Not Obligated to Acknowledge Your Foul?

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By Kimball Livingston

You heard me. In a match race there is no obligation to take a penalty if you foul. But you're doubledog obligated to perform your penance if the umpires nail you.

Hit a mark unseen? Keep going, mate.

And this is not about cheating. It's a function of having umpires on the course. In a meeting that included jury chairman Bryan Willis and chief umpire Brad Dellenbaugh, the point was made very clearly by Willis that, "You are expected to wait for the umpires to make the call."

Willis went on to urge people like me to spread the word lest in some hypothetical instance in America's Cup 32, impressionable youth might spot a foul unflagged and unacknowledged, and imagine that to be a standard acceptable for next Saturday's Opti race. It is not. Step out of umpired match racing into any other form of sailing, and you are again subject to the strict expectations of the honor code. If you do not meet them, you're peeing in your own pool.


Over the last few months, if you've read the online forums, you may have noticed that some people have become as well and favorably remembered for taking their penalties as for winning races. I don't know if this was a foul situation or not, but it's fun for looking close.


This is the third Cup for Willis as jury chair. He remembers first going to an America's Cup in Newport in 1980 as rules advisor to Pelle Petterson's Swedish challenge, "the first time a team ever had anyone in that role."

Unlike past Cup cycles in which umpires sat on the jury, the functions are separated now. That came about after an incident in the Acts in which an umpire boat wrapped its prop with a sheet that was dragging overboard from Luna Rossa. There was a protest filed, Willis said, "and the ruling was made according to whether or not the umpire boat had done anything wrong. We decided that it had not. But I was not comfortable with the dual role; that is, umpires sitting on a jury hearing a protest against umpires."

Willis noted that two-thirds of the red flags that competitors fly never go to protest; instead, flying the flag protects their right to protest if they decide to, when the heat subsides. And of course, having umpires at hand reduces the number of red flags. The overlap-light system is out of beta and ready for use, Dellenbaugh said. It helps the competitors make decisions because they're not just looking at overlap for themselves, if the light is on they know that the umpires believe there's an overlap. That's news you can use, whether you think the umps are right or not. At the same time, it's one more something for the umps to be managing and is part of the reason that a third has been added to each boat—not to make calls, but to provide an overview, watch the big picture, and keep the umpire team on track.

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