Protests are an important part of racing and we hope this guide helps to demystify the process a little bit!
Sailing is a self-policing sport, which means that sailors are expected to uphold the Racing Rules of Sailing and take a penalty if they break a rule. However, sometimes disagreements or misunderstandings occur on the water and this is where the protest process comes into play. Many sailors worry about protesting, but it is important that you use this facility as the protest committee is here to help you. Remember, a protest
is the fairest and simplest way to get the right answer when parties disagree about an incident on the water.
What do I do if I want to protest someone?
1. Let the other boat know as soon as possible. This could mean hailing “Protest” and then their sail number on the water, or telling them afterwards when ashore.
2. Once ashore, talk through the incident with your support person/s including a coach if you have one. Make sure you know which rule has been infringed. You can also ask an adult from the race committee to talk through it with you if you think it will help.
3. If you still want to proceed, register your protest with the sailing office by completing a protest form. Check the sailing instructions to find out when the deadline for this is after racing.
4. If you have any witnesses for the incident it is important to tell them you have lodged a protest.
What do I do if another boat is protesting me?
1. Look at the protest form to find out what you’re being protested for.
2. Talk through the incident with your support person/s and coach if you have one. Make sure you know which rule has been cited. You can also ask an adult from the race committee to talk through it with you if you think it will help.
3. You might decide you agree with the protest, in which case you can tell the race committee that you are retiring from the race.
4. If you decide you disagree, don’t panic! If you have any witnesses for the incident it is important to tell them as they may be able to provide helpful information at the protest hearing.
What happens next?
The protest committee will publish a schedule of protest hearings on the event notice board. This tells you what time the protest will be heard. When it’s time to go into the hearing do not worry…. the committee are there to help both parties come to the correct result and you will learn a lot from the experience. You can take an adult into the hearing for support if you want to, but they will not be permitted to speak.
The protest committee will go through the protest form and will ask both parties involved to explain what they think happened. They might ask you some questions to make sure they understand everything properly. They will also ask to talk to any witnesses that have been put forwards.
After a quick discussion, the committee will explain what rules of sailing may or may not have been broken and why. This is the most important part of the process and where everyone gets to learn something!
Don’t forget, you can ask questions at any stage if you’re not sure about anything during the protest hearing. Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the results of that particular race may be amended.
Everyone shakes hands and leaves the hearing with (hopefully) a deeper understanding of the racing rules.
Whatever the outcome, remember that it is not a bad thing to be protested or to protest someone. It is a normal part of sailboat racing – that’s what rules are there for!