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Firstly – let me declare an interest. I was chairman of the Protest Committee at Skerries last year.

If I may contribute to the debate – firstly by presenting some definitions:

A judge hears protests and arbitrations. They have been trained to run hearings according to approved procedure, to attempt to elucidate what happened during an incident and decide if a rule has been infringed. Judges also go out on the water, where, if the sailing instructions permit, they will judge infringements of Rule 42 (pumping, ooching and rocking), giving an instant decision. A judge may protest an incident they observe on the water, and will do so if they observe a deliberate breach of the rules such as a boat hitting a mark and sailing on.

An umpire gives an instant decision on the water following a protest by a boat against another. They can only do so if there is a protest, and only for protest concerning a limited number of rules. An umpire may protest other infringements.

A scrutineer is an official in other sports like car rallying but do not exist in sailing.

Judges and umpires are part of the race organisation team, and can contribute greatly to the success of an event. My way of looking at things is that a good Race Officer starts from the beginning of the event and does all he can to progress to the prize-giving smoothly and efficiently. A judge tends to work back from the prize-giving trying to prevent problems that may delay or stop the event from running, and to prevent the emergence of any diputes that may mar the event. In many cases, a word from a judge out on the water may prevent a messy protest or request for redress.

Both judges and race officers are problem solvers. By working together they can ensure a smooth running event. However, a judge can only fulfill this role if he is actively involved in the event. I believe that the days of the protest committee chairman who sits at home watching the cricket, waiting for a phone call from the club to come down to sort out a protest, are over.

If I may give a few examples from Skerries:

– it is Irish law that bouyancy aids are worn at all times. A race was potponed due to a lack of wind and competitors stripped off and sunbathed. One British boat started the following race without putting on their bouyancy aids. The judge was following the race closely, noticed this and slowly motored over and indicated by signs that they should put on their PFDs (the new in word it seems). They did. If the judge had not intervened, then there could have been a messy protest, with a boat being disqualified as this was the only penalty avalaible. There could have been a protest for outside aid, but this would not have been in the spirit of the event.

– there was one protest at the event, involving the leading boats. As the chairman of the jury was on the water he observed the incident and presented evidence at the protest hearing. This meant that the hearing took less time, so that the prizegiving could proceed (it took more time to gather the protest committee together than to hear the protest);

– the SIs allowed the Race Officer to offer a finishing place to trailing boats rather than let them finish outside the time limit (standard procedure in well run”fun” events). At the Race Officers invitation the judge was charged with carrying out the procedure. If there had been a request for redress for anerror in procedure this may have caused a conflict of interest, but the judge can always stand down from the protest committee;

– in a situation where the wing shifted some 90 degrees during a race the judge was available to recover now redundant marks to avoid confusion amongst competitors.. The judges RIB also served temporarily to indicate the position of the windward mark (the boat was the right colour – the right coloured mark was unavailable as the tail end of the fleet was still rounding it). We changed the SIs for the next days sailing.

– the SIs allowed for 2 races a day with the possibility of adding a 3rd. After losing a race on the first day, and having sailed the second race of the second day in fabulous sailing conditions we decided to go for a third race. However the judge was unhappy about the way the Race Officer was intending to inform competitors (ie I could imagine how I could phrade a request for redress) and (I hope diplomatically) suggested a bulletproof procedure which avoided the potential request for redress

– the judge was available after sailing to answer rules queries. This generally took place in the bar area,

– the judge was available on the water to answer rule queries between races…
I could go on. Other tasks included reading the SIs and making suggestions with a view to avoiding potential requests for redress

In my opinion, it is better to have a judge who is fully part of the race organisation, who meets the sailors, shares their experience on the water,
is available to settle grievances in the most appropriate way -which may be a formal hearing,hopefully done and dusted before the barbecue is even lit!. I firmly believe that this is the way race organisation is going at all levels. It is an inevitable development as more and more sailors and race officials gain experience umpired forms of racing (umpiring is a very recent development)