplished on the water, we all found a suitable resolution that conformed to the standards of good sportsmanship.

Why this jury could not informally discuss the matter with the boats that sailed the incorrect course and ask them to display good sportsmanship by taking an RAF escapes me. But, once again, I admit I am an antique. If they refused to comply, they would have earned their new reputation as being unsportsmanlike. Let them live that down. I doubt anyone would seriously fear they would win the series if their understading of the rules is so poor as to make such a novice mistake.

Bruce Thompson

Jul 28, 2011, 6:36 AM

Post #9 of 10 (23979 views)
Re: [Bruce Thompson] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

As to the question at hand, the best solution would be for the three boats that sailed the incorrect course to become aware of their mistake and retire after finishing. The problem is no one seems to want to talk to them, rather they want to create a big brouhaha. I would be very disappointed in any judge, particularly an international judge, who did not have enough respect from the competitors to make it happen.

It seems we have another instance of judges overreaching and acting as if they as some sort of "fairness" cops. Please note that real cops are not real judges and vice versa. Throwing out a perfectly good race for the bulk of the fleet because seemingly no one is able to meet the test for redress, "no fault of her own", is not a solution. However, it might be a teaching moment! Also note that "no fault" in the RRS means faultless or zero fault, not the degraded "no fault" of a "no fault" divorce.

It's no wonder racers think the rules are complicated if their interpretation is mishandled they way it has been in this instance.

The Publisher

Jul 29, 2011, 8:58 AM

Post #10 of 10 (23846 views)
Re: [The Publisher] RRS 32.1 - Shortening or Abandoning After The Start [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From John Sweeney:
Regarding the thread on ‘RRS 32 - Abandoning After The Start’ as pertains to Mr Overton's original point, I have had multiple levels of experience which I consider relevant to the topic (experience with contract law, as a certified PRO who needed to abandon a race for RC error, and as a sole finisher having been on the losing end of a decision to abandon). I offer this thought:

32.1(c) should, in lieu of extenuating circumstance (space ships, poor sportsmanship, etc.), supersede 32.1(e). Which is to say, if conditions might allow or have allowed one or more boats to finish a race then it has been fairly sailed and results should stand. Reacting to weather and luck are parts of the game and participation comes with accepting each.

Viewing the Forums: No members and guests

Search for (options) Contact Forum Forum FAQS Markup Tags Forum Rules