March 2014 - Protest Committees I

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March 2014 - Protest Committees I

The Racing Rules of Sailing begin with Basic Principles and the first of these is, “Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce.” Ideally sailors will follow the letter and spirit of this principle and protests aren’t necessary, but sometimes things happen on the race course that require a protest committee to sort out. I am going to spend the next couple of articles discussing some of the key points about hearing protests. I will deal with the structure and process of a protest itself, rather than who was right and who was wrong on the water. This should help you, whether you find yourself serving on a protest committee as a volunteer or as a competitor on the other side of the table.

Before we begin, I would like to extend thanks to the many Members and others who invested a Saturday in Ontario Sailing’s mid-January Club Judges seminar at the City Club. This covered the material you will read in my next several articles. I hope the time spent will benefit them and participants in the future protests they hear.

In a previous article (May 2011), we talked about how to file a protest. We will start here when everyone is in the protest room. There is a great step-by-step guide for protest committees in Appendix M of the rule book. I won’t be covering it here, but you should have a copy in front of you – certainly when you are chairing a protest hearing, but it’s useful no matter what your role.

The protest function is critical. With a small number of exceptions, competitors cannot be penalized without a hearing. As an example, race committees can score a boat OCS (On Course Side) if they are over early or give penalties for boats that are over early with Black Flag (Rule 30.3) or a Z Flag flying (Rule 30.2), but a boat that misses or hits a mark cannot be scored DSQ or DNF by the race committee – a competitor or the race committee or the protest committee must protest them before they can be penalized.

63.1 Requirement for a Hearing
A boat or competitor shall not be penalized without a protest hearing, except as provided in rules 30.2, 30.3, 69, A5 and P2. A decision on redress shall not be made without a hearing. The protest committee shall hear all protests and requests for redress that have been delivered to the race office unless it allows a protest or request to be withdrawn.

The first thing the protest committee should do is to make sure the right people are there. The “parties” to the protest have the right to be represented in a hearing whenever evidence is being presented. The parties in a protest are the protestor(s), (the boat(s) protesting) and the protestee (the boat(s) being protested).  If the protest concerns a rule in Parts 2 (When Boats Meet), 3 (Conduct of a Race) or 4 (Other Requirements While Racing) then the representative of the boats must have been on board during the race.  If a boat does not show up for the hearing, the protest committee must make sure that they were properly notified of the protest and the hearing’s time and place; only then can it proceed without them.

A party to a hearing is
(a) for a protest hearing: a protestor, a protestee;
However, the protest committee is never a party.

63.3 Right to Be Present
(a) The parties to the hearing, or a representative of each, have the right to be present throughout the hearing of all the evidence. When a protest claims a breach of a rule of Part 2, 3 or 4, the representatives of boats shall have been on board at the time of the incident, unless there is good reason for the protest committee to rule otherwise. Any witness, other than a member of the protest committee, shall be excluded except when giving evidence.
(b) If a party to the hearing of a protest or request for redress does not come to the hearing, the protest committee may nevertheless decide the protest or request. If the party was unavoidably absent, the committee may reopen the hearing.

The next step is to make sure that the protestee has seen a copy of the protest and has had a few minutes to prepare. Preparation might include reading the protest and finding witnesses.

63.2 Time and Place of the Hearing; Time for Parties to Prepare
All parties to the hearing shall be notified of the time and place of the hearing, the protest or redress information shall be made available to them, and they shall be allowed reasonable time to prepare for the hearing.

It is now time to start the hearing. The protest committee members should introduce themselves or be introduced. The parties are asked if they have an objection to any of them on the grounds that they are interested parties. An interested party is someone who has close relationship with one of the competitors or someone who is racing against them. Someone on the committee who knows that they are an interested party must step down, whether or not the parties object.

Interested Party
A person who may gain or lose as a result of a protest committee’s decision, or who has a close personal interest in the decision.

63.4 Interested Party
A member of a protest committee who is an interested party shall not take any further part in the hearing but may appear as a witness. Protest committee members must declare any possible self-interest as soon as they are aware of it. A party to the hearing who believes a member of the protest committee is an interested party shall object as soon as possible.

Next month we will continue into the hearing.

© Copyright 2014 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 3/1/2014 10:34:05 AM by Andrew Alberti

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This page provides links to a set of articles original published in Kwasind magazine. The versions here include animated diagrams. The original articles can be found within the original magazines which are available online back to January 2007. 

Articles before December 2020 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 or 2017-2020 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2021 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2021-24. A copy of the new rules can be found on
Andrew Alberti has been writing these monthly articles in the Kwasind since early 1997.  They explain the Racing Rules of Sailing. Andrew is an International Judge and National Umpire. He is a member of the Sail Canada Rules and Appeals Committees. The interpretation of the rules contained in the articles is Andrew's and not that of the RCYC or any of the committees he sits on. 

Send your questions to Andrew at [email protected].


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