Thursday, May 9, 2013


This posting is about redress.  Before we get into this topic, let me be clear – if I could, I’d remove redress from the rulebook altogether.  No other sport’s rules include the concept that somehow when things go bad on the field of play the results of the game or match or whatever should be set aside.   

The star player for a basketball team goes up for a shot and a player on the other team undercuts him.  He lands wrong and breaks his wrist.  There is a penalty against the other player, but that’s it.  Suppose after the game the injured player’s team were to  request “redress”, asking the league to erase the game and play it again after they’ve found another star to replace the injured player.  That would be crazy, right?  Yet that’s exactly what the Racing Rules of Sailing allow.  We should remove that provision from the rulebook and bring our sport in line with “real” sports, where competitors simply take bad luck, injuries and bad calls as part of life, and live with it.

But, like it or not, our rules do have a provision for redress.  Rule 62.1 says:

"A request for redress or a protest committee’s decision to consider redress shall be based on a claim or possibility that a boat’s score in a race or series has been or may be, through no fault of her own, made significantly worse by
    (a) an improper action or omission of the race committee, protest committee, organizing
         authority, equipment inspection committee or measurement committee for the event,
         but not by a protest committee decision when the boat was a party to the hearing;

    (b) injury or physical damage because of the action of a boat that was breaking a rule of
          Part 2 or of a vessel not racing that was required to keep clear;

    (c) giving help (except to herself or her crew) in compliance with rule 1.1; or
    (d) an action of a boat, or a member of her crew, that resulted in a penalty under rule 2 or
         a penalty or warning under rule 69.2(c)."

In this blog posting, we’ll look just at the first paragraph of rule 62.1 and subsection (a).  Subsections (b)-(d) will be considered in a separate posting.

The first interesting thing to note about rule 62.1 is that, technically speaking, it only limits the grounds that can be stated in the written request for redress, not the grounds the protest committee can use to grant it; but in practice, this rule serves to limit both the request and the decision.

The one exception is the words “claim or possibility”, which apply only to the request for redress, not to the decision – for the latter, we need to refer to rule 63.1, which says in part: “… A decision on redress shall not be made without a hearing,” and rule 63.6, which says: “The protest committee shall take the evidence of the parties present at the hearing and of their witnesses and other evidence it considers necessary. … The committee shall then find the facts and base its decision on them.” These rules imply that the protest committee cannot grant redress based on a claim or possibility, but only on facts found in a hearing.  After finding facts, the protest committee must decide if it is likely that the boat's race or series score was or will be made significantly worse.  If so, and the facts support the other requirements of rule 62.1, they should grant redress. 

Let’s look at those other requirements for redress.  First, a boat’s score in the race or series must be made “significantly worse” by the circumstance cited in the request.   I’m not sure exactly what “significantly” means in this context, but presumably a drop from position 43 to position 44 in a 100-boat fleet is not “significant” while a drop from first to second is.  There’s bound to be a wide range of interpretation of the word “significant”, but it’s almost a moot point.  If the effect is marginally significant then the action of the protest committee to grant the redress will produce a marginal change in scores and so is of marginal interest to the competitors.  To my mind, that word is not problematic. 

The expression “has been or may be” is new in 2013.  In the past, a boat could only apply for redress for something that affected the boat’s position in a race or races already sailed.  This is a welcome change, as it allows competitors to identify problems in advance of the competition and get them fixed, before they do their damage. 

For an example of this, suppose the NOR says that the competition will be held without spinnakers, but the SIs make no such provision.  A boat that based her attendance at the event in part on the fact that spinnakers would not be used asks the race committee whether spinnakers will be allowed and they say, yes.  She then requests redress, and the protest committee decides that the fairest resolution to the conflict between the NOR and SIs is to use the rule in the NOR banning the use of spinnakers.   Before 2013 that protest committee would have had to deny this boat’s request until after the first day of racing, and then abandon all those races.  Clearly it’s better to resolve the conflict before the event begins, and that’s what the new rule allows.

Rule 62.1(a) is by far the most common reason boats apply for redress, at least for non-kiteboarding events.  These requests are based on the allegation of an improper act or omission by one of the listed individuals or committees.  For simplicity of presentation, I’ll assume below that the race committee is cited in the request; the same principles apply to organizing authorities, measurers and so forth.

“Improper” is a very strong term.  To me, this word means redress for an action or inaction by the race committee can be granted in only two cases:  either the race committee broke a rule, or they made a decision that patently and intentionally favored certain boats over others.  It doesn’t mean a race committee decision that was within the rules but with which both the boat requesting redress and the protest committee disagree.  Such decisions might be wrong, but they’re not “improper”.

