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Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012
Team McLube


The Publisher

Jan 4, 2013, 6:29 AM

Post #1 of 6 (48519 views)
Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012 Log-In to Post/Reply

As 76 yachts lined up on Boxing Day to start the 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, two of its high profile entrants garnered regrettable attention:
DENIED: Just two and a half hours before the start of the race, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore, Howard Piggott, announced: "The Race Committee of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will not be accepting the entry of the boat Wild Thing as a result of non-compliance with the Notice of Race, in particular NOR 4.1, dealing with documentation to be lodged and verification of construction requirements."

The Don Jones designed super maxi Wild Thing had undergone extensive modifications in recent months, including a new a section of her hull to lengthen her to the permitted maximum of 100 feet. "We are absolutely devastated to be told at the 11th hour that we are unable to race to Hobart," said skipper Grant Wharington. --
REDRESS: The International Jury ruled that Syd Fischer's Elliott 100 Ragamuffin-Loyal was not at fault when she failed to restart after crossing the line early. Their decision came after the Race Committee brought the redress action to the International Jury on behalf of Ragamuffin-Loyal, stating that they had not fulfilled all the requirements due to an OCS starter.

The RC had made a sound signal and displayed Code Flag X and repeatedly called on VHF. However, the Race Committee did not contact the yacht in accordance with Sailing Instruction 1.20.3 approximately five minutes after the starting signal. --

The Publisher

Jan 4, 2013, 6:30 AM

Post #2 of 6 (48517 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012 [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Michael Silverman:
I'm still struggling to understand why the Sydney-Hobart race committee didn't at least allow Wild Thing to sail the course, and sort out the paperwork issues afterwards. Now Wild Thing has no recourse, no appeals.

I get that there was a question around certifications from the original designer, and therefore safety may be an issue, but Wild Thing says they got another designer to approve the design and wasn't notified until the day of the race that it was unacceptable.

If it truly was a safety issue, then the committee was probably right to not let them race. But at least give the competitors every opportunity to fix a mistake and get on the starting line. To me, it just does not seem that this committee did that.

In the bigger context, shouldn't committees as a whole be more communicative and inclusive than exclusive at a time when we're struggling to maintain participation in the sport?

From Bill Sandberg:
On Long Island Sound we have awards to recognize the work of the CYC of Australia race committee and the international jury for the Sydney-Hobart. They are called Mooseheads, and they are handed out by the International Society for Perpetuation of Cruelty to Racing Yachtsmen. Need I say more?

The Publisher

Jan 4, 2013, 6:31 AM

Post #3 of 6 (48515 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012 [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

When Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun failed a drug test during the 2011 Major League Baseball season, the appeal of his 50-game steroid suspension didn't challenge the fact that his urine sample revealed the presence of copious synthetic testosterone in the player's system. No, instead they challenged the urine sample collection procedure.

This defense tactic ultimately overturned Braun's suspension, and it was this approach which came to mind when it was reported how Syd Fischer's Elliott 100 Ragamuffin-Loyal was not found at fault of being over early at the start of the 628 nm Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. The facts did not dispute they were OCS, but rather that the race committee did not completely follow the recall procedure as described in the Sailing Instructions...

20. - Recalls
20.1 - Individual recalls will be signalled in accordance with RRS 29.1 from the relevant race committee signal vessel on the starting line. A sound signal may be made (amends RRS 29.1).
20.2 - A boat subject to recall will pass on the course side of and around either of its starting limit marks and start. (In accordance with RRS 30.1)
20.3 - A boat subject to recall will be identified by the relevant race committee signal vessel by radio on VHF 72 for the northern start line and VHF 71 for the southern start line. Such radio recall information will be transmitted approximately five minutes after the start signal.
20.4 - There will be no General Recall.

The facts found revealed that the Race Committee fulfilled their obligations under the RRS, and there were repeated attempts by the RC to contact the yacht by VHF beyond the prescribed requirement in the Sailing Instruction, but the RC did not contact the yacht by VHF at "approximately five minutes after the signal" per the prescribed requirement in the Sailing Instruction.

This aerial video shows Ragamuffin-Loyal was OCS at the start of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race with no attempt made to restart per SI 20.2:

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

The Publisher

Jan 7, 2013, 7:23 AM

Post #4 of 6 (48492 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012 [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Arthur Engel, US Sailing RRS committee:
Regarding the Sydney-Hobart OCS boat that was given redress, we don't have the Facts Found by the Jury but it is easy to imagine a set of facts that would entitle a boat to redress.

The boat is close to the line but doesn't think it was over early (there are other boats that might be over and the RC makes the visual and sound signals correctly). The boat turns on the radio four and a half minutes after their start to listen for OCS boats, hears nothing and turns it off six minutes after their start. Had the RC made the correct radio announcement they would have heard it and gone back.

Since SI 20.3 clearly states that the radio announcement will be made at the 5-minute mark, making it earlier is probably an "improper action" by the RC. However, that wouldn't result in redress here since no one seems to have been prejudiced. [Had the OCS boat heard the earlier hails and gone back then other boats presumably would have been entitled to redress for an "improper" early radio announcement by the RC.]

