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Home Rules Corner - Issue 5 Posted RULES CORNER - Issue 7 2013-2016 RRS Changes
RULES CORNER - Issue 7 2013-2016 RRS Changes

First, the good news:  the 2013-2016 RRS have not been extensively revised from the 2009-2012 version.  While some noteworthy changes have been made, the changes seek mainly to clarify—rather than change—the prior rules.  That means almost everything covered in prior Rules Corners still applies.  The not-so-good news?  On certain topics (definitions, for example), I believe the 2013-2016 RRS are somewhat more confusing than the 2009-2012 version.

The new RRS also reflect—for the first time—a BASIC PRINCIPLE of ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY that encourages participants to minimize any adverse environmental impacts associated with the sport of sailing.  Examples would be ensuring that plastic water bottles, lunch trash or Committee Boat fuel spillage don’t end up in the water.  This new BASIC PRINCIPLE is supplemented by new RRS-55 (Trash Disposal), which specifies that “[a] Competitor shall not intentionally put trash in the water.”

The most noteworthy revisions reflected in the 2013-2016 RRS are changes to certain definitions incorporated into the rules themselves.[1] These include Finish, Keep Clear, Mark Room and Room.

I believe the attempt to clarify the term finish makes it more confusing than it previously was/needs to be.  You may recall from a previous Rules Corner discussion that a boat is racing “until shefinishes and clears the finishing line and marks. . . .”  It therefore is possible for a boat that has finished (i.e. crossed the finishing line)[2] to have its finish invalidated by touching a finishing mark before the boat has cleared the mark.  It also is possible for a boat that has properly finished to foul another boat that either (i) has not yet finished or (ii) has finished, but has not yet cleared the finishing line and marks, thereby potentially invalidating the offending boat’s finish.  A boat that finishes but touches a finishing mark before clearing the mark essentially erases its finish.  To finish properly, it must take a one-turn penalty—which it may do on either side of the finishing line—and cross the line again from the course side.  Its race result will be determined by this (proper) finish.  Otherwise, it will be scored DNF because it never properly cleared the finishing mark it touched.  In contrast, a boat that finishes (i.e. crosses the finishing line without touching a finishing mark), but fouls another boat before the other boat also has both finished and cleared the finishing line/marks (i.e. is still racing), has nonetheless properly finished.  The post-finish foul does not, in itself, invalidate the offending boat’s finish.[3]

The new finish definition appears to be an attempt to better clarify the preceding points.  While it affirmatively defines “finishes” essentially the same way the 2009-2019 RRS did,[4] it specifies three (3) instances in which a boat may cross the finishing line from the “course side” (vs. 2009-2012 “in the direction of the course from the last mark” language), but nevertheless not have properly finished. These are when the boat:  (a) takes a penalty under rule 44.2, (b) corrects an error under rule 28.2 made at the line, or (c) continues to sail the course.  Since RRS-44.2 addresses one-turn and two-turns penalties, “finish” definition sub (a) covers the two finish scenarios reflected in the preceding paragraph.  Note that sub (a) uses the phrase “takes a penalty” rather than “commits a foul”, “breaks a rule” or something similar.  This confirms that a post-finish infraction does not, in itself, invalidate the offending boat’s finish.  Rather, it is the offending boat’s subsequent act of actually taking a two-turns penalty that invalidates the prior finish.  Again, while it is possible for a boat that has finished (i.e. crossed the finishing line) to invalidate the finish simply by touching a finishing mark before the boat clears the mark, it is not possible for a boat that has properly finished to invalidate its finish simply by fouling a nearby boat that is still racing.  If a boat that finishes (i.e. crosses the finishing line)—but touches a finishing mark before the boat clears the mark—fails to take a one-turn penalty and cross the finishing line again from the course side, it will be scored DNF because it never properlyfinished the race.  In contrast, a boat that finishes and clears the finishing line and marks cannot be scored DNF due to a post-finish rules infraction.  If the boat fails to take a two-turns penalty and cross the line from the course side a second time, its first finish stands—subject only to potential disqualification (scored DSQ) for the infraction.[5]

Finish definition sub (b) covers other finishing errors—specifically “unwinding” and properly finishing after an improper line crossing.  Finish definition sub (c) apparently is intended to clarify that a boat crossing the finishing line in the proper finish direction on a leg of the course other than the last one has not finished.[6] Each could be clearer—particularly sub (b), which is confined to errors “made at the [finishing] line”, but cross-references RRS-28.2 (which addresses properly Sailing the Course/correcting errors at marks and gates other than finishing marks & gates).

