RMYS Protest Committee: Tips on Validity

It is encouraging to hear and see boats taking the self policing principle of our sport seriously and when appropriate, challenging boats that may have broken a rule. Most of the time, these on-water disputes are resolved the best possible way, on the water with the infringing boat opting to take an on-water penalty (when appropriate). 
However, sometimes there is disagreement and the next step is to seek the assistance of the Club’s protest committee to help resolve the dispute. At RMYS, Arbitration is offered in the SI’s and all boats are encouraged to consider this as their first option. If the matter is too difficult or there was damage, then a full protest hearing may be required. 
It takes time and effort to organise hearings and it can be very frustrating for everyone find that before the matter can be heard, the hearing is stopped and goes no further because it is deemed to be invalid. So what are the requirements that determine the validity of a hearing?

  1. On water: rule 61.1(a),  states ‘… she shall hail “Protest” and conspicuously display a red flag at the first reasonable opportunity for each.’
  2. Off water: Rule 61.2 identifies the protest contents. The protest must be in writing and lodged in time. In writing doesn’t mean that it needs to be a thesis outlining rules etc. Merely that it identifies the boats involved, briefly describes the incident, where and when it occurred, rule/s that may have been broken and the protestor’s representative. 

Most boats have no issues other than lodging on time, with the written protest. However, we do have issues with boats not understanding their requirements for protesting on the water. In particular, a) what to say and b) how long is too long before displaying the red flag?
The rules don’t stipulate times but guidance and discussion among advisory bodies such as the World Sailing Race Officials Committee is that the hail “Protest” should be made immediately and the red flag, if required, should be flown almost straight away.  Generally 2-30 seconds is considered the acceptable period of time. 30 seconds to a minute is considered acceptable if the incident required evasive boat handling and or crew safety. Ultimately it is up to the Protest committee to determine if the time taken to fly the flag was reasonable.  The World Sailing Judges Manual then goes on to say that:
“If the protest committee decides that the requirements for the protest have not been met, the protest is invalid and the hearing is closed. The protest committee has no discretion under the rules to hear an invalid protest.” K.8.10
So in summary:

  1. If you plan to race then you are expected to hail “Protest” AND fly a red flag (on keelboats). 
  2. As part of getting your boat ready for the day’s racing, fit your red flag to the location it will be deployed from and have it ready to go ie. with some velcro or some such keeping it furled. Hunting in a locker for something red to fly after the incident wont be accepted.
  3. Make every effort to draw the attention of the alleged infringing boat to your intention to protest in order to give them the opportunity to choose to take a penalty. 
  4. Never be afraid to make a mistake by hailing and flying a flag. Better to hail and fly then choose to remove it if realising a mistake than think about it and risk your protest being invalid.

If in doubt “shout it out AND fly your flag”
Have fun and fair sailing
Darren Eger
RMYS Protest Committee