Let’s take a quick pause on rules, and discuss the various judge’s roles and who can help you with a question or a problem. For starters, take note that a judge’s rating and their role are not the same thing. Judges are rated (in the U.S.) as Regional, National or FAI Judges. This rating is indicative of the level of training a judge has completed and what level of event they are qualified to judge. Further, judges are rated by discipline (FS for formation skydiving, CF for canopy formation, CP for canopy piloting, etc). These ratings are effectively permanent. The role that a judge takes on for a given competition is only for that event. The roles are Principle Judge, Event Judge, and Chief Judge. These roles are only in effect during a single competition.
Principle Judges are the “button-pushers” who are actually scoring the skydives. Working in 3 or 5 judge panels, this is the team of folks staring intensely into monitor screens with expressions of highly focused attention. That is, when you can see their expressions. Most competitors only see the backs of their heads. At a large competition, if you approach a principle judge with a question, you are probably going to be re-directed to the Chief Judge or another member of meet management who can help. This isn’t because the judge doesn’t know the answer or is trying to be rude. There are ethical limitations in place. Judges don’t interpret the rules. They apply the rules in accordance with their training and any guidance provided by the Event Judge and Chief Judge, who normally want the questions coming to them.
Event Judges can be thought of as middle-management, and their job is to the crack the whip on the Principle Judges. If an electronic scoring system is in use, this is the person operating the system and setting up the videos to be judged. An experienced judge, an event judge will work to ensure that absolute busts are noted and that the highest quality of judging is provided by the panel. In recent years, Chief Judges have begun rotating newer judges into the Event Judge slot, while providing them with highly experienced panels in order to build their experience in the role. This role is often combined with another role, or omitted entirely, during smaller meets.
The Chief Judge is an executive-level position. A member of meet management (along with the Meet Director, Controller, Video Controller and the Jury) the Chief Judge is responsible for selecting the judges, assigning their roles, ensuring they are trained, current and performing at the required standard. They will also control the draw and, in large competitions, the assignment of team numbers. If you think you have received a bust that your shouldn’t have, or you think you had a problem that deserves a re-jump, the Chief Judge is the official in a position to help you quickly. Approaching them in a reasonable fashion, you can begin to solve the problem efficiently.