Olympics PRO Charley Cook reports in from Weymouth. Rumors are beginning to fly on the sailing blogs about Russia's request(s), for redress, or lack thereof, in the semi-finals and bronze medal matches (petite finals) of Women's Match Racing. As PRO, Charley has first hand knowledge of the proceedings and shared this report:
In light of the mis-information in the blogoshere concerning the RUS vs FIN Petite-Finals, I hope you'll permit me to comment.
I've seen a quote by the Russian skipper to the effect that I argued in the hearing that the jury couldn't reverse an OCS decision made on the water, and that I was Chairman of the Jury. Neither is correct. David Tillett (AUS) was the Chairman of the International Jury. The Russian skipper was not present during the hearing on shore. The team chose to be represented by it's rules advisor. I didn't say what she has attributed to me, and she couldn't know what I said since she wasn't present.
There were two disputes presented by the Russian Womens' Match Race Team in the final two days of the competition.
The Semi-Finals were held on 10 August. The Sailing Instructions stated that the Semi-Finals were a first to 3 knock-out series. Notice 13, posted before the start of the competition, stated that the series would be terminated at 1730 hours on 10 August (to allow for the Finals and Petite-Finals the following day).
The Semi-Finals were terminated at 1729 hours on 10 August. At that time, Spain led Russia by a score of 2-1. In accordance with Racing Rules of Sailing C10.5, Spain was declared the winner.
Russia filed no Request for Redress concerning these decisions.
At 0800 hours on 11 August, Russia filed a petition for arbitration with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In that petition, Russia sought several remedies: (1) that the Finals and Petite-Finals be stayed, (2) that the Semi-Finals be continued, and (3) that the rules governing the event be altered.
ISAF was advised of the arbitration at 0942 hours on 11 August. The Petite-Finals were scheduled to commence at 1200 hours. ISAF filed its brief in opposition at 1045 hours.
Less than an hour later, the arbitrator dismissed Russia's petition.
Here are some useful links:
I've attached a copy of the CAS decision. It will be posted in due course on the CAS website. Since it is public, I think it's OK for you to post it.
For the Finals and Petite-Finals, we had two ISAF-appointed International Race Officers sighting the start line: The Race Officer (from Spain), and an experienced race officer from Ireland. They were in the proper position to make a starting line call. They agreed that the start was VERY close, but CLEAR. Russia was judged by them to be the closest to the line.
Russia sought redress on the water, claiming Finland was over the line. After taking testimoney from the two race officers, the two skippers and the Russian coach, the on-the-water jury denied the request.
On shore, Russia presented video claiming it established an error by the race officers. I have seen no reports stating the provenance of the video. The video relied upon was taken more than 75 meters away from the start boat. The sound was also taken from more than 75 meters away. As far as I can tell, the oral count-down did not come from the start boat. if it was from the start boat, the distance would have caused a delay. The video also shows the watch at 0 seconds. But, that wasn't at the precise instant of the start. It could have been as much as .99999 seconds later since the watch was set to count up. In that amount of time, the boats would have traveled more than 5 feet.
I can't comment on what was said during the hearing. But, the published documents show that the on-shore jury concluded there was no basis to re-open its on-the-water hearing.
A document entitled International Jury Information to Athletes was posted before the start of the competition. That document covers, among other matters, the use of video evidence. The document also states that the jury would not reverse an OCS call without conclusive evidence that the race committee made a mistake. The link to that document is: http://www.sailing.org/tools/documents/2012OlympicGamesJuryInfotoAthletes-.pdf
Sighting the start line is not an exact science, and video evidence from 75 meters away with an incorrect oral count-down is not very useful. The two race officers who made the call were in the right positions, and have a great deal of experience. Could they have made a mistake? It's possible. We've seen mistakes in the Super Bowl. We saw a goal not counted as a goal in the Soccer World Cup. On the water umpires also make mistakes. We all watch NBA games, and see mistakes by the Refs. People who weren't on the start boat, relying on video that is unreliable at best, may think an error was made. Having been on the water during the race, heard the reports from the race officers, and seen all available video, I'm convinced the two race officials made the correct decision.
We shouldn't let Russia's complaints about the Semi-Finals and the Petite-Finals detract from a great event. All 12 Women's Match Race Teams were well-prepared and very competitive. Any one of them could have won a medal. Congratulations to all teams for their achievements.
Principal Race Officer