I was recently a member of the Jury for a World Championship with over 200 boats. Rule 42 observance was great, in contrast to previous events in this class.
We briefed the competitors, used the ISAF interpretations and so far have had a total of 25 yellow flags in 18 races in wind speed varying from 4 to 14 knots.
However, observance of part 2 has been atrocious and we have to say this is quite similar to many events at which we have judged in the last few years (which is why we did not name the current event - it is not just a problem with this particular class). There have been blatant port-starboards with serious contact, there have been boats parked on marks, there have been multiple pile-ups around marks. Often boats that have not broken rules have lost 20-30 places yet there have been almost no penalties taken and no protests. We guess they do not protest as we are sailing 4 races a day. Few want to spend the evening waiting for hearings and social pressures do not encourage protesting. Even if a protest is won, you do not get the 20 places you lost back, so what is the point? All you do is make an enemy!
The jury have observed many of these incidents but we adopted the common policy of not acting when competitors could act themselves. The result is that we spend many hours on the water watching one gross infringement after another. Self-policing may work in some events but not this one or many others.
While we understand some of the reluctance for jury members to act directly under part 2 there are lessons we can learn from the success of rule 42. If we applied a similar procedure, we would protest at the time and require a penalty to be taken immediately on the water or the boat would risk greater penalty. Protesting and creating hearings is not so effective and re-creates the problems of late hearings Also, competitors seldom feel jury v competitor protests are 'fair'. It is the whistle and flag on the water that make all competitors realise the risk of breaking the rules. If, when we are certain that a boat has broken a rule (not just a small bear away by a starboard tack boat!) we should give an opportunity for a 2 x 360 penalty to be taken. If no penalty is taken we might display a red flag and signal. This signal would impose a greater penalty, for example 4 x 360 turns. We believe it is likely that, as with rule 42, a much higher level of rule observance would follow and the event would be better for all. Even an occasional over-enthusiastic red flag would be preferable to some of the carnage we have seen on the race course in the last few days. Similar to Appendix N, this might be an alternative that may be adopted event by event and the procedure might require an IJ to be in the jury boat for International events. Whatever, we need to do something!
John Doerr is an ISAF International Judge and International Umpire, Chairman of the ISAF International Umpires Sub-Committee, Vice-Chairman of the ISAF Match Racing Sub-Committee and member of the ISAF Match Racing Commmittee and ISAF Race Officials Committee.
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