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Home Rules Corner - Issue 5 Posted Rules Corner #6—Sailing the Racecourse: The First Beat (cont.)
Rules Corner #6—Sailing the Racecourse: The First Beat (cont.) PDF 
Written by Peter Young   

Rules Corner #5 discussed RRS-10, which addresses boats on opposite tacks. Now, let’s turn to the rights and obligations of boats sailing upwind on the same tack. RRS-11 (On the Same Tack, Overlapped) and RRS-12 (On the Same Tack, Not Overlapped) are the applicable rules. RRS-11 specifies “When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.” RRS-12 specifies “When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.”

Recalling our opening scenario from Rules Corner #5, you are sailing close-hauled upwind on starboard tack.  You’re pretty much even with your nearby competitors, both those to windward of you and those to leeward.  You’re overlapped with all your nearby competitors at this point.  RRS-11 applies; RRS-12 does not.

RRS-11 requires you to keep clear of the boats to leeward of you, and it requires the boats to windward to keep clear of you.  What does keep clear mean in this context?  The definition states that when boats are overlapped on the same tack, one boat keeps clear of another “if the leeward boat can change course in both directions without immediately making contact with the windward boat.”  But exactly what does this mean?  Notice the definition imposes no limitation on the referenced changes in course—either in degree or in speed.  The leeward boat therefore may alter its course to windward as far as head to wind[1] and to leeward as far as it pleases.  Moreover, the leeward boat may do so as quickly as it pleases.  In this limited instance, the otherwise applicable RRS-16 (Changing Course) requirement that a right-of- way boat changing course must give the non-right-of-way boat room (i.e. adequate space and time to maneuver to keep clear) is subrogated to an “immediate contact” standard.  The lesson here is that a windward boat must be sure never to position itself so close to a leeward boat that the leeward boat cannot abruptly change course in either direction without immediately making contact.  If a leeward boat changes course and immediately makes contact with a windward boat, the windward boat has failed to keep clear.

Now let’s examine a scenario in which a boat tacks into an overlap position.    If the boat tacks into an overlap position to windward of another boat, it must keep clear of the non-tacking boat—both while tacking and after completing the tack.  RRS-13 (While Tacking) requires the tacking boat to keep clear until its tack is complete (i.e. until the tacking boat is on a close-hauled course on the new tack).[2] RRS-11 requires the tacking boat to keep clear after completing the tack because it is the windward boat.  Here’s a real-life illustration from the 2012 Mid-Winter Championship regatta:

Competitor X is approaching the windward mark on the starboard tack layline, about 5 boat lengths from the mark.  Competitor Y crosses ahead of Competitor X on port tack, then tacks ahead and to windward of Competitor X.  Competitor X immediately sails into a leeward overlap position on Competitor Y—just as Competitor Y capsizes onto Competitor X’s foredeck.  Pleasantries are exchanged.  Both boats are significantly delayed.  Competitor Y takes a two turns penalty and sails on.  Does Competitor X have any further recourse?

No.  Competitor Y violated either RRS-13 or RRS-11, but not both.  Competitor Y either was still tacking when s/he failed to keep clear of Competitor X (RRS-13), or had completed her/his tack and was required to keep clear because s/he was the windward boat (RRS-11).  The two turns penalty Competitor Y took absolved whichever violation s/he committed.  Competitor X cannot receive any redress because RRS-62 limits redress to specific circumstances not presented in this scenario.  Had Competitor X also been physically injured or (more commonly) had Competitor X’s boat/equipment been damaged in a way that significantly worsened her/his finishing position (e.g., broken vang, torn sail)—or had Competitor Y’s violation been egregious enough to trigger RRS-2 (Fair Sailing)—then Competitor X could have requested redress from the protest committee.[3]

The preceding scenario provides a nice segue into RRS-12 (On the Same Tack, Not Overlapped).  Although RRS-12 more frequently comes into play when sailing offwind, if Competitor Y had tacked directly in front of Competitor X instead of ahead and to windward, the scenario would have reflected the most common upwind application of RRS-12.  Again, RRS-12 specifies “When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.”  In our (modified) scenario, RRS-12 would have required Competitor X to keep clear of Competitor Y if Competitor Y completed her/his tack clear ahead of Competitor X.  But things get complicated in a hurry when Competitor X sails into a leeward overlap position on Competitor Y in this scenario.  If Competitor Y immediately capsizes onto Competitor X’s foredeck, has Competitor X satisfied her/his RRS-12 obligation to keep clear?  Has Competitor Y’s capsize prevented Competitor X from keeping clear in a way that absolves Competitor X from any failure to keep clear?  What if Competitor Y doesn’t capsize?  When (& how) does RRS-11 come into play?  And does it matter how far from the mark all this takes place?

