by LDewell Hawker and Jane Fossett

On March 5, the ONE WORLD Finals Races at Sailors Cove went pretty smoothly! The grid conditions were good, the sailing was great, and there were few protests. (The four race teams were all ‘pros,’ and knew their stuff!)

We thought it might be interesting to write about the single, significant protest in the series, even though the outcome was not controversial and a change in the Judges’ ruling would not have affected the final Regatta outcome.

At the beginning of Race Two as the fleet crossed the Startline, FIYC collided with KENOBI! FIYC then protested, claiming they had Right Of Way.

The Incident

If you haven’t seen it already, please go check out MarkTwain White’s video recap of the ONE WORLD Finals races on youtube, and be sure to leave him a thank-you note too. 🙂 We took a snippet of Race Two from MTW’s video and mixed it with Hawk’s  judging vid, which shows the Race #2 start from a different angle ((Hawk’s video starts at 01:20 below). Watch what happens between FIYC and Kenobi in both views as the clock ticks down to zero and the line opens!

Here’s a sequence of outtakes from Hawk’s judging video, annotated to show the countdown time and boat IDs:

FIYC and Kenobi Tango... then Tangle!

The video and stills nicely document the sequence of events. FIYC was sitting southeast of the line with sails luffed, waiting for just the right moment to go into action, and sprint for the Start.

It turns out Kenobi had a different, more risky strategy. The views above show that Kenobi spent much of the last countdown minute steaming Eastward, traveling parallel to the race line to build momentum as she approached FIYC’s spot.

Beginning at -00:26 sec, Kenobi made an abrupt gybe right in front of FIYC! That gave Kenobi the lead, and blocked FIYC. Woots! What a gutsy maneuver! That’s not just our opinion; when Bunnie was asked about it later, her assessment was:

I thought it was a gutsy maneuver!” 🙂

No surprise, FIYC immediately went into action, and cut to KENOBI’s lee side. With 16 seconds before the start, FIYC’s nose was overlapped with the lead boat’s stern. However, they were a few seconds early, so both boats fell off the wind and ran the line in parallel, waiting for the clock.

As the race started, FIYC turned back to close haul, while KENOBI was slower to react. Suddenly, BANG! FIYC slammed into KENOBI, deeply embedding her bow in KENOBI’s transom!

Jane Fossett's still pics at -11, -01, and +10

The crowd looked away in horror, trying to avoid a TOS violation for inappropriate nautical metaphor. Nonetheless, Armano and Bunnie sustained several seconds of stuck-sailing until  +16 sec. 🙂

Soon after the two boats went head-to-rump, FIYC protested under Rule 11. Here’s the initial group chat transcript:

[08:28:00]  Naeve Rossini: Just 10 s to go.
[08:28:27]  Naeve Rossini: Kenobi across the line with FIYC behind her.
[08:28:32]  Naeve Rossini: Looks like a collision there.
[08:28:52]  Naeve Rossini: Eureka and SVC crossing 3rd and 4th, all on starboard tack.
[08:29:14]  Naeve Rossini: There’s the protest from FIYC.
[08:29:24]  Viciously Llewellyn: We have a protest against Kenobi.

KENOBI never replied to the protest, but when they were clear of other boats, KENOBI did a penalty turn.

The judges felt the penalty turn resolved any pending FIYC protest, but at the conclusion of the race, Lead Judge Silber Sands held a mini-hearing to be certain of the facts. It was a model of brevity and efficiency:

[08:50]  Silber Sands: Armano.. what was Your protest though?
[08:50]  Armano Xaris: bunnie did not keep clear from leeward boat (me) pre start
[08:51]  Silber Sands: well.. it was rule 17 though.. so Bunnie did not have to do the penalty
[08:51:40]  Silber Sands: next race

Hawk’s analysis:

In the above collision, FIYC protested she had Right of Way under Rule 11 and that KENOBI failed to keep clear.

When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat
shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

KENOBI did not lodge any counter-protest and chose when clear to do a PENALTY.

courtesy of Dil Spitz

However, questions were raised by the judges and spectators watching the race, and more comments came up in response to the posted videos. Jane asked me to provide an analysis as I saw it develop, and in particular how I would have decided. There are some important situations in this set of circumstances that are worthy of presentation.

I do offer this limitation:  I was outside the sim to cam inward to video, I do prefer to be directly overhead to cam down, but with the intention of reducing the lag on the racers I was outside the sim.   The video is at an angle.   If a counter protest had been lodged, we would have had to rely on all judges and their perspective.   Also, in mouse look and out of the sim, I cannot see chat or shouts.   The other judges were aware of this.  So I cannot pull a log and see the chat to determine any hails or necessarily see the instant of the protest being lodged.

