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Finishing Signals

P Cropper

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I was a skipper when the following occurred.

The course was Windward/Leeward and the windward Mark B taken to starboard.

Mark A was set about 10m to the left of Mark B (looking into the wind) approx square to the wind direction.

The finishing line was designated between Mark A and Mark B.

I was approaching Mark B on Starboard with the intention of tacking onto port, rounding the mark and sailing another lap.

As I crossed the line between Mark A and Mark B the sound signal was given ( which in all previous and subsequent heats was given to the first boat to cross the finishing line).

I eased my sheets thinking that I had miss counted the number of laps I had sailed.

There was then heated discussion from other skippers saying there was another lap to sail.

They rounded the mark and I set off again for another lap 50m and 6 boats behind them.

The first boat across the line on the next lap had a sound signal and I finished 4 th.

What, if anything could or should I have done?

It is highly likely that next time a similar event occurs I will be the Race Officer so what , if any could or should have been done?

At the time I had no idea of what to do and as I didn't get demoted to B Fleet I let the result stand, but I would have liked a first!

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Let us firstly agree that this was a HYPOTHETICAL INCIDENT in order to protect the innocent or the overly sensitive on a rainy day in Norfolk during an event involving some veteran sailors. These veteran sailors being well versed in sailing and the rules of sailing.

In this HYPOTHETICAL incident:-

• A SINGLE WHISTLE BLAST of approximately 1 second was sounded.

• The LEAD BOAT/s hailed, and very loudly, and almost immediately that it was NOT the end of the race and there was a lap remaining.

• There was no SHORTEN COURSE signal sounded nor was there any provision in the race instructions or briefing for SHORTENING the COURSE.

• The COURSE was clearly and unambiguously drawn/ displayed on the Notice Board with the correct number of laps.

• Any moment/s of indecision on the part of a/the COMPETITOR/s would have been no more that 2 to 4 seconds and clearly would not have influenced their tactical decision in the middle of the BEAT, at least 4 minutes before the spurious WHISTLE BLAST, to sail up the East or West approach to the MARK. Besides which sailing to / rounding the MARK was not a deviation and was a continuation of the line crossing.

As far as I am aware: –

• It is the responsibility of the COMPETITOR to Sail the COURSE as posted unless there is a SHORTEN COURSE SIGNAL.

Learning Points:-

The learning points are:-

• COMPETITORS must keep a tally of where they are. A boat that has been lapped should not consider that he has finished simply when he crosses the line for example. The LINE JUDGE only judges that a boat has CROSSED the line and not that the COMPETITOR has completed the prerequisite number of LAPS.

• Race Officers should take care NOT to set finishing lines that use marks of the course as this will potentially cause confusion and should rather set a finishing line some distance from them.

• The LEAD BOAT/s should have been Hypothetically Disqualified for providing outside assistance to other competitors.

The Race Organisation was impeccable during this HYPOTHETICAL event except for the start line, which never seemed to have enough port bias on it and there were not enough races.

So Well Done:-

to the HYPOTHETICAL Maltese / Norfolkian RACE OFFICER. The correct decision/s were made but all importantly in 2 seconds flat whilst wobbling down a muddy path on his not so steady pins and not from his armchair after an hours debate. But next time with not quite so much shouting perhaps?


to those that would seek to profit from a minor glitch and criticize the HYPOTHETICAL Rob.

I guess I am biased in this respect because it was the HYPOTHETICAL I lead boat in that race from start to finish and did not profit at all from the 3 seconds of indecision.

Peter S:- I am sorry to have broken my promise so soon – I await the flood of complaints.

Phone or Text 0787 924 1202 Calls / Texts cost £1.50 from a BT land Line plus your standard charge.



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I'm always confused by this,

1.Can you request redress without submitting a protest?

2.I thought that you can't protest the race committee?

Probably being very dumb here but Peter's question is very interesting, particularly if you are part of the race team and the correct "practical" procedure would be great to know.


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R 60 covers not just Protests, but also right to request Redress or action under R 69. The procedure to follow is the same - notify the Race Committee at the finish or soon after finishing, and file a request 'in writing' within the time limit.

However be aware of R 62.1 which says

A request for redress or a protest committee’s decision to consider

redress shall be based on a claim or possibility that a boat’s score in a

race or series has been or may be, through no fault of her own, made

significantly worse by . . .

