May 2011 - Protests

placeholder image

May 2011 - Protests

At some point in your racing career, you are going to be involved in an incident where a rule is broken. If you are the boat that breaks the rule, you can (and should) either take a penalty or withdraw. If you believe the other boat broke a rule, you have the option of protesting. This month I will talk about how you protest.

The first thing to do is to hail “protest” and if your boat is 6m in length or more, put up a protest flag.
The requirements are listed in rule 61.1(a).
61.1     Informing the Protestee
(a)        A boat intending to protest shall inform the other boat at the first reasonable opportunity. When her protest concerns an incident in the racing area that she is involved in or sees, she shall hail ‘Protest’ and conspicuously display a red flag at the first reasonable opportunity for each. She shall display the flag until she is no longer racing. However,

(1)        if the other boat is beyond hailing distance, the protesting boat need not hail but she shall inform the other boat at the first reasonable opportunity;
(2)        if the hull length of the protesting boat is less than 6 metres, she need not display a red flag;
(3)        if the incident results in damage or injury that is obvious to the boats involved and one of them intends to protest, the requirements of this rule do not apply to her, but she shall attempt to inform the other boat within the time limit of rule 61.

It is important that both of these things are done quickly. The rule states that the requirement is “at the first reasonable opportunity for each.” Various appeal decisions have clarified that the first reasonable opportunity is a short time, not a long one. Unless you are in danger, there are very few reasons for not hailing “protest” quickly. The flag should be close at hand. If you go down below, rummage through a locker looking for the flag and then take a while to put it up, it is very likely that your protest will be found invalid. The rule is designed to let the other boat know that you are protesting, in order to to give them a chance to either take a penalty or prepare a defence. There is lots of discussion about the purpose of this rule and questions about why it is applied so strictly, but the safest thing to do is to keep a flag close at hand (furled on the backstay is one good place) and bring it out quickly. Optimist sailors seem to be able to get flags out very quickly so there is limited sympathy for 5 people on a J/24 who can’t.
Remember also that a flag is a flag and only a flag is a flag. A red hat or T-shirt is not a flag.

If there is damage obvious to the boats involved, 61.1(a)(3) makes it clear that the flag requirement is waived and the notification requirement is relaxed.

So, now you have hailed and flown your flag – what next? Look around for other boats that may have seen the incident. They may be good witnesses later. Next, you may decide not to protest. There is no requirement to protest an incident (even if there is a collision with damage, though I recommend that all collisions with damage should be protested). There is no requirement to file a protest just because you hailed “protest” and put up the flag. Hail and put up the flag first, then decide later whether you want to follow through.

If you do decide to follow through, keep your flag up until you have finished. Some sailing instructions require you to inform the race committee at the finish. If you were out of hailing distance at the time you first hailed protest, make sure that you inform the other boat.

Once you have gone to shore, go the protest desk or race office (the Sailing Office at RCYC), get a protest form and fill it out. There is a time limit for filing. If it is not specified in the sailing instructions, it is two hours after the last boat in the race finishes.
61.2     Protest Contents
A protest shall be in writing and identify
(a)        the protestor and protestee;
(b)        the incident, including where and when it occurred;
(c)        any rule the protestor believes was broken; and
(d)        the name of the protestor’s representative.

However, if requirement (b) is met, requirement (a) may be met at any time before the hearing, and requirements (c) and (d) may be met before or during the hearing.

The protest must identify the boats involved and the incident. It should identify the rule that you think was broken and the name of your representative. The most important part (since it can’t be fixed later) is to identify the incident. I would suggest that this should include the location in the race (pre-start, first windward mark, third leeward leg, etc.) and a basic description of what happened. A good, clear description may help your case later, but it is more important to get the protest filed than it is to write an elegant description or to create a great diagram.

Next month, I will talk about the hearing and what do in the hearing.

© Copyright 2011 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 5/30/2011 2:00:20 PM by Andrew Alberti

Trackback URL:

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 2016 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2017 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-20. 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 a National 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


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
New Rule Changes III
Mark Room at a Gybe Mark
March/April 2021 - New Rule Changes II
January/February 2021 - New Rule Changes
December 2020 - Proper Course – an over-used term
Post Archive
August 2021(2)
May/June 2021(0)
March/April 2021(1)
January/February 2021(1)
December 2020(1)
November 2020(1)
September 2020(1)
July 2020(1)
June 2020(1)
May 2020(1)
March/April 2020(1)
January/February 2020(1)
November/December 2019(1)
September/October 2019(1)
July/August 2019(1)
May/June 2019(1)
March/April 2019(1)
January/February 2019(1)
November/December 2018(1)
September/October 2018(1)
July/August 2018(1)
May/June 2018(1)
March/April 2018(1)
January/February 2018(1)
November/December 2017(1)
October 2017(1)
September 2017(1)
August 2017(1)
July 2017(1)
June 2017(1)
May 2017(1)
April 2017(1)
March 2017(1)
January/February 2017(1)
December 2016(1)
November 2016(1)
October 2016(1)
September 2016(1)
August 2016(1)
July 2016(1)
June 2016(1)
May 2016(1)
April 2016(1)
March 2016(1)
January/February 2016(1)
December 2015(1)
November 2015(1)
October 2015(1)
September 2015(1)
August 2015(1)
July 2015(1)
June 2015(1)
May 2015(1)
April 2015(1)
March 2015(1)
January 2015(1)
December 2014(1)
November 2014(1)
October 2014(1)
September 2014(1)
August 2014(1)
July 2014(1)
June 2014(1)
May 2014(1)
April 2014(1)
March 2014(1)
January 2014(1)
December 2013(1)
November 2013(1)
October 2013(1)
September 2013(1)
August 2013(1)
July 2013(1)
June 2013(1)
May 2013(1)
April 2013(1)
March 2013(1)
January 2013(1)
December 2012(1)
November 2012(1)
October 2012(1)
September 2012(1)
August 2012(1)
July 2012(1)
June 2012(1)
May 2012(1)
April 2012(1)
March 2012(1)
February 2012(1)
January 2012(1)
December 2011(1)
November 2011(1)
October 2011(1)
September 2011(1)
August 2011(1)
July 2011(1)
June 2011(1)
May 2011(1)
April 2011(1)
March 2011(1)
February 2011(1)
January 2011(1)
November 2010(1)
October 2010(1)
September 2010(1)
August 2010(1)
July 2010(1)
June 2010(1)
May 2010(1)
April 2010(1)
March 2010(1)
February 2010(1)
January 2010(1)