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Protest

UNITED STATES ROWING ASSOCIATION
JUDGE-REFEREE COMMITTEE

In re ALCATRAZ WHALEBOAT REGATTA
(Appeal of JAMMZ "A")


The Judge-Referee Committee has received an appeal from the JAMMZ "A" (JAMMZ) Rowing team regarding the Alcatraz Whaleboat Regatta, which took place on May 14, 1988 in San Fransisco. JAMMZ protests the ruling of the race officials, ratified by the Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association (BAWRA), which had the effect of altering the order of finish. For the reasons described below, we will affirm that decision.

I. FACTS

The relevant (and undisputed) facts are as follows.(l) Approximately thirty seconds after the start of the race, the American President's Line (APL) boat fouled the Utah International (Utah) boat, during which oars were interlocked for an appreciable amount of time. The JAMMZ boat was not involved in the incident. The boats eventually separated, and the eventual order of finish was:

1 APL 16 min 26 sec
2 JAMMZ "A" 16 min 40 sec
3 Utah 16 min 44 sec
4 Anchor Steam 17 min 20 sec
5 Califa 18 min 18 sec
6 JAMMZ "B" 19 min 20 sec

The race officials, acting as the Jury, then considered a protest by the Utah boat. There is apparently no dispute that Utah's chance of winning was affected; rather, the disagreement is over the method of restoring that chance. The Jury decided to

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1. The Committee has received the following documents, which are incorporated into the record. Letter of Tay Vaughan to BAWRA Board of Directors dated May 15, 1988; Letter of Tay Vaughan to Pat Ferguson dated May 16, 1988; Letter of JAMMZ to BAWRA dated May 17, 1988; Letter of Tay Vaughan to BAWRA Board of Directors dated June 2, 1988; Letter of Ron Hudson (JAMMZ) to Pat Ferguson dated June 15, 1988. The Committee also notes the Rules of the Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association (March 23, 1987 ed.).
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Page 2, Alcatraz Whaleboat Regatta

award Utah a twenty second time compensation, and to impose a twenty second penalty on APL. As adjusted, the results of the race were:

1 Utah 16 min 24 sec
2 JAMMZ "A" 16 min 40 sec
3 APL 16 min 46 sec
4 Anchor Steam 17 min 20 sec
5 Califa 18 min 18 sec
6 JAMMZ "B" 19 min 20 sec

On appeal, this method of compensation/penalty was affirmed by BAWRA (after a discussion of many hours), and JAMMZ now appeals to the USRA.

II. JURISDICTION

This is the first occasion in which we are required to consider the appellate jurisdiction of this Committee over the activities of BAWRA. This race did not take place under the USRA Rules of Racing, but under the BAWRA Rules of Racing. While USRA Rules provide explicitly for appeal to the Judge-Referee Committee, BAWRA Rules do not. Nevertheless, we believe that we do have the power to review the actions below. The race in question falls within the internationally accepted definition of a rowing race, and it was sanctioned and insured by the USRA. We therefore have a responsibility to insure that the race was conducted in accordance with principles of safety and fairness.

The fact that BAWRA is somewhat of an autonomous component within the rowing community, however, does suggest that the level of scrutiny that we apply should be different than if this were a standard race. Traditional USRA rules do not apply, and whaleboat races are developing their own traditions and customs. Not only would it be impractical to apply the same criteria to whaleboats as apply to racing shells, but such intrusive management by this Committee would hinder the development of a set of rules that are best suited to this form of rowing. Nor does this Committee have the expertise to take a primary role in the administration of whaleboat races. Our review is therefore limited to an inquiry into whether the conduct of the race was consistent with basic principles of fairness and safetYt giving great deference to the expertise that BAWRA does possess.(2)

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2. Had this been a standard regatta involving racing shells, the proper ruling would have been to stop the race, exclude the offending crew, and restart the remaining crews. It is our understanding, however, that such a procedure is impractical in whaleboat racing. Again, we lack sufficient expertise to assess the viability of this option, and we therefore must defer to the judgment of BAWRA, which does enjoy such expertise.
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Page 3 Alcatraz Whaleboat Regatta

