SailGP’s chief umpire Craig Mitchell has given his penalty rundown of the Dubai Sail Grand Prix, revealing that a total of 36 protests lodged across the weekend resulted in 16 penalties.
Dubai’s jam-packed schedule included four practice races and numerous practice starts on Thursday, followed by four races in Friday’s broadcast rehearsal. A bumper racing schedule across the weekend meanwhile comprised a total of seven races - six fleet races and a Final.
Four boundary penalties were dished out across the weekend to boats straying outside of course limits. Elsewhere, the umpires handed out two OCS penalties, which punish teams for crossing the start line early. The first of these was to France, which crossed the start line early in the fifth fleet race, and the second was to Australia, which picked up a penalty on the start line of the Final. Both boats were consequently forced to drop 20 meters behind the back of the pack.
Elsewhere, there were nine Part Two (boat on boat) penalties recorded across the weekend, as well as a penalty handed to Canada for unsportsmanlike conduct directed at the umpires following a penalty decision.
NZL X SUI
The most memorable Part Two incident from the weekend saw New Zealand pick up a four-point penalty for contact with Switzerland on the start line of the fifth fleet race.
The Kiwis were attempting to find a gap in the fleet line-up when their rudder shaft glanced off the windward hull of Switzerland. As a result, the team was docked two season points and picked up a four point race penalty, bringing them level on points with Australia after six fleet races. Australia’s third place finish in the sixth fleet race trumped the Kiwis’ fifth place finish, allowing the Aussies to squeeze into the Final alongside Great Britain and France.
GBR X CAN X NZL X AUS
The most difficult incident for the umpires took place in the pre-start of the third fleet race, which initially saw Canada pick up a penalty relative to Great Britain for not keeping clear as a windward boat.
However, very soon afterwards the Canadians were penalized again for failing to give room to New Zealand as they turned. Separately, Australia was handed a penalty for failing to keep clear of Canada, which essentially meant Australia had to drop behind Canada, which also had to drop behind Great Britain and New Zealand.
“The whole situation was a pretty tricky one and was a dominant part of the debrief on Sunday, with strong views from the teams over who should have picked up the penalty or whether there should have been a penalty at all which gave us plenty to think about and review,” Mitchell said.
It was during this incident that Canada picked up the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
There was also an incident where Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie swore in response to a penalty decision on the finish line of the first fleet race. Unlike Canada however Great Britain did not pick up a penalty for the outburst. The difference, Mitchell explained, was that Canada driver Phil Robertson was taking direct aim at umpires on the race management radio channel, while Ainslie was speaking privately on his on-board comms channel. Ainslie’s outburst happened to be picked up by the live broadcast and wasn’t heard by the umpires at the time.
Speaking about the two incidents, Mitchell said: “In my view, whatever you say on your boat is your business - though you’re advised to be careful what you do say as it might get picked up by the broadcast and could lead to a complaint from a broadcaster, resulting in further action. But if you are pointedly communicating off the boat over the race management channel then we will act on it there and then.”
SUI X GBR
Great Britain’s penalty occurred at the last gate before the sprint to the finish line of the first fleet race for not giving enough room to Switzerland at the mark.
This meant Great Britain was forced to drop behind Switzerland on the finish line, to finish sixth, rather than fifth.