The WIM Series is lucky to have as a Technical Advisor, Henry Menin from the US Virgin Islands (America’s Cup Umpire, America’s Cup Rules Advisor, former Chair of the ISAF Match Racing Committee, and co-author of the only current book on match racing – “North U Match Racing“). We’ve asked him to give us a few insights in to umpiring:
In a match race, if one of the competitors displays the Y flag, they are bringing
the umpires directly into the game. At that point, the fate of the teams is no longer entirely within their own hands, but in the hands of two umpires who often see things quite differently. The likely scenario is that one of the competitors will not be very happy with the end result.
A skipper, whom I admired greatly was Chris Law. When he was at the top of his game, he was one of the finest match racers I ever saw. He once said, “Umpires are like Kamikaze pilots (the Japanese suicide pilots of WWII). They come at you from behind, out of the sun, and you cannot see them. But you can hear the roar of their engines getting louder as they get closer and closer, and you just know that nothing good is about to happen.”
But umpires are truly a very necessary part of the game and though you may not always agree, they really do make every effort to be impartial and make their decisions honestly, fairly and promptly. Almost all come into umpiring with significant racing experience. The extent and quality of that experience would surprise you. Many are, or have been, match racers, sailing coaches, especially match racing coaches, national and world champions, etc.
They are by no means perfect. They make mistakes … but then again, so do match racers. When was the last time you sailed a perfect race? The point is, they are human, just like you. A good umpire admits his/her mistakes and gets on with it, just as you do when you miss a shift, pick the wrong side of the course, tack too close, etc. When umpires make a mistake, (whether in actual fact or just in your mind), you just cannot let it affect your game. You have to let it go and move on and focus on what is coming next.