III. DISCUSSION

It is indisputable that the circumstances required that the officials take some action to restore Utah's chances of winning. The only question is whether in taking such action, the Jury also unfairly deprived JAMMZ of its own chance of winning. We do not think it did. The simple fact remains that before the results were adjusted, JAMMZ came in second in the race. We presume it used its best efforts to achieve this placing.(3) After the results were adjusted, JAMMZ remained in second place. Whatever may have occurred between APL and Utah could not have affected JAMMZ's performance. Thus it seems to us that JAMMZ is disputing not its own place, but the identity of the winning crew. We do not think that JAMMZ is the proper party to raise this complaint. We certainly do not think JAMMZ has standing to assert that it should have been placed higher (i.e. first place) due to an incident in which it was not involved.

The gist of JAMMZ's complaint is that use of time penalties/compensation is not provided for in the BAWRA rules, and that post hoc implementation of such a procedure by the race officials works an unfairness on competitors. It is clear that in traditional racing involving racing shells, use of such time penalties/compensation would not be permitted. Time penalties are used in "Head" races, although such penalties are described in the written rules of the race. We mention this only to show that the same method for maximizing fairness to the competitors may not be the same in different situations. We understand JAMMZ's concern that the use of time penalties/compensation is at best an estimate of what would have happened, but that does not necessarily mean that such time adjustments are inherently unfair. Penalties imposed by rules of sport are often imperfect approximations (e.g. yard penalties, free throws). We cannot require that the solution arrived at by BAWRA be perfect, but only that it not be arbitrary or capricious.

More generally, JAMMZ asserts that free-wheeling rules interpretation by officials, which are not explicitly grounded in
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3. We do not understand JAMMZ's contention that its race strategy would have been different had it known of the possibility of time penalties/compensation. JAMMZ's argument would have more force if it had finished in apparent first place, but a subsequent time adjustment placed it in second. A crew that is in second place in a finals race, however, logically uses its best efforts to overtake the leader. The suggestion that JAMMZ would have rowed faster had it known of the later ruling implies that it was content with second place, an assumption we cannot accept.
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Page 4 Alcatraz Whaleboat Regatta

the written rules, deprives competitors of the level of certainty necessary to engage in any organized sport. We generally agree with JAMMZ. Obviously, fairness requires that competitors be able to rely on some fundamental assumptions. That does not mean, however, that all possible permutations and contingencies must be known and described with absolute precision in advance. Especially in an outdoor sport, it is impossible to account for every eventuality. Moreover, race officials cannot and should not be limited to ministerial application of written rules. Their primary function is to exercise judgment, especially in new or unforeseen situations. This is especially true in an activity that is still in development. To require officials to adhere to predetermined rulings without regard to reason or experience would be to stagnate that development.

The officials in this case invoked their power and responsibility to restore a boat's fair chance of winning, as provided in the BAWRA rules. In this case, we cannot say that the manner in which the race officials exercised that power was arbitrary or capricious. Nor, as described before, did they unfairly deprive JAMMZ of its own chance of winning. We understand JAMMZ's concern that the written rules reflect as fully as possible actual practice on the water. Indeed, we encourage representatives of JAMMZ to work with BAWRA to make progress in this area. Given the facts in this particular case, however, and given that we are remote in both time and place from the incident, we cannot .find that the USRA should upset the decision of the Jury or of BAWRA in this matter.

The judgment of the Board of Directors of BAWRA is Affirmed.

July 1, 1988

SUBCOMMITTEE ON APPEALS
RONALD K. CHEN, USRA, FISA (Chair) Berkeley Heights, New Jersey JOHN J. QUINN, JR., USRA, FISA Avon Lake, Ohio ROBERT SCURRIA, USRA, FISA Pleasanton, California
SO ORDERED:

USRA, FISA Chair, USRA Judge-Referee Committee