Sometimes during national or international sailing races, two or more boats collide, causing damage onboard or personal injury
by Federico Santini*
In this issue, we look at civil liability in the event of collisions during sailing competitions, so as to clarify the rules and regulations that are applicable in Italy. Article 30 of the Recreational Boating Code provides that the regulations of the national and international sporting federations must be observed in sporting events. This means that the legal framework applicable to material damage and personal injury in the event of an accident between boats participating in a competition requires the coordination of the general principles on civil liability expressed in article 2054 of the Italian Civil Code with the racing rules and decisions made by the Sports Jury. The principle is that, in the event of a collision, fact-finding is the domain of the competition jury for sporting purposes, and of the ordinary courts for compensation purposes, but must take the racing rules into account. In other words, the racing rules are used to determine and allocate responsibility for damage occurring during the race, but the issue of compensation is entrusted to the ordinary courts. It follows that an ordinary judge, when called upon to rule on a claim for damages caused by a collision during a race, will have to apply the racing rules and any decisions made by the race judges when establishing the facts. Let us now examine these rules.
In the event of a collision, fact-finding is up to the competition jury for sporting purposes, but for compensation purposes it is a matter for the ordinary courts and must be carried out according to the racing rules.
Participation in a race implies the implicit adherence by each competitor to the racing rules that are issued by World Sailing (UK) Limited every four-year Olympic cycle and which govern competitive races throughout the world, including Italy. In Italy, all races are exclusively organised by FIV (the Italian Sailing Federation), which is recognized by Word Sailing and the Italian Olympic Committee as the only national authority for sailing.
The rules currently in force are the “Racing Rules for Sailing 2021-2024” (known as “RRS”) which are downloadable from the website www.federvela.it in English and Italian or from the www.sailing.org website. This document consists of two sections: the first, made up of Parts 1-7, contains rules that apply to all competitors; the second, consisting of the Appendices, provides details of rules, rules that apply to particular types of races (e.g. windsurfing, match racing, team races, etc.), and rules that apply only to a limited number of competitors or race officers. Going into detail, part 5 of the first section (“Protests, reparations, hearings, misconduct and appeals”), governs the procedure that must be followed when an accident occurs during a race.
PARTICIPATION IN A RACE IMPLIES THE IMPLICIT ADHERENCE
TO THE RACING RULES THAT ARE ISSUED BY WORLD SAILING (UK) LIMITED EVERY FOUR-YEAR OLYMPIC CYCLE, AND WHICH GOVERN COMPETITIVE RACES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
In short, a boat that claims to have been damaged can submit a written protest within the deadline set out in the sailing instructions, or, if the deadline is not specified, within two hours of the last boat finishing. The boat that is assumed to have violated a rule must be informed in advance of the intention to file the protest. The rules specify what information the protest must include. No boat can be penalized without a hearing. This means that, following the presentation of a protest, the protest committee must convene a hearing in which the representatives of the boats involved, i.e. both the boat alleged to have caused the damage and the one which suffered it, will have the right to participate, and witnesses can be heard. The protest committee carries out a genuine investigation to determine the facts of the case, at the end of which it issues a decision. If this ascertains the infringement of a rule, it will impose a penalty (potentially including exclusion from the race) on the boat that has broken a rule and/or will grant the right to repair to the damaged boat. The decision must be made in writing, with a description of the evidence, the applicable rules, the decision, the reasons behind it, and any penalty imposed or redress granted.
A BOAT THAT CLAIMS TO HAVE BEEN DAMAGED CAN SUBMIT A WRITTEN PROTEST WITHIN THE DEADLINE SET OUT IN THE SAILING INSTRUCTIONS, OR, IF THE DEADLINE IS NOT SPECIFIED, WITHIN TWO HOURS
OF THE LAST BOAT FINISHING.
The decision of the protest committee can usually be appealed to the competent national authority based on the place where the race is held (the FIV for Italy), however, the appeal cannot question the evidence that has been collected. This thus means that the fact-finding carried out by the protest committee is final and constitutes evidence in any action brought by the injured party in ordinary courts, both against the boat that caused the damage and its insurers.
(Civil liability in sailing races – Barchemagazine.com – July 2022)