you can’t make this shit up

What sporting event changes the rules after a large proportion of the competitors have finished? Well, apparently one that does is the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

I read about the actions of the Royal Malta Yacht Club the Organising Authority of the Rolex Middle Sea Race backed up by an International Jury with more than a small element of disbelief. The facts of the case as I have read them are that after 69 boats had correctly started, sailed the course and finished the Royal Malta Yacht Club decided to shorten the course. 

RRS Rule 32.1 lists a number of reasons a Race Committee can do this. Foul weather, lack of wind making it unlikely any boat will finish, a missing mark or any other reason directly affecting the safety or fairness of the race.

Make no mistake, there is nothing in RRS 32 that allows shortening after a boat has finished and nothing in the SI’s that states 2.2 is changed’ The fact that 69 of the fleet finished with Comanche setting an incredible course record proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that NONE of the conditions listed in RRS32.1 (a-d) were satisfied.

In addition, RRS 32.2 states “The shortened course SHALL (note the use of the imperative) be signalled BEFORE the first boat crosses the finish line. In this case 69 boats had crossed the finish line when the course was shortened (by some 13 miles I understand)(It only needs one to satisfy RRS 32.2)

The action of the Race Committee affected, I understand, 6 of the top 10 finishers including Rolex Fastnet Race winner Sunrise which was on for the ‘double’.

The Race committee’s erroneous action was taken more than 24 hours before the published time limit although long after several boats had started, sailed the course and finished as per the RRS definitions. If it was that gnarly in the harbor approaches those poor unfortunates could have stood off, hove to until the conditions moderated as many boats in past races elsewhere have had to – but no!

Although RRS 32 is a rule which RRS 86.1 (b) allows to be changed, a ‘key word’ search for ‘shorten’ in The Notice of Race, Sailing Instructions, and Appendixes produced no results.

With reference to any alternative finish line the only mention is in SI 11.3 which, quite specifically allows for such a variation if severe weather prevents boats from entering the Malta harbor to finish. SI’s 11.3 however it DOES NOT state this changes RRS 32.2 therefore the race, the competitors AND the Race Committee were all still bound by RRS 32

Naturally, boats affected by this cavalier action protested (actually probably through an application for redress).

The International Jury (I wonder how they reached their decision) found that the actions of the Race Committee did not break any rules. Perhaps there was not a question on the wording of RRS 32.2 in their IJ exam. It is rather surprising as the Jury drawn from GBR, USA, CAN, GER all had over a decade of experience although the 5th member was not an IJ

SI’s 11.3 shortened the course by around 13 miles so they could have done so before Comanche arrived back in Malta – after that, sorry the combination of the RRS & SI’s meant that option was no longer legitimately open to the Race Committee, clearly no one like Clouds Badham on the RC who could have perhaps forecast such a possibility

So then RRS32.2 still stands that a course SHALL be shortened before the first boat crosses the finishing line. No reason for the exception is quoted in the rule so there are no exceptions.

I would suggest that ANY boat of the 69 that finished the full course and had their position detrimentally affected by this retroactive decision by the Royal Malta Yacht Club, most particularly Sunrise which, according to the rules achieved the ‘double’ of the Fastnet and Middle Sea would be particularly ‘miffed’.

And what about poor Comanche? Of course, they won but next year there will be another winner and they just become one on the list while their outstanding race record time would doubtless have stood for many years to come. 

If it was too ‘spicy’ for some of the later finishers to enter the harbor (It is a Category 2 Race after all) how is that any different to slower boats missing a tidal gate in the Fastnet or not getting past the Needles due to hairy wind against tide conditions or shortening the Sydney Hobart at the mouth of the Derwent because it started to blow a hooly after the bulk of the fleet have reached Constitution Dock in Hobart.(Similar distance)  I would be amazed if either of these ‘Classics’ would invoke such a decision. 

Apparently, there are many on Facebook who are equally mystified by the actions of the organizers. One could excuse a local club for getting it this wrong but one of Rolex’s big 3? and with an International Jury thrown in? I would love to see their justification for ignoring RRS 32.2

Oh, and one further thing struck me. Didn’t the boats that were finished 13 miles early still have to enter the harbor anyway?

Of course, I could be wrong – not always a rare occurrence! – SS