I have underlined an important phrase - through no fault of her own. If you own actions contributed to making your finish worse, then you may fail in the request for redress.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Thanks John,

I am sure that in the heat of the moment many might forget which lap they were on upon hearing an out of place signal so is "Fault of her own" not having the confidence to carry on regardless? However, supposing such a claim was made, how could a decision be made that was fair to all, being first on one round is no garantee to being first on the next, would the loss of 3 places be " significantly worse"?



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Sorry John, I cannot give a definitive answer. The decision has to be made by the Redress Hearing (Protest) committee after they have gathered the facts about the incident.

When I am on a Protest Committee and looking at a case that requires some judgement (not just black and white), I refer to the ISAF case book, The RYA Appeals Book, The US Sail Appeals Book, and the ISAF Q&A cases. I look for cases that relate to the situation and rules applicable to see if there are guidelines - boundaries - criteria that will help. I keep these materials on my small laptop that I take to regattas. The documents are in pdf format and keyword search quickly finds applicable reference material.

In this 'hypothetical' case, the facts may show that the boat rounded the mark in first place with a lead of xxx boat lengths. An RC member blew a whistle as the boat crossed between the adjacent marks (the finish line?). Several hails were made immediately by the RC member and other sailors that this was not a finish.The boat sailed off the course for y boat lengths. Three other boats rounded the mark and sailed on downwind. The first boat resumed sailing the course in fourth place.

Based on these facts, the RC made a mistake, but the correcting hail that it was not a finish happened immediately, and well before other boats reached the mark. So I would conclude that the places lost were by the action of the lead boat in not resuming to race as soon as the hail was made. So I would not give redress in this case.

However if the facts were that several other boats rounded the mark before they and the RC hailed about the mistake, then I may lean towards the places being lost by the action of the RC, and so redress may be appropriate.

If the latter and redress is appropriate, then a second decision needs to be made by the hearing . "what redress to grant"? During a redress hearing, it is normal to ask the skipper "What redress are you requesting"?

The committee has several options ranging from resailing the heat, awarding average points, awarding points equal to a specific finish position eg. first place. Again, the PC needs to be fair to all affected and it requires careful judgement. If there was a major screw-up affecting a number of boats, then resailing the heat may be the best option. But if only one boat was affected and they had a big lead and the conditions were stable, then awarding a fixed place, even first place points, may be appropriate. The old stand by of 'average points' may or may not be fair and that is part of the judgement to be exercised.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Thanks John B

I think that we have all been in the situation where you cant believe that you are at the front and momentarily forget the course, so it is just as likely that the finish line crew can do the same thing, I have been at a few events where the over enthusiastic man with the whistle has blown up, only for the fleet to let him know he's got it wrong! Its just one of the pitfalls that can be there to trip up the race team and PRO.

It is also good however to know the procedure should the skipper feel aggrieved as these are the kinds of situations that i find cause the most mumbling and lingering ill feeling at an event; just knowing as a race team that there is a process that they can advise the skipper to follow at least buys them a bit of breathing space to gather their collective thoughts and gives both sides the chance to give their views.


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Thank you John for making the situation clear to everyone. I am sure that this is a point that we can now all learn from.

Needless to say we all know what the event was and who the PRO was, it was little old me. But i would like to make a couple of comments on the matter.

At the time of the whistle being blown, i was strolling through the slippery mud, on my very unsteady pins, towards the finishing line area.

When i was approximately 15 metres from the race committee member who was responsible for the finish line, i heard the whistle blow and realizing the error immediately and shouted out "carry on sailing" unfortunately i think this was in Dave Alston's ear. This shout was accompanied by various other shouts basically all saying the same thing.

I am not prepared to say what position boats were in at the time of the incident, or indeed voice my opinion as to wether Peter was Disadvantaged to a lesser or greater degree, or wether he should have known that the race was not finished and should have carried on.

What i will say is that the RC were at fault and as PRO if needs be, i will gladly fall on my Sword. OUCH!

Furthermore after the race was concluded, Peter and i had a long chat about the matter and may i add that he was a perfect Gentleman in our conversation and also in withdrawing any idea of a redress in order that the meeting could go on without interruption. We also both agreed that he would write to the Forum in order to obtain John Ball's opinion. Thank you John

Lastly David may i and the organising committee thank you for saying such nice things about the meeting, it makes organising an event such as this worthwhile.


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Many experienced match racing umpires use a couple of beads on a short length of shock cord that they fix on the their boat. They use this as an lap counter.

Others will confirm with their colleague which leg they are on as boats start the leg.

Both techniques used by the person judging the finish can help to avoid such errors.


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