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Regattas Behind the Scenes: Henry Menin – ISAF Judge and Umpire

Henry Menin has long been a force on the Caribbean racing scene. At first, this St. Thomas-based sailor campaigned his J/29, Magnum VI, in many of the major spring regattas, winning the International Rolex Regatta in 1989. Today, Menin still loves being on the water—both in the Caribbean and around the world—but it is on an umpire boat rather than racing yacht. He’s risen to the level of the America’s Cup and says there are opportunities for other Caribbean sailors to pursue the officiating side of sailing.

A Sailor First

It was prior to moving to St. Thomas in 1980 that Menin got his feet wet in the management side of sailing. “I started doing some officiating when I was coaching a small college sailing team in Philadelphia,” he says.  “But my real immersion into officiating started in St. Thomas. John Nichols, a legend among race officials in the USA who had retired to St. Thomas, encouraged me and invited me to do some officiating locally. Then he started taking me to international events around the Caribbean and on the US mainland. However, while doing that, I continued racing very actively in the Caribbean, so one activity did not exclude the other.”

Menin’s role changed with the America’s Cup. “I had umpired and served on the America’s cup Jury in 1999/2000. As a result of that experience, I was invited by John Cutler to join the Oracle BMW AC challenge in 2001 as their rules advisor/coach and as their in house umpire. That was a commitment that would take me to New Zealand and away from St. Thomas for two years. At that point, I sold my interest in my sailboat and basically stopped racing for those two years.”

Since 2003, Menin has concentrated more on officiating, particularly umpiring in match racing, although he is also an ISAF (International Sailing Federation) judge.

Judges & Umpires

What is a sailing judge?

Menin says, “A sailing judge is a person who knows the Racing Rules of Sailing, has racing experience and has the appropriate temperament for making logical and reasoned decisions in an unbiased manner.”

“Sailing judges generally sit on a panel with other judges and, after the racing is finished for the day, they listen to the Protest of boats that feel they have been fouled during the day’s racing,” he says. “The protest hearings are mini-trials, where the parties and their witnesses testify before the judges, after which the judges render a written decision.”

In some cases, mostly in the dinghy classes, judges go out on the water during racing and assess penalties for violations of rule 42 or kinetics, such as illegal pumping, sculling, ooching and rocking. Menin, for example, officiated on-the-water at the Optimist World Championships in Cesme, Turkey, this summer, and headed up an International Jury of ten.

What is an umpire?

An ISAF umpire (called an International Umpire or IU) serves and officiates at match racing events.  Menin explains, “In a match race, only two boats compete in each race or match. The races are fairly short; just 15 or 20 minutes each. But there are many such races each day during a match-racing regatta…as many as fifty-five races. If they do a double round robin, which often happens, there would be about 100 races.”

In each match, Menin continues, “there is an umpire boat with two umpires aboard following the two competing sailboats. Each umpire takes one of the sailboats and acts as if he is the skipper of that boat. He talks constantly with his fellow umpire about whether he is the right of way boat or if he must keep clear, what his rights are and what his responsibilities are (must give room, must tack to keep clear, etc.), whether he is fulfilling his responsibilities…and discussing what his next likely moves will be.

“If one of the boats feels it has been fouled, it displays a “Y” flag (orange and yellow diagonal stripes) and then the umpires must agree on whether a foul was committed. The umpires will usually know the answer even before the “Y” flag is displayed because they have been keeping close tabs on the action all around the course. The decision is usually given within a few seconds after the incident and is communicated by the display of a penalty flag or a green and white flag, the latter indicating no foul,” he says.

There is no time for the umpires to consult a rulebook or to go into a long or intensive discussion of the applicable rules. Therefore, they must be very well-versed and knowledgeable of the racing rules and of the tactics and strategies of match racing so that they can anticipate the next moves of the competitors and be in the right position to clearly see the incidents.

So, to sum up the differences, a judge generally sits on protest hearings after the racing is finished for the day. An umpire acts on the water and makes instantaneous decisions during a match race—and generally has no hearings at all.

Menin says, “I got into judging before umpiring was started. Umpiring began in 1988 at the Congressional Cup in California. I like both activities, but I prefer umpiring because you are part of the game and are involved in the action, up close and personal, during the race.”

Another point Menin enjoys about umpiring, he says, is that is offers an excellent opportunity for interaction among competitors and umpires. “It’s very educational for both. We discuss rules and their applications, as well as tactics and strategy, which help both umpires and competitors to better understand each other and how the game is being played.”

Judging and umpiring has taken Menin and his wife Fredelle literally around the world. “It enables you to see some wonderful places and to meet some wonderful and interesting people. It definitely broadens your horizons and gives you a different perspective of the world and how the world sees us.”

On the horizon in umpiring, Menin foresees a greater and greater emphasis being put on umpire education, particularly with respect to the tactics and strategy used by competitors in match racing. “This emphasis is continuing even with umpires who have already been appointed as IUs and it is important to have this continuing education to keep up with developments in the sport since match race skippers are constantly developing new tactics and strategies.”

He adds, “I also see an effort to get more match racing competitors involved in umpiring. People who have competed as match racers make better umpires.”

Just Do It!

If you have any interest in judging, Menin says, “let your local club and/or race organizers know that you are interested. It does not matter if you have not judged before. Organizers are always interested in finding new judges and giving them judging experience. You will be working with other judges, so you won’t (or shouldn’t) be left to work alone.

“You can start with your local club races and work your way up. There are major Caribbean regattas that are anxious to bring new judges into the fold and to give them experience. Just let people know you are interested. As with Race committee work, local clubs should require competitors to serve on the Race committee or on the Protest Committee at least once every racing season.”

If you have any interest in match racing, either as a competitor or an umpire, contact Menin at hl.menin@gmail.com

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN ISAF JUDGE & UMPIRE

ISAF Judge: An ISAF judge is one who is certified by the International Sailing Federation. To obtain this certification, you need to:
● Attend an ISAF Judge’s Seminar
● Pass a written examination which is designed to show intimate knowledge of the Racing rules of Sailing
● Within four years, have served on a Protest Committee in at least three principal fleet racing events, but one of those principal regattas must be outside the candidate’s ISAF Group (our Group is the Caribbean)
● Have three written references from International Judges who were the Jury Chairmen in events where the candidate served.
For more detained information, visit: www.sailing.org/738.php

ISAF Umpire: The training required to become an International Umpire, says Menin, “is to do as many match races as possible, and preferably to have competed in match racing.  To get the ISAF certification, one must:
● Be able to apply the relevant rules and make correct decisions within a few seconds, under pressure
● Anticipate how boats maneuver in match racing (or team racing)
● Be able to drive and properly position small powerboats
● Be physically fit enough to serve on small powerboats on several consecutive days on the water

In addition, one must:
● Attend an ISAF Umpiring Seminar
● Pass a written examination of 50 questions and diagrams that describe various match racing incidents
● Pass an on-the-water assessment while umpiring
● Act as an umpire in at least eight principal events in the four years prior to one’s application to be appointed an IU. One of the events must be outside the applicant’s Group
● Have a written reference from the Chief Umpire (who is an IU) of three principal events.
For more detained information, visit: www.sailing.org/744.php

About Carol_Bareuther

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.