The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS 2013-2016) define rights & obligations to prevent collisions between boats while racing but we don’t always get them right! There can be genuine differences of opinion about an encounter or rule interpretation.
If you feel that you’ve been wronged, hail ‘Protest!’ at the other boat involved. There’s no need to quote a rule and you shouldn’t tell the other boat to ‘Do your turns!’ since that’s their decision.
However, they must be in no doubt about your protest & have the chance to acknowledge & exonerate an error by taking a penalty.
To make it valid, you must use the word ‘Protest’ and, if your boat is >6m, you must fly a red protest flag promptly. In my opinion that means within 30 secs!
However angry, don’t use inappropriate language or threatening behaviour because that’s also breaking the rules.
If your protest is disputed or ignored, then formally protest so that all can learn from the incident. Your protest must be in writing and lodged with the Race Officer or a Sailing Committee member within the time limit in the Sailing Instructions.
A Protest Committee will be convened to hear it, establishing the facts based on evidence, deciding what rules apply and adjudicating which boat if any was in the wrong.
Although you may disagree with your fellow competitors, the hearing shouldn’t be an assault on their character but should strive to establish what happened and improve our collective understanding of the rules.
In the absence of video replays, there is no guarantee that the facts found will be completely accurate since that will depend on the evidence given by the parties.
If the decision goes against your sincerely held view, accept it gracefully, shake hands and resolve to be better prepared the next time you meet on the water or at a protest hearing.
However, if you believe that the Protest Committee has made an error or significant new evidence has become available, then PEYC SIs allow you 48 hrs in which to request a reopening of the hearing.
You also have the right to appeal a Protest Committee’s decision or its procedures, but not the facts found, to the RYA.
The following RYA Rules Disputes Procedures are also available at PEYC:
RYA Advisory Hearing
Informal review of an incident with an RYA qualified advisor so that competitors understand the rules better. It is only available if there is no related protest or RYA Arbitration.
RYA Arbitration Hearing:
If both parties agree, the evidence in simpler protests or redress requests is heard by a single RYA qualified arbitrator who decides whether any boat broke a rule. The arbitrator will invite the boat deemed to have broken a rule to accept an Exoneration Penalty, a percentage loss of places as defined in the SIs. When a penalty is accepted, this concludes the matter. When not accepted, a full protest hearing will follow.
Jim Scott – Sailing Secretary