Hearings conducted by remote protest committees

Guidance on protest and redress hearings held by email, teleconference or video.

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This guidance is intended primarily for race officials involved in protest committee (PC) hearings held by email, teleconference or online videoconferencing (virtual hearings). It may also be helpful to competitors who find themselves part of such hearings or organisers of events considering the use of such hearings.

Whilst the majority of hearings are held in the conventional manner, i.e. in person with all parties in one location (see RYA Guidance – Recommendations for Protest Committees), it is recognised this may not be practical in some circumstances and a hearing by a remote PC may provide a quicker resolution.

As technology advances, hearings with a remote PC or hybrid hearings with some PC members/parties onsite and some remote may become more widespread as event organisers seek ways to reduce costs while continuing to provide a high level of service to competitors. Hearings with a remote PC are different from conventional hearings and can be run in a variety of formats. There is no ‘best option’ and different types of hearings lend themselves better to different cases. Protest committees should consider the benefits and limitations of the various forms of hearing that are available and select the option that best suits the event and case.

Several of the options are discussed in more detail below and a table is provided summarising some of the considerations for the various hearing types.

Whilst the detail below refers to hearings held by a protest committee, there is no reason why this guidance could not be applied to the other elements of the RYA Disputes Process – advisory hearings and arbitration.

Email Hearings

Email hearings lend themselves well to cases where the facts are largely agreed between the parties and the dispute is in the application of the rules. They provide the opportunity also for parties to present accurate diagrams rather than relying on moving models on a table.

Examples that might be suitable for hearing via email could be requests for redress under rules 62.1(c) or 76.1.

In cases where witnesses are going to be called, the protest committee should be aware that it is not possible to ensure the witnesses have not been shown any evidence presented by the parties.

Communication should be directed through the PC chair.

Initially, the PC chair should email a copy of the protest or request to all parties and PC members. They should then introduce the PC members and request whether any party objects to one or more of them. The PC chair should also clarify that any emails once the hearing has commenced are to be treated as confidential and should not be shared with anyone. It is acceptable for the parties to share the copy of the protest or request for the purposes of seeking advice in advance of the hearing.

Once any conflict of interest has been resolved, the PC should assess validity in the normal manner. The PC chair should collate any questions and send them to the parties for a response.

When a response is required from the parties, then the PC chair should specify a deadline by which these responses should be received and the consequence if they are not received (e.g. that the hearing will continue without considering the response). It is important that sufficient time be allowed for responses as failure to do so may be an improper action that could result in a request for redress. This could lead to such hearings becoming protracted.

The hearing should then proceed as normal. Each party should submit their evidence to the PC chair for onward distribution. The PC chair would then request questions from the parties and members of the PC to be collated and issued together for responses from the parties. When asking for questions, the PC chair should request that the parties number their questions and submit them in a format allowing the other party/parties to respond beneath each question. It may be helpful if different coloured fonts are used to denote each party.

Once all evidence has been presented and questions answered, the parties should be allowed to present a summation of their case. They could be reminded that, as all evidence is written, there is no need to repeat what has already been presented.

The PC would then deliberate via email before agreeing on the facts found, conclusions and decision. The PC chair should then issue the written decision to the parties.

Video & Teleconference Hearings

Video conferencing through the use of commonly available methods such as Skype or Zoom provides the advantage of being able to see the parties. Some methods also have the important advantage of allowing people to share their screens such that diagrams, pictures or videos can be displayed. Web cams may also be used to provide a view of model boats on a table or white board. In general, it is preferable to use a system where participants can be seen rather than just heard.

Some methods, such as Zoom, have the ability to hold participants in a virtual waiting room and only admit them to the call when the administrator so chooses. This functionality would prove useful for the management of parties and witnesses.

The PC chair should ensure they are familiar with how the chosen platform works before the hearing commences, including the limitations of any free versions as opposed to paid-for versions. This should include how to monitor those present on the call. For audio conference calls, the chair should ensure the ‘roll-call’ facility is available and require all parties to announce themselves prior to joining the conference. Immediately prior to deliberation, the chair should use this facility to ensure there is no ‘quiet listening’ taking place.

It may be appropriate for the PC to appoint a moderator to facilitate this part of the process, which should be communicated as part of the initial email to the parties and witnesses. 

The PC chair or PC secretary should identify a suitable time when all parties, witnesses and PC members are available, ensuring that this allows sufficient time for the parties to prepare.

In advance of the hearing the PC chair should email all parties, PC members and witnesses to explain the process that will be followed for the hearing. This communication should confirm whether or not the PC intends to record the hearing, and ask any party intending to record it both to declare that fact and agree any restrictions that may be imposed by the PC (further guidance on recording of hearings is given in RYA Guidance – Recommendations for Protest Committees). The PC chair should ask for all telephone numbers of the parties and witnesses to be provided to facilitate the correct sequencing of entry for the witnesses and re-invitation following deliberation (for the parties).

