Volvo Ocean Race: Protests fly at Leg 2, Stage 1 Finish

Team Telefonica through the binoculars just behind Camper during leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©

Volvo Ocean Race have reported that both Team Telefónica and Camper have lodged protests against each other following the nail biting finish to Leg 2, Stage 1.

(Update: Both protests were subsequently dropped by mutual agreement.)

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson was the first to lodge a protest, which was related to a manoeuvre made within miles of the finish line, where Telefónica claimed victory by less than two minutes.

At 1730 UTC, before crossing the finish line, Camper skipper Chris Nicholson informed race management by email that they had raised their red protest flag over a move related to luffing rights. This is covered by Racing Rule 11, which requires a windward yacht to keep clear of the leeward yacht.

This rule in effect permits the tactic where a leeward yacht is allowed to luff, as much as head to wind, in order to prevent her being overtaken by a yacht who is to windward.

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain finishes first in to the safe haven port on stage 1 of leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Cape Town, South Africa, to Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Photo Credit Must Read: PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)

The usual obligation on the windward yacht is that she kept clear, which means that (a) there was no contact between the two yachts and (b) the leeward yacht did not have to initiate avoiding action to prevent a collision - which she is required to do under another Rule 14 when it clear that a give way yacht (in this case Telefonica) is not keeping clear.

Volvo Ocean Race reports that Chris Nicholson reported that at 1700 UTC when both the teams were on a port tack, with Telefónica to windward, Camper luffed and the Spanish team failed to respond, and Camper had to bear away to avoid a collision.

Roberto Bermudez de Castro and Stuart Bannatyne in the lead but with Team Telefonica just over their shoulder. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©

This would seem to imply that Camper had taken the luffing action to prevent her being overtaken by Telefonica, and that Telefonica had not responded. For a Rule 14 situation to come into play Camper would have to show that she had good reason to believe, or sometimes even an apprehension, that the windward boat was not keeping clear.

As a defence the windward yacht would have to show that she was well clear of the leeward yacht and in an extreme case would have kept clear even if the leeward yacht had shot head to wind and the windward yacht would still have been able to pass without making a course alteration. Anything less than this situation there are various grades of fault on both parties.

Luffing is really the only tactic allowed to a leeward who is in the lead, and wishes to protect that lead and not be rolled over by a windward yacht and have her (the leeward yacht's) wind taken and easily passed.

Navigators Will Oxley and Andy McLean keeping a close eye on Telefonica from onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Cape Town, South Africa to Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©

Three quarters of an hour later, at 1816 UTC , Volvo Ocean Race management reported that Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez had emailed race management and Camper to report his team’s protest, claiming unseamanlike conduct.

It is not known how this would apply, since the nearest applicable rule is Racing Rule 2 which requires a yacht race according to what is accepted as fair sailing, and is generally used only when no other applies. The only situations where this may apply is during night sailing, where they could show that Camper acted in a dangerous manner or some way not otherwise contemplated by the other racing rules.

Chris Nicholson on the finish of leg 2 by Emirates Team NZ

Photos taken after the finish clearly show the yachts in the dark, however whether it was night-time at the time of the incident will be determined by the International Jury.

After the conclusion of the race, Camper skipper, Chris Nicholson, despite being disappointed with the outcome, congratulated the Telefonica crew on a great race.