I observed a protest hearing this evening. First time for me. Keven Piper and Tom Nelson (Shark sailors on Bedlam — and world champions) were the judges. They both took some extra time to help me understand how the process works. Once we had the details straight we called the protestors/protestees into the room to hear them recount the facts and get some clarification. They were dismissed, we conferred with the rule book and articulated the established facts and the ruling. The sailors were brought back in and Keven explained the facts and ruling. Everyone accepted with grace, there were no emotional outbursts, nor even real disappointment.
At issue was confusion about the course. Tuesday crew may recall that the posted course was changed before the start. Some boats took note, others didn’t. C’est la vie. It was a cut and dried case……except….
The interesting part came when reading closely what the race committee is bound to do before the first warning, and distinguishing it from any etiquette, or other best practice. One boat the sailed the wrong course (Celtic Spirit), expected the committee boat to signal with a flag. Although this is a best practice, it is not necessary.
In fact, the race committee can change the course right up until the warning signal, in other words right up until the time we start our 5 minute countdown!!!!
After the formal procedings, Keven gave us all some advice: always double-check the course AFTER the countdown starts. For us, that will be easy, we pass it a couple times as we are planning our start. Just gotta remember to have another look.