However, given all the evidence, I think in this particular situation a protest against KENOBI could be appropriate at one point, but NOT in the final situation as it played out.   That’s not unusual; judges need to be keenly aware of how a situation develops, as well as the timing and specific point of the protest.

When a skipper comes in the ‘back door’ so to speak (establishes leeward overlap from clear astern), they need to be very patient before they try to luff or force a boat over the line. It’s important to avoid getting yourself in a position that makes it impossible for the windward boat to keep clear and ALSO comply with rule 17 when the line opens. Rule 17 states:

If a boat clear astern becomes overlapped within two of her hull
lengths to leeward of a boat on the same tack, she shall not sail above
her proper course while they remain on the same tack and overlapped
within that distance, unless in doing so she promptly sails
astern of the other boat. This rule does not apply if the overlap
begins while the windward boat is required by rule 13 to keep clear.

At -00:10 sec the boats were close to mast abeam (side by side), and KENOBI was clear to windward.  At -00:05 sec, FIYC then aggressively turned toward KENOBI, who maintained course. At -00:02 sec the boats were positioned so KENOBI could only keep clear by maintaining course (can’t bear off or turn up without causing a collision).  FIYC no longer had the ability to prevail at this point for a rule 11 PROTEST.

click to enlarge

Once the line opened, Rule 17 turned on, and FIYC had no ability to luff KENOBI and was required to bear off to keep clear.  At that point their proper course would have been to continue ahead and start.  FIYC did not bear off however, and at +00:04 sec she struck KENOBI’s stern and continued to force KENOBI windward for another 10 seconds.  That was a clear violation of rule 17.   However, KENOBI did not lodge a counter-protest, so no decision regarding such was made by the judges.

IF FIYC had immediately acted when KENOBI was tacking and gained overlap lee at that time, FIYC would have full lee rights pre-start and when the line opened an not subject to rule 17.

If FIYC had aggressively trimmed sails, turned windward and hailed (hail is optional – but nice for the judges) at -00:10 sec when the boats were abeam, FIYC could have turned KENOBI over the line, or made her draw a foul by bearing off just before the collision.  Waiting put FIYC in a position where they might not prevail under Rule 11 as the contact was after the line opened, and they could have been DSQ under Rule 17.


KENOBI had several options to counter-protest FIYC, but chose not to do so.

A counter-protest NEVER hurts.  If you had any question as to your rights find out.   And if you did a penalty, and were wrong you won’t be disqualified.   You have paid your price and found out why.   BUT, if you were within your rights AND fouled then your fellow competitor will be disqualified.  You do have to be aware of the basic rules, and the rules are very much interrelated and there are exceptions with each of the basic rules.  They are not hard to learn, but discussion is the only way you can really absorb them and understand the exceptions.    Spend some time in the SLSA Sailing Academy and the rules exhibits; it won’t hurt. 🙂


5 responses to “ONE WORLD Protest

  1. Looking at this video and the analysis a couple of things come to mind:
    – Bunnie Mills (kenobi) indeed had a ‘risky’ start strategy. Her timing was a little off and that left her vulnerable to a rule 11 situation.
    – Armano Xaris (FIYC) doesn’t seem to do much wrong when just looking at the video. His call can not be seen on it by me. Only the text reveals he might have called Kenobi up too late and as a result of this didn’t give this other boat room to keep clear.
    – Team FIYC missed another chance prior to this situation to protest Kenobi under rule 13, another risk Bunnie took with her start tactic.

    • Alain Gloster

      Thats actually what I was thinking at the time…I didn’t really have a good view of how much seperation Bunnie was using when she changed tacks, but every start I was expecting a Rule 13 protest.
      Just shows shes a gutsier starter than me with a better sense of timing I guess 🙂

  2. Yes; this is an interesting case that raises a number of issues.

    As Liv comments, “Bunnie Mills (kenobi) indeed had a ‘risky’ start strategy. Her timing was a little off and that left her vulnerable to a rule 11 situation. … Team FIYC missed another chance prior to this situation to protest Kenobi under rule 13…”

    Actually, if you think about it, Bunnie’s tactic was gutsy but well-timed. KENOBI needed to be ‘a little early’ in order to tack in front of FIYC before Armano started his dash for the line. 🙂
    I strongly agree that in at least two of the Finals Races, this maneuver meant that KENOBI risked a Rule 13 Protest.

