Onboard the Umpire Boat

Video from the 2009 Knickerbocker Cup takes you onboard the judges boat to see how the complex and difficult process of judging a match race works.

Compared to match-racing umpires, officials in other sports have it easy. Well, maybe except for the football official who has to stand 10 yards in front of the line of scrimmage and gets run over, or popped with a stray pass, on a regular basis. Getting in the proper position to judge the interaction between the two competitors in a match race-and doing so without interfering in the race-is a challenge unlike in any other sport. Never mind actually remembering which of countless rules and interpretations apply for any instance.

The videos below, all taken during the 2009 Knickerbocker Cup, hosted in late August by the Manhasset Bay YC, give viewers the rare opportunity to get onboard the judges boat, to see what they see, and-most importantly-to hear what they say.

The terminology and methodology can be a little confusing, so here's a few basics. The two judges will project themselves onto the race boats to keep abreast of the action and what rules may apply. In the case of the first video, featuring Anna Tunnicliffe entering from the committee boat on starboard and Dave Perry coming from the pin end on port, the female voice is speaking from Perry's perspective, while the male voice from Tunnicliffe's POV. The intermittent radio transmissions are from the wing boat, usually reporting on whether the trailing boat has an overlap on the lead boat. The wing boat will also relay, especially when the two competitors are spread apart, whether one boat is hold its course or turning. The word "give" is often used to indicate which boat is the give-way boat. "Windward give" for example would indicate a boat that is to windward and must avoid the boat to leeward.

For more on the 2009 Knickerbocker Cup-hey guess what a heretofore unknown Kiwi skipper won it-click here.