Let’s briefly examine each question.  One could argue in the capsize scenario that Competitor X has not satisfied her/his obligation to keep clear.  First, Competitor X could have avoided Competitor Y by luffing rather than bearing off.  Competitor X elected to sail below Competitor Y, thereby seeking the RRS-11 right of way as leeward boat (or, more likely, an RRS-18 claim to mark room).  But RRS-15 (Acquiring Right of Way) specifies that a boat acquiring right-of way must “initially give the other boat room to keep clear, unless she acquires right of way because of the other boat’s actions.”  In contrast to the previous (actual) scenario, Competitor X has acquired the right of way here through its own maneuver, not because Competitor Y tacked.  It follows that the issue is whether Competitor X initially gave Competitor Y room to keep clear.  [Note that (leech to mast) contact while Competitor Y was heeling could have precipitated the capsize.  Does that change your room to keep clear analysis?  What if there was leech to mast contact but no capsize?]  On the other hand, a capsize customarily isn’t considered a seamanlike maneuver, so one legitimately could argue that Competitor Y obstructed Competitor X’s efforts to keep clear.

Proximity to the windward mark adds another wrinkle because RRS-18 (Mark Room) supersedes RRS-11 and RRS-12.  If Competitor X acquired her/his overlap before Competitor Y’s prow hit the (3 boat length) zone, then Competitor Y violated RRS-18.  It is immaterial that a capsize caused the infraction (assuming no other boats were involved).  But if Competitor X acquired her/his overlap when/after Competitor Y’s prow hit the zone, then the RRS-18 obligations reversed, and Competitor X was required to give Competitor Y mark room and likely violated RRS-18 whether or not s/he also violated RRS-15.

How about if a boat tacks into an overlap position to leeward of another boat (typically, the “lee bow” tack)?  Again, RRS-13 requires the tacking boat to keep clear of the non-tacking boat until the tack is complete (i.e. until the tacking boat is on a close-hauled course on the new tack).  That means the tacking boat cannot tack so close to the non-tacking boat that the non-tacking boat is required to alter course before the tacking boat reaches a close-hauled course on the new tack.  Once the tack is complete, however, the leeward boat has right of way over the windward boat under RRS-11.  The obligation to keep clear immediately shifts to the windward boat.  The only limitations on the leeward boat’s right to alter course toward the windward boat are RRS-15—which specifies a boat acquiring right-of-way must initially give the other boat room (i.e. adequate space and time to maneuver) to keep clear—and RRS-16, which generally requires a right-of-way boat changing course to give a non-right-of-way boat room to keep clear.  Note that while RRS-15 imposes only an initial obligation on the right-of-way boat to give the non-right-of-way boat room to keep clear, RRS-16 imposes a continuing obligation to do so on the right-of-way boat.

Proximity to the windward mark in this scenario adds significantly more complexity than it did in the scenario in which a boat tacked into an overlap position to windward of the other boat.  The permutations are too many & too complicated to cover here.  Nevertheless, here are two common/ straightforward situations:

(1)  Competitor X is approaching the windward mark on the starboard tack layline, about five (5) boat lengths from the mark.  Competitor Y comes in on port tack, tacking just ahead and to leeward of Competitor X three (3) boat lengths from the mark.  Competitor Y completes her/his tack before Competitor X is required to alter course, but Competitor X must briefly luff above close-hauled to avoid contact.  Competitor X protests.  What is the result?

Competitor Y is disqualified.  Although Competitor Y completed her/his tack before Competitor X was required to alter course (satisfying RRS-13 and triggering RRS-11), the boats’ proximity to the mark also triggered RRS-18.3 (a) (Mark Room—Tacking When Approaching a Mark), which prohibits a boat tacking at/inside the zone from causing a boat fetching the mark to sail above close-hauled to avoid contact.  RRS-13 and RRS-11 would have controlled the situation—i.e. Competitor Y (leeward right-of-way boat) legitimately could have forced Competitor X to luff above close-hauled—if Competitor Y had tacked outside the zone.

(2)  Competitor X is approaching the windward mark on the starboard tack layline, about five (5) boat lengths from the mark.  Competitor Y comes in on port tack, tacking directly in front of Competitor X three (3) boat lengths from the mark.  Competitor X’s momentum allows her/him to sail into a leeward overlap position on Competitor Y and s/he claims mark room.  Competitor Y refuses to give Competitor X mark room because the overlap was not established before Competitor Y entered the (3 boat length) zone.  Competitor X heeds Competitor Y’s “no room” hail, gybes around & protests.  What is the result?

Again, Competitor Y is disqualified.  Although Competitor Y was within the zone when Competitor X established the overlap, Competitor Y tacked into that position.  RRS-18.3 (b) (Mark Room—Tacking When Approaching a Mark) required Competitor Y to give mark room despite the fact that the overlap was established inside the zone because Competitor Y tacked onto starboard tack at/inside the zone.  Competitor Y would not have been required to give mark room if s/he had tacked more than three (3) boat lengths from the mark (i.e. outside the zone).  Note that Competitor X heeded Competitor Y’s “no room” hail.  Could Competitor X also have been disqualified if s/he had forced her/his way between Competitor Y and the mark despite the hail (another common scenario)?

The general point the preceding examples illustrate is that RRS-11 and RRS-12 operate very differently in proximity to marks than they do everywhere else on the racecourse.

We’ve made it around the windward mark!  Next Rules Corner will examine offwind legs.  And remember the RRS are revised after every summer Olympics, so look for the 2013-2016 RRS soon.

 


[1] Recall from Rules Corner # 5 that altering course past head to wind would constitute tacking.

[2] Remember, a full sail is not the applicable standard.

[3] Customarily an average of her/his scores in all other races.