Here an interesting scenario we ran into:
Team A, B, C is winning the race with a 1, 2, 3 combination at the top mark. Downwind, their opponents (X, Y, and Z) make some gains, and at the leeward mark X is inside C, who was in third place. Both X and C believe they have mark-room; C argues that she X did not establish an overlap by the time they entered the zone, and X saying that she did. C refuses to give room, and X is forced to the outside. A, B, and C round the leeward mark in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively. The boats are all very close together (bow to stern).
X protests, and asks for an umpire decision. The umpires were certain that X had established an overlap in time, and accordingly, the C owed mark-room to X.
We discussed the incident briefly, and then displayed a red flag (to penalize C) and a black flag (to indicate that C's team may have gained an as a result of the foul).
Here are the relevant rules:
An umpire may take action without a protest by another boat when a boat or her team gains an advantage despite taking a penalty.The umpire may impose a penalty of one or more turns, each including one tack and one gybe, signalled by displaying a red flag and hailing the boat accordingly, or report the incident to the protest committee, signalled by displaying a black flag, or both.
After a hearing the protest committee may penalize as follows: When a boat has broken a rule and as a result her team has gained an advantage, it may increase that boat’s points.C spun her penalty circles, and her team went on to win the race with a 1, 2, 6 combination (9 points), and X, Y, Z had a 3, 4, 5 combination (12 points).
After the race, the jury (the two umpires from the race, plus a third umpire) held a hearing under the black flag to determine (1) did C's team gain an advantage as a result of her breach of rule 18.2(b), and (2) if she did, whether to add points to C's team's score.
The first question was easier. It was clear to us that C's team had gained an advantage: rather than round as a 1,2,5 with the opponent's 3rd place boat right behind their 2nd place boat, A, B, C instead rounded in a 1, 2, 3 combination. This was a direct result of the foul. We could have given as many penalties at the tim to C as we wanted, but it wouldn't change anything; C's presence put X farther behind B.
The second question was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make as an umpire. On one hand, C's team had has a 1-2 combination all the way from the start to the finish. If we decided to add points so as to reverse the outcome of the race, this would give the win to X, Y, Z and mean the race was, in effect, over at the leeward mark. On the other hand, it was clear to us that C's team did gain an advantage and there was no penalty other than adding points that would be relevant.
We were eager to look for a middle option. In my opinion, the rule should allow the jury to order a re-sail of the race. But it does not. Likewise, were the umpires allowed to, we would have awarded a single penalty turn to B (who did not break a rule) to eradicate the advantage gained through C's foul against X. Here, again, the rules did allow this option.
Reluctantly, we added 3 points to C's team's score. The teams were now tied, and per rule D3.1(d) ("If the totals are equal, the team that did not have the first-place boat wins"), X, Y, Z won the race.
Naturally, A, B, and C were very upset -- justifiably so. The jury was left with two bad options: reverse the result of the race, or allow C's foul to go effectively unpunished (since there was no other option that would be an effective penalty).
Lessons from this:
- C was unwise to shut X out; if C thought that X did not have room, she should have nevertheless allowed X in and then protested her. This way there was no chance of a black-flag situation.
- If, after the black flag were displayed, A or B had done a one-turn voluntary penalty, the jury would not have acted as it did. Doing this would take a huge amount of foresight, but believe it or not, I've seen it done before, and it is an excellent way of averting a black flag situation for a team that knows the rules well and is aware of its surroundings.
- The rules need to be modified. The jury should be allowed to order a resail. The umpires should be entitled to penalize other boats to negate the advantage gained by their teammates' fouls, when necessary.