Protest Committee Make Decision On Rule 69 (Gross Misconduct) Allegations.
Following is a statement by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia following the announcement of the findings of the Protest Committee released after a hearing of Gross Misconduct under RRS 669 re Mr Richard Purcell, the owner/skipper of Margaret Rintoul II in the 1968 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. The decision of the Protest Committee was as follows: "The allegations under RRS 69 against Richard Purcell are dismissed."
During the tragic 1998 Telstra Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the yacht Margaret Rintoul II, skippered by Richard Purcell, passed close by a vessel in distress. That vessel was later identified as Sword of Orion, from whom Glyn Charles had been lost some time earlier.
Sword of Orion was dismasted and drifting in the storm. After some delay, Margaret Rintoul II contacted race control with the position of the stricken vessel, but did not otherwise render assistance to Sword of Orion.
During the course of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's own review following the 1998 race, the circumstances of the Margaret Rintoul II/Sword of Orion incident were the subject of a report to the Protest Committee. Under Rule 69 of the Racing Rules of Sailing, the Protest Committee determined that a full hearing ought be held to determine whether a gross breach of rule 1.1 of the RRS had occurred. Rule 1.1 requires all boats and competitors to give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.
After much delay, the final hearing of the matter occurred on 16 June 2001. At it, the Protest Committee concluded that in the light of the extreme weather conditions at the time, and the fact that Margaret Rintoul II's own engine was no longer working, the decision not to turn back and render direct assistance was appropriate.
The Committee noted deficiencies in the radio procedures employed on board Margaret Rintoul II at the time of the incident, and concluded that those deficiencies were not intentional and did not constitute a gross breach of the rule.
CYCA Commodore Hans Sommer commented today that the Club was glad that the matter had finally been determined in accordance with the RRS.
"Our interest in this all along has been that the incident must be examined and tested in accordance with the rules applicable to our sport with which all competitors agree to comply when entering races", he said.
"Mr Purcell chose to challenge the right of the Protest Committee to hear the matter. It was the view of the CYCA that there was no basis for this challenge, and Mr Purcell's challenge was ultimately dismissed. The Club has been put to a great deal of unnecessary expense in dealing with the challenge. We are pleased that ultimately the Racing Rules of Sailing and the Protest Committee procedures were found to be the appropriate vehicle for dealing with the matter.
"We are also pleased with the outcome. As noted by the Protest Committee itself, there were clearly questions raised by the incident that needed to be addressed in the interests of the reputation of the sport. Those questions have now been dealt with in accordance with the sport's own rules, and have been answered to the satisfaction of the Protest Committee.
"The New South Wales Coroner made his own findings and comments in relation to this incident. They are not inconsistent with the findings of the Protest Committee, and the criticisms made by him remain part of the record in the Coroner's Report."
A copy of the Protest Committee's report is available by fax, but not online from Peter Campbell:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy by fax.