At a recent Farr 40 event, I went into the protest room regarding a decision on the question of whether two boats had reached the three-length zone or if it was a portstarboard situation in the open course.
The decision wasn’t in our favor—a painful outcome and yet an opportunity to learn.
Be prepared with math. Any boat with a computer can yield info regarding boat positioning, speed, and wind speed. In my situation I had an eyewitness who was unbiased and reliable; yet my competition won the protest with math. I learned I need math to back up facts provided by a witness.
Don’t rely solely on the umpires. In the Farr 40 class, the umpires will blow a whistle if they witness a situation; however, no whistle does not mean there was no foul. In this situation, I mistakenly relied on the umpires to make a decision. The DSQ cost us a North American Championship; doing a 360 would have cost us three spots. In the heat of the moment it was a tough decision; keeping the big picture in mind will keep you in a regatta-winning mindset.
Write up discussion points prior to the protest. Had I organized my thoughts, my presentation would have been clearer. Using boat information plus a clear presentation of facts makes this a slam-dunk.
In conclusion, the protest room is always 50-50. When in doubt stay out of the room. Regardless of how good the case, there are always two sides. Don’t rely on a witness regardless of credibility. Use all relevant information to get the right decision. A little preparation will go a long way.