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How to Win in the Protest Room

How to Win in the Protest Room

Two-time Olympic competitor and World Sailing International Judge Bill O’Hara gives his expert tips on how to improve your performance in the protest room.

My first ever protest experience was during a Cadet dinghy race on a Thursday night at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, back in the bad old days of the “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland. 

I was 10 years old and I remember having no idea at the time what I had done wrong or what rule I was meant to have broken. 

Penalty turns weren’t an option in those days and as I was fed up of having to retire from races, I decided I would go to the protest room instead.

Royal Ulster Yacht Club is a historic institution with a long pedigree that includes five challenges for the America’s Cup. My protest was held in the Sir Thomas Lipton Room and the intimidating looking protest committee was made up of three blazer-wearing Royal Ulster Yacht Club members. 

Recognising that I was somewhat out of my depth, the protest committee chairman did his best to put me at ease. He began by explaining that, as the protest had been lodged against me, I was the ‘Protestee’. Thinking that he was referring to me a Protestant, I jumped to my feet:  “Oh no Sir! I’m a Roman Catholic!” I declared.
Perhaps because my outburst failed to impress the panel but one way or another I lost the case. 

That was the first of many protests I lost over the next 14 years, until I decided enough was enough and I needed to get better at preparing myself for protests. 

Here are the main points of what I have learned along the way. 

1. Learn the rules

This is the most important stage of how to prepare a protest. 

You wouldn’t expect any success at a regatta if you hadn’t prepared your boat or practised with your crew. Winning protests takes exactly the same preparation. 

The rules are complicated and if you are involved in a protest – either as the protestor or the protestee - you can’t expect to win if you begin your rules education 20 minutes before the hearing.
  
The best way to learn is to... READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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