AC45 Protest Light
Flashing red light means this boat is protesting another boat. In strong winds there’s just too much noise to call “Protest” to another boat, and the LiveLine system gives the umpires and Race Committee some amazing new ways to run a race. Let’s have a look:Do you know what all the flashing lights mean on an AC45 catamaran? This short article will make you an expert.
The “aft media post” on the back of the AC45 carries the GPS antennas that allow tracking the boat’s position to within 2 cm! It also carries the remote control camera with pan, tilt and zoom (plus a remotely controlled wiper!). And, it carries the “warning light stack” – green to show when a boat is within 3 boat lengths of a course limit or a turning mark, red to indicate a protest and blue to indicate a penalty.
AC45 aft media post with warning lights. Click drawing for detailed PDF. Copyright ACTV.
The warning lights are flashing LED’s. Flashing LED’s are used because they are brighter than steady lights. Here’s a close up of the stack while Oracle Racing 4 is on shore (all lights off, obviously):
AC45 lights Jul’12 10 all off
Warning light stack on “aft media post” of AC45 catamaran
On each hull of the AC45, just aft of the wing trimmer’s winch, is the “StoweDisplay” that the helmsman uses. The top line of the read out shows him time until the start, the number of penalties he is carrying and distance to the course limit. In the TV broadcasts, sometimes you will hear the helmsman calling out the distance to the limit so his crew know to get ready to tack or to gybe. Now you know where he gets his information! I took this photo in Cascais, when the helmsmen still needed some notes on the Race Committee codes for course changes – do you see the notes taped to the deck?
Helmsman’s display. Push the yellow button to “Y-flag” another boat (protest them). Click photo for bigger image.
The main part of the display shows the “chatter” messages from the umpires and the Race Committee. Protests, penalties and course changes all appear on this display. (BTW, the chatter messages also appear on the Android version of the CupExperience AC Race Tracker, available free, here.) He pushes the yellow button to signal the umpires that he is protesting another boat. The red button is for a B flag flag protest, meaning something that cannot be judged by the umpires during the race, e.g. illegal boat configuration. The blue button is not used.
When the helmsman hits the yellow “Y-flag” button, his red light comes on for 10 seconds and the umpires in the booth on land and the water will decide if a penalty should be given.
AC45 Protest Light
Red flashing light means this boat is protesting another boat
When a penalty is assessed, the penalized boat has a flashing blue light on the stern post, so spectators and other race boats can see it. All boats also get messages on the helmsman’s display to tell them if a penalty has been given or not.
AC45 Penalty Light
Flashing blue light means this boat has a penalty.
When a boat is within three boat lengths of a course limit, they have rights to room to tack or gybe to avoid going out of bounds. When approaching a turning mark, if boats are overlapped when the first boat reaches the three boat length zone, the inside boat has rights to room to round. This is a big difference to Rule 18 that most racing sailors know!
Three boat lengths from course boundary or a turning mark.
The boats also have lights on the forward crossbeams – blue to indicate the penalty, and yellow to indicate distance to the course limits – the faster the yellow light flashes, the closer the boat is to the limit. The courses are so narrow that many times the yellow lights flash almost constantly.
AC45 lights Jul’12 60 beam1 on hard
Lights on the forward crossbeam of AC45 – blue: penalty. Yellow: approaching boundary.
In the next picture, on board Artemis, you can see the warning lights on the crossbeam. The blue light is on steady when the boat has a penalty. The yellow light blinks faster as the boat approaches the course boundary. When the boat is within three boat lengths of the course limit the yellow light on the cross beam blinks very rapidly and the green light on the aft post blinks to warn other boats that this boat has rights to tack or gybe and sail her proper course. (See my video briefing showing a dangerous penalty situation at the course limits in Naples.)
AC45 Lights on Crossbeam
Warning lights on crossbeam – blue for a penalty, yellow means I’m approaching course limits
I hope that will help you enjoy watching the America’s Cup World Series Races in person or on TV. Any questions? Send me an email, or click “Ask Jack” in the main menu.