Quick Tips with Terry: Protests

The next time you find yourself in the protest room, remember these helpful hints from Terry Hutchinson.

The Farr 40 fleet at the 2015 worlds boasted top level sailors from around the world.Sara Proctor

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.

Lesson 1
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.

Lesson 2
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.

Lesson 3
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.