World Match Racing Tour.

ISAF Special Event

Posted: 14.11.2014 - 16:19:49 (GMT)
Category: Technical
Pre Start action between Williams and Hansen © Robert Hajduk / AWMRT

Pre Start action between Williams and Hansen © Robert Hajduk / AWMRT

London, UK (14th Nov 2014): The discipline of Match Racing is considered the most combative and strategic form of sailing. With just two boats pit against each other on the race course in identical boats, match racing is about the pure skill of the skipper and the agile performance of his or her team. The ability to make quick decisions and outwit your opponent - every move counts.

All rules decisions are made by on-water umpires selected by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). This concept was developed by the match racing community and has been long used in the America’s Cup to provide instant decisions to the teams and avoid long protest hearings after racing.

Think it’s an easy job? In a new series of ‘You’re the Umpire!’, we take a look at some of the difficult calls the umpires have to make.

Would you make the same decisions?

2014 Dutch Match Cup  - Williams vs Hansen

In this tense pre-start during Qualifying at the 2014 Dutch Match Cup, both Bjorn Hansen of Hansen Sailing Team and Ian Williams of GAC Pindar fight for position as the clock counts down to the start. In the final seconds before the start, Williams makes an arguably aggressive manoeuvre diving for a gap between Hansen and the committee boat resulting in a collision with both Hansen and the committee boat.

Who was in the right and who was in the wrong? And what decision did the Umpires make?


In the 4 minute pre-start, both teams fight for the upper hand crossing tacks and trying to move into the best position. Teamwork is key at this point to execute fast manoeuvres in the small pre-start area 


Hansen (sailing boat 3) positions himself to leeward and in a right of way position over Williams (boat 5) to make it difficult for Williams to start close to the starting vessel


Williams turns towards the start line. He has no right to room between Hansen and the starting vessel because under the rules he cannot call for room when approaching the line to start 


The questions here are whether there is room for Williams to fit in the gap between Hansen and the committee boat. And if Hansen subsequently heads up and 'shuts the door’ on Williams, has Williams been given the opportunity to go somewhere other than into the rapidly closing gap. Hansen, as the [leeward] right of way boat, is obliged under rule 16 to give room to the other boat to keep clear as he changes course. 


At this point the Umpires have a number of options they can take;

Call 1: If there is room for Williams between Hansen and the committee boat, and Hansen simply ‘shuts the door’ without giving Williams any room to keep clear - Penalty to Hansen for breaking rule 16.

Call 2: If there is room for Williams between Hansen and the committee boat, and Williams had the room to dip behind Hansen’s stern or tack out to the right of the committee boat as the gap closed but chose not to, then Penalty to Williams for not keeping clear of Hansen.

Call 3: If there is no room for Williams no matter what Hansen’s actions then Penalty to Williams for not keeping clear.

Call 4: If you give the penalty to Williams and decide he gained an advantage compared to where he would have ended up if he’d bailed out, then hand him a second 'umpire initiated’ Penalty.

The Final Umpires Decision:

The umpires decided that Williams was in the wrong and he received two penalties, one for not keeping clear of Hansen, and one for gaining an advantage through breaking a rule.

Would you have made the same decision?

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