When to call 'Contact!'

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When to call 'Contact!'

Post by Lester » 01 Jun 2009, 10:30

When should an Observer (or, indeed, Umpire) call 'Contact!' between two boats, or a boat and a mark? I can think of three possibilities.

First is, the Observer calls a contact 'on balance of probability'. That is, when it is more likely than not that two boats were in contact. This might be called the 55% rule. The call might be made when two boats are sailing so close together that the Observer thinks a contact must surely have happened.

Second is, contact is called when the contact seemed 'beyond reasonable doubt'. But notice that the Observer here is not *certain* of the contact, only that it seems beyond doubt. This call might be made when a boat passes between the Observer and a small sized mark, and although there was no apparent disturbance of the boat (and the mark was hidden during the transit), the mark was seen to be turning slowly after the boat's transom passed it. This might be called the 95% rule.

Third possibility is, contact is called only if the Observer is certain. To be certain, the Observer must actually have witnessed (seen and possibly heard) the two objects physically touch, rather than infer a touch. This might be called the 100% rule.
Lester Gilbert

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Post by RoyL » 01 Jun 2009, 15:51

First question is should third parties be responsible for calling "contact" at all. Lots of interesting back and forth could be had on that issue.

Putting that aside, there are no "percentages" in the umpire business. You call fouls when you see them in any sport. Period. You try to see it all and you try to get the call right when you do it see, but you don't guess or make assumptions.

Not sure why this issue is being raised. Is there some practical situation where this issue matters?

Barry Chisam
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Post by Barry Chisam » 02 Jun 2009, 00:04

The MYA guidlines for observers says,
'Call only if you are certain that an incident has occured. If in doubt DO NOT CALL.
I think it is very important that these guidelines care observed. It is important that a skipper who has done nothing wrong is not penalised.
If there is an uncalled contact the agreived skipped allways has the right to protest.

Bruce Andersen
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Post by Bruce Andersen » 02 Jun 2009, 01:33


Sounds simple, logical, practical, and does not require an expert to interpret the meaning!

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Post by Roy648 » 02 Jun 2009, 23:02

But Bruce,

You have forgotten, two boats in close proximity and the observer doesn't like the colour of one of the boats !!

lets call this the 0% rule
Roy Granich

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Post by Lester » 02 Jun 2009, 23:09

Folks vary. Some are more willing to call a contact than others. And at the 1999 IOM Worlds in Malta I noted some invented contacts (of the sort that Roy calls the 0% rule)...

While ranting about protesting some years ago at http://www.onemetre.net/Race/Protest/Protest.htm I noted:

"A lot of research has shown that eye-witness testimony is extraordinarily unreliable (and that's me and you, never mind the known lunatics out there). The classic demonstration of this takes place in early Psychology 101 classes the length of the land, when a stooge armed with a banana bursts into the class and hustles the professor off the podium yelling "Gimme your money". 89% of the students in the class later state categorically the mugger held a gun, and gun-knowledgeable witnesses find they can state make, model, and calibre as well. Yes Sir, I saw it clearly, it was a dark grey .45 Magnum banana..."

The MYA advice sounds good. Do other NCAs use RRS E3.1 Observers? Do other NCAs offer advice on Observing?
Lester Gilbert

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