    After a boat passes head to wind, she shall keep clear of other boats until she is on a close-hauled course. During that time rules 10, 11 and 12 do not apply. If two boats are subject to this rule at the same time, the one on the other’s port side or the one astern shall keep clear.

    Bunnie’s move was risky for other reasons as well. As Hawk states: “… at -10 sec when the boats were abeam, FIYC could have turned KENOBI over the line…

    I’m also not sure FIYC broke Rule 17. “Proper course” at the Start was close haul, and since both boats were early, they fell off the wind for several seconds. FIYC then returned to close haul before KENOBI did, and a collision resulted. So one might argue FIYC, unless sailing higher than close haul, was actually sailing ‘proper course.’ KENOBI might have counter-protest FIYC under Rule 14 (Avoiding Contact).

    None of these issues actually came up, of course. 🙂

  3. Interesting comments !
    Having seen the video and photos, now i get a better picture of what happened.

    Besides discussing the many rules that are involved in that sequence, i think once again it’s useful to recall how shouted warnings are not only helpful to judges, but essential in SL racing.

    Remembering how it felt aboard at the time…
    The intention in the late prestart was to end the tack to leeward of FIYC, hoping to control their approach to the line, maybe force them across the line early. But no, timing was not good enough, due to a very short freeze (still my fault), and we ended right in front of them! Yet completing the tack gracefully. I lost visual of their boat at that point, and for a few seconds i had no clue of what was going on (i should have remembered about Armchair’s tip to quickly zoom back and forth!).
    I assumed: either they had enough water to sail without trouble, or they’ve made a tactical move to avoid ending to leeward, or they were forced to adjust course and in that case i would soon hear a protest under rule 13.
    I could hear no protest following that, and the next thing i see is FIYC’s bow appearing to leeward, on a wider route than ours. I thought: no foul happened, and they are not even trying to force us over early… they prefer to keep accelerating and maybe claim for leeward room later ?
    But then they adjusted to windward, progressively closing in at a sharper angle.
    Without hearing a call to keep clear, for a short time it was not obvious whether they meant to close in further to push us over early, or rather keep some angle, to avoid losing precious speed.
    A moment later their bow was pushing our stern from leeward, and kept doing so for a while, almost forcing our boat to turn to windward in front of them, not letting me luff to stay clear. We clearly risked one of those ‘fatal boat hugs’ that happen as consequence of collision.
    I heard their protest only at this point. I figured out it was about rule 11, and i was tempted to protest back (i felt i had reasons to), but hesitated because of the lack of clues regarding the preceding moments (11 or 15 ? did i miss an early protest ? etc).
    So i decided i would take penalty anyway: i felt responsible for the incident since it all started because of a daring move of mine.

    • Thanks for your comments, Bunnie! I think your description makes good sense, and explains some points I wondered about. For example, I couldn’t figure out why you went windward to FIYC instead of leeward; now I know! 🙂

      Bunnie said: “…Without hearing a call to keep clear, for a short time it was not obvious whether (FIYC) meant to close in further to push us over early, or rather keep some angle, to avoid losing precious speed. A moment later their bow was pushing our stern from leeward…”

      Hawk correctly emphasizes that calling “UpUpUp” is not required for a Rule 11 protest, but he adds “...its nice for the judges.

      Well, I think it’s nice for the lee boat too! If a lee boat changes to close haul and then collides with a vessel lying windward, who is responsible for the contact? Rule 11 states the windward boat needs to keep clear, so some sailors argue that ‘a collision proves the windward boat did not keep clear.’ Of course, one can make the exact opposite argument, that a collision proves the windward vessel had insufficient time to get out of the way…

      For me, a big factor in such discussions is the ‘collision’ itself. Rule 11 gives the lee boat ROW, but it does not grant LTC (License to Kill). The lee boat can protest a windward boat that fails to keep clear, but they have no right to intentionally ram the windward boat just to drive home their point. (bad pun intended 🙂 )

      Bunnie said: “…i was tempted to protest back (i felt i had reasons to), but hesitated because of the lack of clues regarding the preceding moments…”

      I agree with Hawk that counter-protesting costs nothing, and often helps clarify the details of the incident for all involved. Of course it’s ‘situation-dependent,’ 🙂 but if a vessel changes course, rams into you, and then says its your fault… Well, there’s a good chance they’re playing bumper cars, not racing sailboats.

      As usual, I could be wrong. 🙂

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