SailGP’s chief umpire Craig Mitchell has unpacked all the penalty action from the league’s first ever visit to Abu Dhabi, which saw the F50 fleet battle amid light wind conditions.
Teams made a total of 57 protests across the racing weekend, resulting in 9 Part 2 (boat on boat) penalties and 8 early start OCS penalties. No boundary penalties were recorded across the weekend, with teams keeping well within the limits of the wide racecourse on Mina Zayed.
The penalty action started early, with Switzerland hitting Emirates GBR in practice, resulting in a ‘compression dent’ to the British F50.
The Mark 1 incident saw Switzerland, which was required to give Emirates GBR room at the mark, misjudge the mark rounding and come up on the British astern. As a result, the Swiss were handed a 4 point event penalty and 2 point deduction from its season score for the contact.
Two notable Part 2 incidents unfolded on Race Day 1 between Canada and Australia, with Canada penalized during the live broadcast of Fleet Race 1 for not giving mark room to the Aussies. A similar incident later unfolded in Fleet Race 3 between the two boats, with Canada protesting against Australia for not giving enough mark room, but no penalty was given.
However, giving the initial penalty to Canada was later deemed to have been an error. Mitchell explained: “After the race, we went back and reviewed it and saw that Canada were controlling the distance between the boats and could have given more room if they needed to. On balance, we decided that it shouldn’t have been a penalty although the risk in that situation sits with Canada as the outside boat.”
Fleet Race 4 however saw one the biggest collective early start penalty situations, with 7 of the 10-strong F50 fleet crossing the line early. Only three teams started the race without an OCS - Australia, France and Spain. However, Spain was recorded as a delayed starter because they didn’t cross the start line within 6 seconds of the gun.
This meant all 7 early starters had to drop behind France to clear their penalties. “We were trying to stay on top of who had taken their penalty and making sure boats weren’t interfering with other teams taking their penalties, it got pretty hectic in the booth,” Mitchell explained.
However, Switzerland, ROCKWOOL DEN and Canada all failed to take their penalty by the end of the first leg - meaning they accrued an additional penalty of being sent to the back of the fleet behind Spain. “I think that was the biggest OCS penalty we’ve had while racing,” Mitchell said.
Another incident, which was later rescinded by the umpires, unfolded at the last mark on the fourth fleet race. ROCKWOOL DEN was entitled to room and Switzerland didn’t give enough - resulting in the outline of the boats overlapping on the UmpApp.
The umpires take this to represent contact between the two boats and imposed a four point event and 2 point season penalty to Switzerland and a two point event penalty to ROCKWOOL DEN for not doing enough to avoid the contact. However, after racing both teams were adamant the boats hadn’t touched. After further inspection checks of the F50s by SailGP’s Tech Team, the umpires rescinded the penalty.
“When we have reason to believe that there has been contact our process is to give the penalties during the live broadcast because it may make a difference as to who goes into the Final, if subsequently it can be shown that there was no contact we will then remove any penalties imposed.” Mitchell explained.
Another OCS was recorded in the final fleet race of the event, with Tom Slingsby’s Australia crossing the start line early by a margin of 11cm at 0.03 seconds before the gun. The penalty meant Australia had to drop behind ROCKWOOL DEN, which had a slow start, and resulted in the Aussies finishing the race in 9th place. This took them out of contention for the Final and meant they missed their first Final of Season 4.