Suppose for example there’s very light wind.  The leaders are at a dead stop, a few hundred meters from the finishing line, when the race committee decides it’s unlikely that any boat will finish within the time limit for that race, so they abandon the race in accordance with rule 32.2.  Just after the abandonment signal a breeze fills in and it is clear that the first boat would have finished within the time limit if the race hadn’t been abandoned.  If the lead boat were to apply for redress because of the committee’s decision, they should not receive it because the race committee broke no rule and therefore their action was not “improper” – just wrong.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the race committee, seeing a local sailor leading the race, decides to shorten the race at the next mark, claiming it was unlikely that any boat would finish in time but actually because they wanted that local sailor to win and it was unlikely she would do so if the race continued.  That decision would be "improper" because it was made with the intent of favoring a particular sailor.  It's not enough, in my mind, that the decision is unfair; to be "improper" it has to be intentionally unfair. 

As another example, the RC signals an individual recall, then a few seconds later removes that signal even though one of the boats over early has not returned.  That action is “improper” because rule 29.1 says, “[the] flag shall be displayed until all such boats have sailed completely to the pre-start side of the starting line …” and the RC broke that rule.  If a boat was over early then decided not to return to the start based on the RC’s action, and she gets scored OCS, redress should be considered.

The next hurdle is “through no fault of her own.”  This is perhaps the toughest call.  In the last example, the boat requesting redress was over the starting line at the starting signal, maybe by a long way.  So, isn’t it partly her fault that she got scored OCS?  My feeling is that yes, it’s her fault that she was over the line at the start but it’s not her fault that she didn’t go back.  My principle here is that a boat is never at fault when she trusts the race committee.  By dropping the individual recall signal, the RC told her she wasn’t over the line at the start; she has a right to rely on that information in the face of any information she has to the contrary. 

ISAF Case 31 is a little muddy on this issue.  The situation there was an individual recall without the required sound signal.  A boat that was OCS but didn’t return to start was granted redress.  On the subject of “no fault of her own”, the Case notes, “Here, [the boat requesting redress] had no part in causing the race committee to omit the sound signal ... ,  but then goes on to say, “… a boat that realizes that she was on the course side of the line is not entitled to redress, and she must comply with rules 28.1 and, if it applies, rule 30.1. If she fails to do so, she breaks those rules. In addition, she fails to comply with the Basic Principle, Sportsmanship and the Rules, and breaks rule 2 [Fair Sailing].” 

Holy moly, rule 2, the rule about unsportsmanlike behavior!  So, how about if a boat wasn’t OCS but thought she was; does she break rule 2 if she doesn't go back?  If not, why not?  Do the people who write these cases remember what it was like to “pull the trigger” at the start and then look back at the RC boat to see if they were over early?  I’ve had plenty of experiences when I thought I was over, only to find out I was wrong.  Good thing I didn’t remember Case 21. 

So, despite Case 21, I’m sticking to my guns – if the RC tells me I’m OK, I’m OK.

I think that protest committees should generally regard “fault” of competitors the way they should view “improper” when it comes to race committees – very narrowly.  In the example above, it’s true that the boat’s OCS score was partly her fault – but it’s not her fault that she didn’t go back.  To determine if her score was made significantly worse the protest committee should not compare the OCS score she received with the bullet she got in that race, but with her probable position in the race had she gone back.  

At an event I attended recently, the start time for the first race on the last day of the event was moved from 09:00 to 08:30.  This was a world-class event, with a press conference at the end of racing each day, that all skippers were required to attend.  The change in schedule was announced at the press conference but not posted on the official notice board, despite a sailing instruction saying all such changes would be posted before a certain hour the day before they took effect.  One boat showed up for the 09:00 start, only to find the first race in progress.  She was scored DNS for that race, and when she came ashore she requested redress.  The protest committee agreed that moving the starting time without posting the change was improper, but decided that the boat's late turn-out was partly her own fault, as she could have found out about the change in plan had her skipper listened better at the press conference.

In my opinion, that decision was wrong.  It was not her fault that the race committee failed to post the change, and it is never a boat's fault to trust the race committee.  Attendance, not attention, was required.  The boat should have received redress.

In a future post we’ll take up the remaining reasons for redress, as laid out in rules 62.1(b)-(d).


  1. I think you mean case 31 when you say case 21 above.

  2. As we started a race a couple of weekends ago one boat was clearly(from my view, and by about 30m) over. The boat next to us also shouted that he was over. The trouble comes when the RO calls line clear over the vhf and no flags or horns. We protest and display the protest flag. At the end of the race we inform the RO on the committee boat of the protest. Back in the bar, the results come online and he is marked as OCS. So the protest is pointless. Now when we look back at the results they have been changed and he has a result.

    Is this right? Can the just change things around? Im guessing our protest is now pointless as the cut off was the following night.