by Dave Perry, National Judge and Chairman of the US Sailing Appeals Committee
So, the protest or redress hearing didn’t turn out like you planned. Sorry to hear that. But wait, there’s more. Part of the protest/redress system in The Racing Rules of Sailing is an “appeals system” available to all parties in a hearing. Everything you need to know about the appeals system and process in the U.S., including a comprehensive FAQ, can be found at: https://www.ussailing.org/competition/rules-officiating/appeals/
Who Can Appeal?
Any of the parties to the hearing can appeal the decision or procedures of the protest committee to a higher “court” (with a couple of exceptions I will explain in a minute). In the United States, there are 34 regional (called “association”) appeals committees around the country. And if you don’t like the decision of the association appeals committee, you can appeal its decision to the US Sailing Appeals Committee, which is the “Supreme Court” for the sport of sailing in the U.S. See rule 70.1, Appeals and Requests to a National Authority.
The “parties” to a protest hearing are the protestor and protestee. And in a redress hearing they are basically the boat requesting redress or for whom redress is being considered, the race committee if it is the subject of the redress request, and any other boat in the race who participated in the redress hearing. See the definition Party and the US Sailing prescription to rule 63.2, Time and Place of the Hearing; Time for Parties to Prepare.
How Do I Appeal?
You first need to get the decision of the protest committee in writing. Usually, the protest committee will just give you its written decision if you ask for it. Rule 65.2, Informing the Parties and Others, requires the protest committee to give it to you if you ask for it in writing no later than seven days after being informed of the decision.
Once you have the written decision, you have 15 days from the day you received the written decision to email your appeal to US Sailing. If you are one day late, the appeal will likely not be considered. All you need to do is email to US Sailing (email@example.com) the written decision (just scan the hearing forms and whatever document has the written decision on it and send it as a pdf) and the reason(s) why you think the protest committee’s procedures or decision was wrong, and fill out the Appeals & Requests Information Form (available at www.appeals.ussailing.org). See Appendix R, Procedures for Appeals and Requests, rules R1.1, R2.1 and R2.2
What Does it Cost to Appeal?
There is no fee for appealing to the regional appeals committee. There is a $25 fee for appealing to the US Sailing Appeals Committee ($75 for non-US Sailing members). See rule R3.
How Does the Association Appeals Committee Get My Appeal?
You simply send your appeal to US Sailing. They in turn will forward it to the appropriate appeals committee for the region where the event was held. You will receive a confirmation email from US Sailing telling you where your appeal was sent. You will then receive an acknowledgement email from the association appeals committee telling you what will happen next. See rule R1.1.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Decision?
How long the appeals committee needs to make its decision will depend on whether it has all the facts and information it needs, or if it needs to ask the protest committee for more facts and information. The average time from receipt of the appeal to sending the decision is about three months, sometimes sooner, sometimes later.
What Happens When the Appeals Committee Changes the Protest Committee’s Decision?
If the decision of the appeals committee changes the protest committee’s decision, and no further appeal is filed, the event must be rescored based on the decision of the appeals committee, and any awards affected must be given to the appropriate new recipients. See World Sailing Case 61.
Are There Times I am not Allowed to Appeal?
Only occasionally. You cannot appeal the decision of an International Jury. And if it is essential to determine promptly the result of an event that will qualify a boat to compete in a later stage of an event or a subsequent event, the notice of race or the sailing instructions can state that there will be no appeals allowed. See rule 70.5.
Can I Ask the Appeals Committee a Hypothetical Rules Question?
A club or other organization that is affiliated to US Sailing can request an interpretation of the rules, provided no protest or request for redress that may be appealed is involved. See rules 70.4 and R2.3.
Should I be Reading the US Sailing Appeals Book and World Sailing Case Book?
If you are interested in playing the game on a competitive level, it is very important that you know the rules. And equally important is understanding how the judges see the rules so that you are successful if you ever find yourself in a protest or redress hearing. One of the best ways to achieve both is to read the Appeals Book and the Case Book. But that is not as daunting as it may sound.
The large majority of the appeals and cases are on one or two pages, with large print and often with a diagram. At the beginning of each appeal and case is a short summary of the decision
(called the “abstract”). At the beginning of each book is an Index by rule number, with the abstracts of the appeals and cases listed for each rule. My suggestion is to pick a rule to study, say rule 14, Avoiding Contact. Then read each appeal and case listed under rule 14 in the Index. When you read the appeal or case, read just the Facts and Decision of the protest committee and study the diagram. Then close the book and think what your answer would be. Then read the appeals committee’s decision. This is a very enjoyable and effective way to learn and remember the rules.
You can find links to the Appeals and Case Books (both of which are updated for the new 2021-2024 rules) at: https://www.ussailing.org/competition/rules-officiating/appeals/
Dave’s two books on the rules…
Two other very enjoyable and effective ways to learn and remember the rules are to read Dave’s two books on the rules: Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing through 2024 and Dave Perry’s 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes. They are both available from the US Sailing Store at: shop.ussailing.org/