We had a situation where a boat felt they were fouled just after the start and the fouled boat hailed ‘Protest’ and waived a red colored hat. After the races, the protestee came by and filled out a protest form. With a discussion between two of us (not just my interpretation), the protest was decided to be invalid because of RRS 61.1.a.: “… When her protest will concern an incident in the racing area that she was involved in or saw, she shall hail ‘Protest’ and conspicuously display a red flag at the first reasonable opportunity for each.” I understand the intention and the basic mechanics have been followed, but one detail that got injected into the rule is that a red flag is required. I have gotten into the habit to keep a flag in the pocket of my sailing shorts, just for that instance.
When you come across another boat, be sure you communicate with short simple words. Many times there are at least 50 boats racing in a 3/4 square mile area. Because of the vast differences in boat designs and speed, more than likely they will be traveling in different directions. Some times it feels like rush hour traffic on I-45. When many of the boats encounter each other, they only have a few seconds to express their point. Have you ever tried to read a sign along the side of the road and only got to read the first 3 words before you jet past it; and wonder what in the world it said? This is how communications are on a race course. Everyone gets into a race mode and may not be focusing on a conversation at the time of a crossing or encounter. It always seems that many arguments start with a misunderstanding or miscommunication. We had an incident where two boats misunderstood each other and once the dust settled, one of them became extremely upset. The case is that one boat hailed that it would not be a good idea to tack because he was on starboard and could foul them. This hail quickly got misunderstood and prompted the halied boat to become concerned that the hailing boat was taking on water and in distress. In good faith and sportsmanship, the hailed boat spun around and tried to offer assistance to the hailing boat. Not maintaining short clear communications, both boats were very confused on what the other was doing. One was trying to offer assistance while the other was trying to stay clear of them. Where the complication began was the protesting boat felt the other boat was in distress and stopped their race to assist. At the end of this exchange, it became clear the hailing boat was not in distress and the hailed boat was under the impression he was just being a jerk. This escalated to a protest citing RRS 69, because the protesting boat felt the other boat acted in an unsportsmanlike manner. With any protest, we take it seriously, but this became very serious very quickly. After an intense hearing, the protesting boat was credited redress, as requested, for assisting to render aid and the other boat was not cited with unsportsmanlike conduct. I think it became very clear to each party on how words in a tense situation can be misunderstood.
What we have learned:
- Have a red protest flag readily available.
- When communicating on the water, be very clear and short and use only key words.
- If it appears a boat may be in distress, get a clear communication with the other boat
- It is always best to take the extra time to render some aid, rather than continue racing and ignore, what could become a serious situation.