On a windward leg, P met S and sailed a course to cross ahead of S. S bore away, displayed a protest flag, and hailed P her intent to protest. Both boats were identical 27-foot (8 m) keel boats, and the wind strength was Force 3.
S protested under rule 10
, stating that she had to bear away to avoid colliding with P. The protest committee dismissed the protest by S, stating that: "The need to change course could not be substantiated by the conflicting testimony of the two helmsmen." S appealed.
protests involving no contact are very common, and protest committees tend to handle them in very different ways. Some place an onus on the port-tack boat to prove conclusively that she would have cleared the starboard-tack boat, even when the latter's evidence is barely worthy of credence. No such onus appears in rule 10
. Other protest committees are reluctant to allow any rule 10
protest in the absence of contact, unless the starboard-tack boat proves conclusively that contact would have occurred had she not changed course. Both approaches are incorrect.
S's diagram, later endorsed by the protest committee, shows that S bore away to avoid contact. P's diagram, which was not endorsed by the protest committee, showed a near miss if S did not bear away. P did not deny or confirm that S bore away but said that, if she did, it was unnecessary.
A starboard-tack boat in such circumstances need not hold her course so as to prove, by hitting the port-tack boat, that a collision was inevitable. Moreover, if she does so she will break rule 14
. At a protest hearing, S must establish either that contact would have occurred if she had held her course, or that there was enough doubt that P could safely cross ahead to create a reasonable apprehension of contact on S's part and that it was unlikely that S would have "no need to take avoiding action" (see the definition Keep Clear).
In her own defence, P must present adequate evidence to establish either that S did not change course or that P would have safely crossed ahead of S and that S had no need to take avoiding action. When, after considering all the evidence, a protest committee finds that S did not change course or that there was not a genuine and reasonable apprehension of collision on her part, it should dismiss her protest. When, however, it is satisfied that S did change course, that there was reasonable doubt that P could have crossed ahead, and that S was justified in taking avoiding action by bearing away, then P should be disqualified.
On the facts, as shown in the diagram and the report of the protest committee, the ability of P to cross ahead of S was doubtful at best. S's appeal is upheld, and P is disqualified.