New Rules for Protests, Redress, Penalties, and Hearings

This month we turn to the changes in the rules introduced in 2001 that involve protests, requests for redress, penalties, and hearings. Most of these rules are found in Part 5–Protests, Hearings, Misconduct and Appeals.
Protest flag and hail requirements: Two of the biggest changes are in Rule 61.1(a). A boat with a hull length of less than 6 meters (19′ 8″) is no longer required to fly a red flag when she intends to protest an incident in the racing area that she is involved in or sees. However, if she is within hailing distance of the boat she intends to protest, she is required to hail “Protest” at the “first reasonable opportunity” after the incident. If she is beyond hailing distance, then she is required to inform the other boat at the first reasonable opportunity. This may be when the boats are next within hailing distance later in the race or, if they’re never close enough during the race, then at the first reasonable opportunity after the race, either on the water or on shore.

Note that sailing instructions can change Rule 61.1(a). An organization running races on one course in which some boats are shorter than 6 meters and others are longer may well require all boats to fly a red flag when they intend to protest. So I’d suggest that if your boat is shorter than 6 meters, don’t throw away your red flag. Instead, stash it at the bottom of your spare gear bag in case you need it someday.

Touching a mark: Old Rule 31.3, one of the most complicated and unnecessary rules in the rulebook, has been deleted. Under that rule, if you were “wrongfully compelled by another boat” to touch a mark, and if that other boat didn’t make her penalty turns or retire, then in order to avoid being disqualified you were required to protest the boat that forced you to touch the mark and to win your protest.
Now that Rule 31.3 has been deleted, touching a mark will be on an even footing with any other incident in which you are wrongfully compelled to break a rule. All such situations will be covered by Rule 64.1(b), which states, “When as a consequence of breaking a rule a boat has compelled another boat to break a rule — the other boat — shall be exonerated.”


Consider a mark rounding where you are on the inside and entitled to room. Suppose that the outside boat doesn’t leave you enough room. You have a choice: make contact with either the outside boat or the mark. Under old Rule 31.3, if you decided to touch the mark, which would usually be the best way to avoid damage, and if the outside boat didn’t make her penalty turns, a third boat could have protested you. You would then have been disqualified even if the protest committee realized that you had been wrongfully compelled to touch the mark. However, if you had hit the outside boat and she hadn’t made her penalty turns, then you would not have been disqualified in a third-party protest because you would’ve been exonerated under Rule 64.1(b). I could never see the logic underlying this complicated distinction. Now, that’s history. Rules simplification is still alive!

Serious damage or serious injury: When a collision results in serious damage or serious injury, the crews involved are often too absorbed in taking emergency actions to be concerned with the niceties of protesting. Under last year’s rules, if the boats involved didn’t protest, it was common for such an incident never to be resolved by the protest committee. This year there’s a new rule, Rule 60.4, which simply states, “If a protest committee receives a report of an incident that may have resulted in serious damage or serious injury, it may protest any boat involved.” There’s also an addition to Rule 63.5 that requires the protest committee to determine that there was indeed serious damage or serious injury before a protest made under Rule 60.4 can be considered to be valid.

Fees: US SAILING has added a prescription, Rule 61.4, which states that no fees shall be charged for protests or requests for redress.


Rejecting an entry: From now on, if a boat complies with the new advertising rules (in Appendix 1), her entry cannot be rejected because the organizing authority objects to the advertising that she displays. In addition, new US SAILING prescriptions prohibit the rejection or cancellation of a boat’s entry or the exclusion of a competitor who meets an event’s eligibility requirements for “an arbitrary or capricious reason or for reason of race, color, religion, gender, age, or national origin.” It is, of course, still permissible to conduct races for women, youths, or masters, provided that the eligibility requirements are stated in the notice of race. US SAILING also prescribes that, upon written request, a boat or a competitor whose entry is rejected must be given a hearing conducted just like a protest hearing.

ISAF eligibility: ISAF added a controversial eligibility rule that requires every person sailing on every boat in every race to be either a member of their national authority (US SAILING for sailors from the United States) or of a club or other organization affiliated with their national authority. Therefore, if you pick up a crew off the dock at the last minute who doesn’t meet this eligibility requirement, you’ve broken ISAF’s new rule. ISAF included this eligibility rule in the list of rules that cannot be changed by prescriptions, sailing instructions, or class rules (see Rule 86). US SAILING voted against this requirement at last year’s ISAF meetings and is still working within ISAF to change it. To prevent it from making a shambles of racing in the United States, US SAILING has made a prescription to Rule 64.1(a) stating that if a successful protest is made under this ISAF eligibility rule, the penalty shall be a warning and not disqualification. This unusual prescription has the effect of nullifying the new eligibility rule.

Propulsion: There are now two procedures in the rules that regatta organizers may use for on-the-water enforcement of Rule 42, Propulsion. Just as in the past, they may invoke Rule 67 in the sailing instructions, and then a member of the protest committee “or its designated observer” may, without a hearing, disqualify a boat that breaks Rule 42. New this year is Appendix N, Immediate Penalties for Breaking Rule 42. When the sailing instructions state that Appendix N applies, on-the-water judges or observers may signal Rule 42 infractions by pointing a yellow flag at the offending boat and hailing her sail number. The first time a boat is yellow flagged during a series, she must take a 720-degree Turn Penalty; the second time she must immediately retire from the race; and the third time she must retire from the entire series.


Definition protest: Added words make it clear that the italicized noun protest refers to a written allegation made under Rule 61.2 that a boat has broken a rule.
Requests for redress: A careful reader of Part 5 will notice quite a large number of small, mostly inconsequential, changes in the rules that relate to requests for redress. Most of these are housekeeping changes designed to make sure that the procedure for handling a request for redress is specified just as carefully and completely as the procedure for handling a protest. One of these changes is significant. Rule 62.2 now makes it clear that, just as with a protest, the protest committee “shall extend the time [for delivering a request for redress] if there is good reason to do so.”

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