All parties, protest committee members and witnesses should be asked to join the call at the start. The PC chair should confirm that everyone is on the call, that sound and vision is working as expected, and that all attendees both understand how the process will work and agree to abide by any conditions the PC have imposed. Depending on the system being used, any witnesses may either be temporarily removed from the call or be asked to hang up until the PC calls to invite them to re-join when they are required.

The hearing should then proceed as normal. At the end of the evidence, the parties should be excluded in a similar manner to the witnesses and the call recording paused whilst the PC deliberates. The parties should be either asked to wait and to re-join the call when the decision is ready to be read out or the PC chair should inform the parties that they are no longer required and the written decision will be promptly emailed to them once the PC has reached a decision.

Wording for initial email to parties

Below is some recommended wording that may be used when drafting an initial email to the parties. This is a generic guide and should be adapted to suit the particular case.

Dear [name],

A protest/request for hearing* has been lodged by [protestor/requestor] against [protestee/body alleged to have made improper action] following an incident during [race and event details]. I attach a copy of the protest/request*.

The purposes of this email are to inform you that the protest committee intends to hold this hearing by [email/teleconference/video conference], to introduce the parties and protest committee and to advise the process which this hearing will follow.

The Protest Committee is as follows:

[list PC members full names and if relevant qualifications and country]

The Parties are as follows:

[list parties’ representatives names along with boat name, sail number or body they are representing, i.e. Race Committee, Organising Authority or Technical Committee].

Should you have an objection to any member of the Protest Committee, then please respond to me confirming who you object to and the nature of your objection by [specify time and date]. Similarly, if you have no objection, I should be grateful if you could confirm that by reply.

For e-mail hearings

All correspondence will come direct from myself and you should reply directly to me by the deadline. I will then compile all responses and distribute as necessary. Should I not receive a response from you by the deadline set, it will be assumed you have nothing to add and the hearing will continue. Please ask if you require more time on a particular aspect.

It is acceptable for you to share a copy of the protest or request for the purposes of seeking advice in advance of the hearing. However, all subsequent emails relating to this hearing should be treated as confidential and not be shared with anyone.

For video or teleconference hearings

The hearing will be held via [system to be used, e.g. Skype] at [enter time and date of hearing].

Please join using the details included below [include details on how to access the call].

It is your responsibility to ensure that any witnesses you wish to call are available at the time of the hearing and will be able to join the call. Please confirm to me by [specify time and date] the names and contact details of any witnesses you intend to call.

You should ensure that neither any witnesses you intend to call nor any other persons are able to view or hear any of the proceedings except when they are invited in by the Protest Committee. If you wish to have someone observe the hearing, please declare this now and I will advise of any restrictions that the Protest Committee may impose.

The Protest Committee intend to record the hearing for the purposes of facilitating the writing up of the decision. The legal basis for this is contract/The Protest Committee will not be recording the hearing.* If you wish to record the hearing for your own purposes, then you should declare this now and I will advise of any restrictions that the Protest Committee may impose.

* delete as appropriate


Conventional Hearings

E-mail Hearings

Teleconference Hearings

Videoconference Hearings


- Require everyone to be available at same time

- Require everyone to be available at same location

- Can be held promptly

- Don’t require everyone to be available at the same time

- Don’t require everyone to be available at the location

- Can become protracted because of the time between people replying

- Require everyone to be available at same time

- Don’t require everyone to be available at the same location

- Can be held promptly

- Require everyone to be available at same time

- Don’t require everyone to be available at the same location

- Can be held promptly


- Evidence can be verbal or visual

- Requires additional equipment to present video evidence

- All evidence is provided in writing allowing for easy reference during deliberation

- Evidence is purely verbal

- No ability to use models, show diagrams, pictures etc.

- Parties can screen share to present diagrams, videos or pictures

- Most platforms have ability to record to allow reference during deliberation


- Witnesses can easily be excluded when not giving evidence

- Not possible to ensure parties’ evidence hasn’t been shared with witnesses

- Can be difficult to ensure witnesses are not present when parties giving evidence

- No guarantee others aren’t listening in

- Some platforms offer ability to hold people in a waiting room or lobby

- Easily able to see who is currently online

- No guarantee others aren’t ‘behind the camera’


- May require full PC at venue for event duration regardless of workload (dependent on level of event)

- No need for reliance on additional technology

- Volunteers can reply at a time that suits them

- No need for full PC at event

- Only uses volunteer time when required

- No need for full PC at event

- Only uses volunteer time when required

- No need for full PC at event

- Requires PC, parties and witnesses to be familiar with the technology being used