The tightest racecourse in SailGP history resulted in a bumper number of boat on boat Part 2 penalties in Los Angeles, with event winner Spain picking up the most penalties across the weekend.
A total of 54 protests were lodged across the two days of racing, resulting in 10 part 2 penalties, 2 early start OCS penalties and 12 boundary penalties, which punish teams for staying outside of course limits.
More than half the fleet - six boats - received boundary penalties across the weekend, with Switzerland picking up five alone. Chief umpire Craig Mitchell attributed this to the unusual shape and size of the racecourse.
“The shape of the racing area was tricky,” he said. “It wasn’t a straight rectangular box - it had lumps, bumps and sharp corners.” He pointed specifically to Mark 1 and a difficult finishing area. “The boundary was sticking out a bit below Mark 1, which caught some teams on the hop.”
When it came to boat on boat situations, Mitchell said the racecourse of Los Angeles was ‘busier than usual’, with the tight course and addition of Germany resulting in a crowded start line and congested mark roundings.
Spain picked up the biggest number of penalties across the weekend - and four of these were Part 2.
All of these boat on boat situations were port/ starboard incidents, with two unfolding against the French in the final stages of the fifth fleet race. This meant the Spanish were pushed back into last place - and the team had to finish at least ninth to proceed to the three-boat Final. These incidents, Mitchell explained, were simple cases of ‘the conditions changing’ and the Spanish ‘not reacting quick enough and misjudging the crosses’.
On the other end of the spectrum, ROCKWOOL Denmark received no penalties across the weekend and didn’t press the protest button once. This proves, Mitchell said, ‘that there are many paths to the Final’.
New Zealand’s controversial penalty in Fleet Race 2
A poor performance from New Zealand resulted in 4-5-10-7-6 race results and a 7th place finish overall. But the team took special umbrage with a penalty dished out in the second fleet race.
During a mark rounding, the Kiwis looked to go around the outside of the Americans and picked up a penalty for not giving them enough room at the mark. While Mitchell conceded that ‘it’s a maneuver Pete [Burling, New Zealand driver] has probably done 1,000 times’, the view on the UmpApp showed the two boats ‘getting close enough to question whether sufficient room was given’.
“It’s an umpired sport - not refereed,” he added. “The USA pressed the protest button, which gets the umpires involved, and it’s our policy that if we have a doubt whether mark-room was given, we penalize. The risk was with New Zealand and they cut it too close in our view when they really didn’t need to”.
However, the Kiwis earned themselves an additional penalty for responding ‘rudely’ to the umpire team via the radio. “Our rule is keep feedback short and respectful,” Mitchell said.