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Bob Fisher looks at the 49er Protest decision

by Bob Fisher on 18 Aug 2008
Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. The Fish. (Bob Fisher, pounding out the purple prose). Guy Nowell © http://www.guynowell.com

At last, a copy of the facts found in the matter of the protest of the Race Committee versus Denmark in the 49er class has reached the media. It was heard together with one from Spain against the Danes, and both were under the Medal Race Sailing Instruction Addendum Q.5.5 (b), which are the regulations for the quarantine of the boats overnight before the medal race in order that they may be measured and states:

'The protest committee may take evidence and conduct the hearing in any way it considers appropriate and may communicate its decision orally.'


On the way to the start, the Danish boat capsized and broke her mast.

Considerable damage was caused to the mainsail, gennaker and mast step as well as the mast. When DEN returned ashore, it was found impossible to affect repairs in the time available and DEN arranged with CRO to use their boat.

The Danish coach, at the first reasonable opportunity notified the Race Committee of the replacement, 15 minutes prior to the warning signal. DEN was 4 minutes and 57 seconds late for the start but completed the course.

The protest committee acknowledged that the race was held 'close to the upper limits for 49er racing and in very difficult wave and tidal conditions.' It also observed that every boat at some time capsized and that two boats failed to finish within the time limit.

As soon as possible, after coming ashore, the Danes submitted a written request to the Olympic Measurement Committee for the replacement boat and presented it for inspection.

It was measured and checked for compliance within the class rules and all the other checks that were made to other boats during quarantine. OMC approved the replacement in accordance with the Sailing Instructions.

It was noted that the boat did not carry the correct identifications, nor did it carry a camera and was not subjected to quarantine.

The protest committee concluded that as DEN had qualified to compete in the medal race and made a genuine effort to start, sail the course and finish. As the OMC had approved the replacement boat and found that it complied in all respects, it acknowledged that DEN complied with the relevant Sailing Instructions and the protest under the measurement regulations ceased to exist when the OMC approved the request.

It found that additional identification, cameras and the quarantine were subject to discretionary penalties and that DEN did not gain an advantage by failing to carry a camera (in the prevailing conditions), or by failing to carry the correct identification or by sailing a boat that had not been subjected to the quarantine procedure at the required time.

It decided that the Spanish protest was invalid and the Race Committee’s was dismissed.

However late the decision was in arriving it was made with the soundest of commonsense and the international jury that was comprised of John Doerr in the chair, David Tillett, Marianne Middlethon, Takao Otani and Josje Hofland, is to be congratulated for observing the fine sportsmanship of the Croatian sailors who loaned their boat and the determination of the Danes who were rewarded with the gold medal.

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