Red Flags for the Wilson 2017

 ..bye bye yellow flags…

The 2017 Wilson trophy will be adopting the single flag procedure for protests. Chief Umpire for the Wilson 2017, David Taylor, said : “We have thought carefully about this because we know that many top team racers believe that the two flag system that has been widely used in the past (red flag to indicate a protest, and then a yellow flag to call for an umpire’s ruling) is more in keeping with the self-policing spirit of sailing. However, the majority of events now use the simpler single flag system which is the standard approach in the new Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) 2017-2020. The single flag system is easier to understand for people that are new to team racing and it makes sense to have one system that is used all the way up through the different levels of the sport”.

As with the use of colour matched hulls and sails, on the water umpiring for team racing was first pioneered by West Kirby Sailing Club in the late 1980s. Up until then, any protests had to be decided ashore after the race was finished in the conventional way, leading to delays before the next round could be organised. Even under the intimidating eye of legendary Protest Committee chairman Tony Cross, the arguments could be heated and lengthy, so that the event lost momentum and the sailors lost sailing – something far removed from the 300+ plus races that now take place during a Wilson weekend.

The single flag system is set out formally in RRS D2.5, but David has prepared the following user friendly guide as to how it works in practice :-

If there is an incident between two boats where one or both of them considers the other has broken a rule :

a) The boat intending to protest should hail ‘Protest’ and conspicuously display a red flag and call the number of the boat they wish to protest;
b) This draws the umpires’ attention to the two boats involved;
c) The boats are then given a short time (less than 30 seconds typically) to respond, ideally with one boat taking a one turn penalty in the same direction (comprising one tack and one gybe as described in Rule 44.2);
d) In order to take the penalty the boat should sail well clear of the other boats because, when taking a penalty, a boat has no rights under the rules and could be penalised further if another boat sailing her proper course had to alter course to avoid the boat taking the penalty. If a boat needs time to sail clear it should indicate that it is intending to take a penalty as soon as it can, usually with the helm raising an arm and saying ‘I am spinning’.
e) If neither of the boats involved in the incident takes a penalty, then the umpires will decide whether to penalise one or both boats by displaying a red flag with a long sound (usually a whistle) and pointing the flag at the boat(s) required to take the penalty (which will be two turns comprising two tacks and two gybes always in the same direction and as a continuous process), and calling the boat number. If the umpires decide neither boat broke a rule they will display a green and white flag, along with a sound, and the incident is then closed.

There are a few changes in the RRS that will apply from January 2017 onwards that will have an impact of team racing tactics, and the Wilson umpiring team will be providing an overview of these changes in the near future