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Respecting decisions made in good faith

Published on November 11th, 2021

The Rolex Middle Sea Race continues to provide education of how to administer an offshore event.

As a refresher, the race has two finish line options – one inside Marsamxett Harbour and another location 13 nautical miles sooner in case the harbor entrance cannot be safely entered, with the harbor finish line used for every edition in the 53-year history of the race.

It appeared the 2021 edition would again be finishing in the harbor, but when a change in weather concerned administers that the tail of the fleet would encounter trouble, they invoked the alternate finishing location in which all earlier finishers had previously crossed.

That they made this change after most of the fleet had completed the 606 nm course in the harbor is key to debate, as is how the results changed when the race was handicapped under the shorter distance.

When the JPK 1180 Sunrise crossed the alternate finish line, they were in second overall, but during those final miles made up their time on the 100 foot racing maxi Comanche. The 39 footer thought they had the overall win, and weren’t too stoked when the race was rescored, giving the win to Comanche.

Scuttlebutt has provided an account of the race (click here), a statement from the host club (click here), and a statement from the JPK 1180 Sunrise (click here). But critical to sorting out the facts in what was a flurry of protests was the International Jury.

While the protests provide some insight (Case 2, Case 6, Case 7, Case 11), retired international jurist David Brunskill comments on the process for resolution:

The rules concerning redress and re-opening hearings and the rationale for them are designed to enable competitors to resolve issues where they feel that the rules have not been correctly applied. All sailors, when entering races accept and are bound by the Racing Rules of Sailing, of which the redress and re-opening rules are an integral part.

Redress can only be granted if there is a breach of the conditions in rule 62.1. Competitors sought redress under the terms of rule 62.1 (a). Was there an improper action of the race committee or organizing authority? Requests for redress were considered.

The rules regarding re-opening hearings are set out in rule 66. Requests for re-opening were considered. Under the terms of rule 70.5 there shall be no appeal from the decisions of an international jury formed under the terms of Appendix N of the rules.

These procedures have been developed so that after a race, a series of races or regattas there can be a clear end to any debate and that prizes can be awarded. As part of the process of applying the rules for the Rolex Middle Sea Race the international jury members will have considered the rules in depth and how they should be applied.

The jury having made un-appealable decisions, prizes have been awarded and the international jury has ceased its work.

The jury cannot defend themselves. To qualify as international judges there is extensive training, a notoriously difficult judge’s test and peer member review after every international jury has completed its work,

Sailors may disagree with jury decisions, but when decisions were made in good faith by a properly formed international jury and the rules followed then those decision should be respected.

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About the Race:
The Rolex Middle Sea Race was established as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Jimmy White and Alan Green, two Englishmen residing in Malta, together with Paul and John Ripard, two Maltese members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

Jimmy, Alan (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), Paul and John would eventually map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in the immediate Maltese coastal waters.

The 606nm course, essentially a clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily starting and finishing in Malta, would be slightly longer than the RORC’s longest race, the Rolex Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today, although sailed in the reverse direction. The Rolex Middle Sea Race course record has been broken on five occasions since the inaugural edition in 1968.

The 2021 race started with 114 yachts on October 23.

The course record, established by George David’s 90-foot Rambler (USA) in 2007, is 47hrs 55mins 03 secs. The multihull record of 49 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second was set by the Multi70 Maserati in 2016.

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