Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

Start signals OK but timing wrong

Julian Summers
Nationality: Australia
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
We had an interesting situation at the start of our club race yesterday.  After a postponement, the race committee went through the correct sequence of flags and sound signals but got the timing wrong.  The facts were:

1                    The Sailing Instructions say that “All races will be started using RRS 26“, i.e. the standard 5-minute starting sequence.
2                    With no wind at the nominated time for the Warning signal, the AP was displayed.
3                    Around 25 minutes later, the OOD announced over the VHF that the new start time would be 13:35.
4                    The AP was lowered at 13:29 with a sound signal.
5                    The class flag was raised at 13:30 with a sound signal.
6                    The P flag was raised at 13:31 with a sound signal.
 
So far, so good.  But then:
7                    There was another sound signal at 13:32. It is likely that the P flag was lowered at that time but I did not observe this.
8                    There was another sound signal at 13:33.  It is likely that the class flag was lowered at that time but I did not observe this. I saw as we approached the line at about 13:34 that there was no class flag flying.
9                    Two boats crossed the start line at or soon after 13:33.  
10                The rest of the fleet crossed the start line at or after 13:35.
11                I advised the OOD by phone that we would be protesting to seek redress for the incorrect start sequence and against the two boats which had started early.  The OOD advised that he realised during the countdown that they had got it wrong but decided to let the race run since there had already been a postponement.
 
My questions are:
1                    What was the correct course of action for the OOD if he realised there was an error in the start sequence (a) before the start signal, or (b) after the start signal?
2                    Did the boats that crossed the start line at or soon after 13:33 “start” according to the Definitions?
3                    What was the correct course of action for other competitors who were disadvantaged by two boats getting a 2-minute head start?
 
I think the answer to 1(a) is to postpone again.  I think the answer to 1(b) is to abandon and restart; if so, how long could the delay be until the abandonment?
 
 
As it happens, this all became a non-issue because the two advantaged boats retired not long before the time limit expired and only one of the remaining boats finished in time.  Hence no protest was submitted.
 
Any clarification would be appreciated.
 
Thanks
Julian
 
Created: 20-Jul-26 15:46

Comments

Peter van Muyden
Nationality: Canada
Certifications:
  • International Race Officer
1
Hi Julian,

Having not seen your NoR/SI's you might find that the VHF announcement has no meaning.

To answer your questions:
1                    What was the correct course of action for the OOD if he realised there was an error in the start sequence (a) before the start signal Display flag AP with two sounds, or (b) after the start signal?   Display flag November with three sounds.  RRS 29.2 can be used in this case as well, but the preference is to use flag November
2                    Did the boats that crossed the start line at or soon after 13:33 “start” according to the Definitions? I think that the boats met the definition of "Start".  Under RRS 26, times shall be taken from the visual signals ; absence of a sound signal shall be disregarded.  However, the RC made a major error.
3                    What was the correct course of action for other competitors who were disadvantaged by two boats getting a 2-minute head start?  Request redress under RRS 62.1 (a)

Additional information

This is a case where an AP would have saved a lot of time and be fairer to all.  It's 6 minutes lost due to an AP vs time in the protest room and probably a race thrown out by the protest committee. 

Not in this case, but you need to be very careful with displaying November when there are fleets racing already.  I'm speaking from experience, having displayed November by itself when other fleets were on the course.  It was only for a few seconds and none of boats saw the signal. ;-)
Created: 20-Jul-26 16:29
Paul Murray
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Judge
0
I am in agreement with Peter. Asking for redress is the proper course of action. The RC should have either abandons the race or postponed before the start.  It would take a lot more time with the PC especially since the RC knew they made a significant error.  

The PC should grant redress under 62.1(a) which may be to adjust the scores as allowed by 64.2. In a handicap fleet this should be fairly easy - just use the actual elapsed using the start time for the two boats that went by flag and the rest with a starting time two minutes later.   Of course evidence should be taken to be sure those two minutes did not give a significant advantage.  If it did then the race needs to be abandoned.  
Created: 20-Jul-26 22:50
P
John Allan
Nationality: Australia
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Regional Race Officer
0
Paul,

Strongly agree that the start should have been postponed.  AP is the race officer's friend.

You don't explain why flag N abandonment is to be preferred to First Sub General Recall.

I think Gen Recall is to be preferred, for the following reasons:
  1. rule 29.2 expressly provides that "When ... there has been an error in the starting procedure, the race committee may signal a general recall;
  2. General recall applies only to the one (immediately preceding) starting sequence:  there is no possibility of it confusing boats that have started in preceding starting sequences;
  3. I think the express provisions of the rules should be preferred to the more general 'for any reasons affecting fairness' in rule 32.1(d).
  4. If there are other races already in progress, Flag N abandon, applies to all races in progress, unless it is displayed over a class flag (which may not be discernable by boats already on the race course:  you allude to this problem and I think N over class flag is fraught with peril.  Adding complexity to the signals for a race committee that has already become confused is asking for more trouble.
Created: 20-Jul-26 22:56
Peter van Muyden
Nationality: Canada
Certifications:
  • International Race Officer
0
John,

The suggestion of using November instead of the Generall Recall is based on the Race Management Policies for World Sailing Fleet Racing Events.   https://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/20190805RaceManagementPoliciesFleetRacing-[25242].pdf 
See below:
image.png 163 KB

I understand that this was not a WS event, but displaying 1st Substitute with a significant delay after the "start" could create confusion.   
Created: 20-Jul-26 23:25
Paul Murray
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Judge
0
John Allan:
Yes, if it is multiple fleets, i think the General Recall would be a better option.

I have an off topic question for you - I see you are in Australia, are you native or are you an expat?  I went to high school with a John Allan, that moved to Australia...

-Paul 
Created: 20-Jul-27 00:58
Julian Summers
Nationality: Australia
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
0
Thank you all for your helpful comments.
Created: 20-Jul-27 10:12
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