Protest Decision: Topaz versus Svea

Published on March 16th, 2020

When a massive collision occurred between two J Class yachts competing in the 2020 Superyacht Challenge Antigua, this frightening moment for these 130-foot monsters was captured on video. Here is the Protest Decision:

Involved parties:
TOPAZ – Peter Holmberg
SVEA – Charles Ogletree

Procedural matters:
This is a hearing conducted under J Class Addendum Q. Q5.3 allows the protest committee great flexibility on how the hearing is conducted. After a very significant collision we decided to speak with both parties separately to see if they agreed the facts. They were happy for us to write up the decision without a formal hearing.

Facts found:
1. Topaz was approaching the start line on Starboard approximately 1 minute 40 seconds before the start.
2. Svea on port was on a collision course with Topaz.
3. Despite a last minute turn to bear away, Svea collided with the port side of Topaz at the runner winch causing serious damage.
4. Topaz luffed to avoid when it was clear Svea was not keeping clear.
5. On Topaz two crew members were injured with one crew member suffering 4 broken ribs as he was pushed overboard by the bow of Svea. On Topaz, the port runner winch was torn off. The boom was broken. Both running back stays, mainsheet, and backstay broke under the load. The port gunwale was damaged from the runner winch to the stern. The mast was put under extreme load from the impact and will need further inspection.
6. On Svea, one crew member was pulled out of the boat by the runner tail of Topaz. His injuries were minor. The forward underbody of Svea was badly damaged.
7. Both boats immediately retired from the race.

Conclusion Rules:
RRS 10,14, 44.1(b) 62.1(b), Q5.3
Svea failed to keep clear as a port tack boat and broke rule 10, 14.
It was not reasonably possible for Topaz to avoid the collision.

Svea took the appropriate penalty by retiring.
Topaz is entitled to redress of average points for Race 1 based on her results in the remainder of the regatta.

Racing Rules of Sailing:
Rule 10: When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.

Rule 14: A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room
(a) need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and
(b) shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury.

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