The Keep Clear definition has been changed (and expanded) to specify that a “right-of-way boat” (vs. 2009-2012 “other [boat]” language), must be able to change course in both directions without immediately making contact with another boat.  The 2009-2012 definition was confined to boats overlapped on the same tack.  The new definition applies to boats overlapped on opposite tacks as well as to boats overlapped on the same tack.  [This is common on downwind legs—particularly as boats converge as they approach a leeward mark.]

The definition of mark has been clarified by eliminating the exclusion of objects attached to a mark “temporarily” from the definition.  This exclusion clarifies that (among other things) a “stand-off” buoy or dinghy intentionally attached to the stern of a committee boat is a part of the mark.  Anchor lines remain specifically excluded from the definition.

The Mark Room definition has been tightened by eliminating a right-of-way boat’s right “to sail her proper course while at the mark.”[7] The new definition provides only for “[r]oom for a boat to leave amark on the required side.”   This includes “(a) room to sail to the mark when [the boat’s] proper course is to sail close to it, and (b) room to round the mark as necessary to sail the course.”  The definition still presupposes all maneuvers are performed in a seamanlike way.

“Room” has been expanded to clarify that the space a boat may need under existing conditions includes the space it needs to comply with its obligations under RRS Part 2 (When Boats Meet) and RRS-31 (Touching a Mark) while maneuvering promptly in a seamanlike way.  This means room includes space enough for an affected boat to avoid violating any Part 2 rule, to avoid touching a mark, and to give room to other affected boats.

RRS-20 (Room to Tack at an Obstruction) has been completely re-written, and a separate RRS-21 (Exoneration [under RRS-18, RRS-19 and RRS-20]) has been added.  Nevertheless, the rule remains essentially unchanged.

RRS-26 (Starting Races) has been reorganized, but the five (5) minute starting sequence and signals remain the same.

RRS-28 (Sailing the Course) has been re-written without substantive change.

RRS-44.1 (Taking a Penalty) has been revised to clarify that a boat infringing more than one Rule in the course of the same infraction may exonerate itself by taking a single Two-Turns Penalty.

RRS-61.1 (PROTEST REQUIREMENTS—Informing the Protestee) has been expanded to address errors committed by a boat in sailing the course, as well as protests concerning incidents witnessed by the race committee or protest committee.

RRS-64.1 (Penalties and Exoneration) has been completely re-written.

RRS SECTION C (GROSS MISCONDUCT) has been completely re-written.  In addition, RRS-69.1 now imposes an express obligation not to commit gross misconduct and specifies certain categories of gross misconduct.

[1] Remember, to fully understand your rights and obligations under any rule, you must first understand what each incorporated definition means in the context of the rule.

[2] Also recall that a boat finishes when any part of her hull, crew or equipment in normal position first crosses the finishing line from the course side.

[3] I previously submitted that while at least one respected rules commentator (Willis) suggested the foul itself erased the finish, I thought this was incorrect.  My reasoning was that the offending boat properly crossed the finish line from the course side without touching a finishing mark prior to committing any infraction.  That is all the 2009-2012 definition of finish required.  Moreover, a boat claiming a foul must notify the offending boat by hailing “protest”.  An offending boat is not required to take a penalty for an infraction of which it is not properly notified—and of which it might be completely unaware.  [ed. This would not apply to a third-party or Race Committee protest because a hail is not required in those instances.]  Accordingly, the offending boat’s pre-infraction finishing position should have been recorded and scored as its race result, subject only to the outcome of a valid protest, which likely would have resulted in disqualification.  But in that circumstance, its race result would be scored DSQ rather than DNF—further confirming that the offending boat actually finished, but was thereafter disqualified.

Alternately, the offending boat unilaterally could have acknowledged a post-finish infraction by immediately getting clear and taking a two-turns penalty (again, on either side of the finishing line), thereby exonerating itself.  It then would be required to cross the finishing line from the course side for a second time (because it was still racing as it took the two-turns penalty), and this second crossing position would be its scored finish.  [ed.  The Race Committee properly should record both “finishes”, but score only the second one.]

[4] I.e. any part of a boat’s hull, crew or equipment in normal position crossing the finishing line.

[5] Can a post-finish foul ever result in the offending boat being scored DNF?  Yes—one scenario is if the boat were to exonerate itself by taking a two-turns penalty but then fail to properly cross and clear the finishing line and marks a second time from the course side.  Can you think of others?

[6] What if (as sometimes happens) the boat mistakenly stops sailing the course after crossing the finishing line with additional legs remaining?

[7] Note, however, that RRS-18 still permits a boat to sail its proper course near a mark under specific circumstances.