wrong, no matter how its sliced

Some brief comments on the statement by the Sunrise skipper and owner, Tom Kneen.

Firstly he is right to be upset, having a victory snatched away from him and his crew in this manner.

Like most of us, they primarily sail for the pleasure of it but their almost unique double of two classics in the one season must have put the icing on the cake only for it to be taken away some 27 hours later by a Race Committee decision.

The happenings in Malta have done the sport of offshore sailing no favors at all and only time will tell how the reputation of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Rolex Middle Sea Race has been damaged.

I am not surprised the Sunrise skipper’s feelings have festered as it is hard to see how those involved can see that their process was and is error-free.

Mr. Kneen’s statement in the last line of Para 3 or “The Story So Far” is perfectly correct that it is up to the competitors whether they continue or not, a fact that is fully supported by RRS Rule 3 which I will quote in its entirety “The responsibility for a boat’s decision in a race or to continue racing is hers alone”. 

Part of offshore racing is there are times when a boat may have to suspend racing. I remember in the Luzon Strait a few Volvo’s ago Green Dragon had to take shelter due to severe conditions. Is the Rolex Middle Sea Race any different? I don’t think so.

The irony of the whole situation is that all but one of the later finishers entered the harbor after racing in any case.

The Rules, including 32, 86, J2 were not followed as per the Racing Rules of Sailing. In fact here is an RYA Case which has listed in the facts that a race could not be shortened at a mark as a boat had already finished.

There can be no argument that the race was reduced in length, the RRS states that words have the meaning that are used are used “in sense ordinarily understood in nautical or general use” and one of the dictionary definitions of “shortened” is to reduce in length. As mentioned in previous articles RRS32 makes no exception for shortening due to safety or any other reason so the International Jury opinion that RRS32 did not apply remains a mystery to this writer (and many others).

If there is doubt whether an outside boat gave an inside boat sufficient markroom or not in RRS18.2(a) then the opinion of the International Jury may sway the decision one way or the other.

However, RRS32 is not an “opinion” rule. It could be called a yes/no rule. The last line of RRS32 states “The shortened course shall be signaled before the first boat crosses the finish line”.

Only two questions should be asked 1) was the course length reduced YES/NO and 2) did that reduction get shortened before the first boat finished YES/NO.

Can RRS 32 be changed? Actually yes it can, BUT that change SHALL (note the definitive article) be listed in the Nor SI’s for the simple fact that these two documents effectively are the contract between the organizers and the competitors. There was NO MENTION of any change to RRS32 so the statement by the Jury that RRS32 didn’t apply wasn’t just an error, it was a willful disregard of the Racing Rules of Sailing unless they didn’t know about J2 in which case they shouldn’t be in the position they were in for an event of this stature.

 The RMYC response was, I hate to use the word pathetic but there was certainly a chunk of pathos in there. They clearly admit they made errors and “seriously, impacted the race results”. The fact that they state they will “Make sure that a similar situation does not happen again” is yet another admission of them getting it wrong. Well if you did RMYC – sort it out!

The fact that the Sunrise Racing Team may now have to refer to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is largely due to the fact that the Race Documentation states that (right or wrong) the International Jury’s decision is final. 

I can understand the inclusion of this as prizegivings have to happen, sponsors timetables along with the media need to be met and people need to get hope with a result decided but that same good intention can mean, as it did in this instance that ‘officially’ what a team considers is a poor decision cannot be further challenged – they think. 

I would like to say that the decision to change the finish line was for the RCs perception that harbor entry would be dangerous which was negated by the fact that all bar one of the later finishers still entered the harbor but what is that old cliché “The Road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Read Sunrise’s Full Statement here.