Preparing For A Protest

Whilst, it is not often I have been to the protest room (I say with a great degree of relief) unfortunately many of us end up there some time or another. Whilst it’s obvious to say that someone must have been in the wrong, the fact that the matter has got to a protest room shows there is clearly a debate as to whom was at fault, if anyone, and therefore a difference of opinion or interpretation of the rule.

A common one I am aware of, and will use in this example, is the protest based on the question of whether two boats had reached the three-length zone of a rounding mark or if it was a port-starboard situation in the open course. But the principles apply for any protest.

Lesson 1: Be prepared with all your numbers. Any boat with a computer can gather and record info regarding boat positioning, speed, and wind speed.

You should have an eyewitness who was unbiased and reliable, but be sure to arrive at the protest room with well thought out information supported by your maths, target boat speeds for angles and true wind speed. So always back up facts provided by a witness with factual data.

Lesson 2. If involved in class racing don’t rely solely on the oncourse umpires. Umpires will blow a whistle if they witness a situation. However, if there’s no whistle, it does not mean there is no foul.

If you have reasonable doubt doing a 360 may cost you a few spots, losing a protest and being DSQ can cost you and your team a lot more. In the heat of the moment it can be a tough decision, keeping the big picture in mind will keep you in a winning mindset.

Lesson 3: Write-up discussion points before the protest. Using boat information plus a clear presentation of facts makes this easier for Jury to understand. It is best to assume that the Jury was not on course witnessing the event, so they need to be presented with all relevant information clearly and succinctly.

If the protest is against you, as soon as you are receive a copy of the protest, go straight to the drawing board and prepare your facts based on your recollection of the situation and sequence of events. Knowing what is going to be argued makes it easy to prepare a step-by-step argument using all the facts from your boat.

Lesson 4: Treat the protest room with the same process that you approach preparing and racing your boat. The same methodology is required and while it does not guarantee success it can only improve your chances.

In conclusion, regardless of how strong your case may be there are always two sides for the Jury to consider, don’t rely solely on a witness – regardless of credibility, and use all relevant information to get the right decision. A little preparation will go a long way…but when in doubt, best stay out of the protest room.

– David Burt

David heads up our YOTI Race division.