This situation is exactly why long-distance races commonly impose a time penalty (say 5, 10 or 15 minutes) to boats that are OCS but fail to return. It isn't very competitor-friendly to be DSQed from a 2-day+ race for an infraction that even in theory would gain you less than 1 minute or so of advantage.

From Bill Doyle, Newport RI:
Maybe we have just found exactly what is wrong with our sport. In my opinion, the skipper / owner challenging the Sydney Hobart race committee to exonerate themselves from a clear and unquestioned foul is the lowest form of unsportsmanlike conduct. Period. When Ragamuffin-Loyal learned they were positively OCS, regardless of what the RC did, they should have withdrawn. Period.

We are a self-policing sport, much like Golf, and if we can't do that our future is bleak. We were involved in two similar situations that made us question the honor of our fellow competitors.

In one race the RC appropriately posted an amendment that instituted a mid-course gate. About 15 boats missed the gate, including us. All other competitors came to protest the RC over a minimal procedural error to get their DSQ exonerated. We refused to go along them. End results: 14 boats were re-instituted and we were disqualified (appropriately.) In another incident, we were involved in a significant accident and the at-fault boat refused to accept the decisions by the protest committee, and two appeals, and it ended up in the courts. (They lost).

If winning is so important that you are willing to trade your honor for it, have you really won anything?

From George Sechrist:
The incident at the Sydney Hobart Race is a great lesson to all organizing authorities or anyone that writes NOR's or SI's. If you write it, be absolutely sure that it is reasonable and that you can enforce it! In this case, no problem if the words "approximately five minutes" were deleted. The use of the word 'approximate' will always cause controversy, as 10 different protest committees can and will make their own interpretation of what is 'approximate', a slightly different twist on this case. However, the RC somehow determined that their attempted hails on VHF were not approximately 5 minutes, but were they 4 minutes, 4.5 minutes, 5.5 minutes, 6 minutes, or what? It can be argued that these are all approximate, and all are not approximate. Keep it clear and simple!

From Shawn Millar:
What kind of silly rule is it for the Sydney Hobart race where they call the OCS boat approximately five minutes after the start? When was the last time you restarted after sailing a race for five minutes?

From Andrew McIrvine, Admiral, Royal Ocean Racing Club:
Rules are rules... except they are not. This is amply demonstrated by two recent incidents. Bernard Stamm's disqualification in the Vendee Globe Race is supported by virtually no one, while Ragamuffin's lack of disqualification in the Sydney Hobart is supported by even fewer. Go figure!

The Publisher

Jan 7, 2013, 7:24 AM

Post #5 of 6 (48491 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012 [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

A couple points regarding the Sydney Hobart Race. The SIs award a boat that is a premature starter and fails to return and start a scoring penalty of 30%. Also, the request for redress for Ragamuffin being OCS came from the race administration headquarters after they learned about the procedural miscue on the water by the race committee boat.

Rather than having Ragamuffin file for redress, the RC beat them to it - an unusual action for an RC. Given the fact now that an improper action by the RC allowed Ragamuffin to start early -and receive no penalty - could the other yachts in the fleet have filed redress, saying that their position in race was affected by an improper action of the RC?

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

The Publisher

Jan 7, 2013, 10:05 AM

Post #6 of 6 (48483 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Controversy at Sydney Hobart Race 2012 [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From George Morris:
To disqualify or not? Vendee Globe skipper Bernard Stamm seems to have the world on his side while the rich Australian in the Sydney Hobart Race does not. In most team sports a team is not disqualified except in the most extreme circumstances and individual players are 'sent off' only infrequently. There is an assumption that while breaking the rules must have consequences; we do not want to stop play. Athletics and swimming do have stringent starting penalties because false starts jeopardize other people's chances.

In sailing, in a one design fleet on a short course getting ahead at the start is so important that OCS has to be penalised and discouraged, but does it have to be a disqualification? I would say not if there is a practical alternative. I don't think someone who has jumped the start should be allowed to continue to race until he has sailed behind the rest of the fleet at some point, either by returning to the start or waiting at the first mark, but in a handicap race of some 600 miles the start is surely not very important.

As for Bernard - one has the same sympathy for him as one has for the half dozen or so other contestants who are out of the race because something has broken. If your keel falls off you are out, if the mast falls down you are out, if you hit a floating object you are out and if none of your hydrogenerators are working you are probably out. If you try and anchor and it drags it is your problem. Only if it can be demonstrated that it was only the presence of the Russian ship that made dragging a problem and that he had no opportunity to anchor safely after its arrival is he off the hook (so to speak).

Even then, if you are run down by a fishing boat you are out, so what is the difference between that and someone anchoring behind you? I guess that if he didn't ask for help and would have coped on his own he has a case, although I already have doubts about him using his engine to find an anchoring place.

If someone wants to change the rules to something like the Volvo - fine, but at the moment it is a sailing race non-stop round the world, single-handed and without assistance. I agree that the waters are muddied by the ease of modern communications and weather routers but that cat cannot be put back in its bag. And now they are talking about getting him some more diesel. Come on......!

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