Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Who has to Keep Clear?

Received the following mail on Monday from Gianni Restano, about an interesting conflict in the rules. I have no answer to his query....

Hi Jos,

I'm an Italian umpire, and since a couple of months ago your blog has become a mandatory daily read. Thank you very much for maintaining it!
Yesterday I saw a peculiar situation in a match race that could be interesting for your blog's readers.

Yellow is given two penalties during the pre-start. Blue starts early and is recalled. Blue realizes the recall a bit late, and as a result there is an incident between Blue sailing towards the pre-start side of the starting line (on proper course) and Yellow taking the penalty just after starting, as she is required to do.

The funny thing is that rule 20.1 says that Blue must keep clear of Yellow, whilst rule 20.2, as modified by C2.8, says the opposite. I haven't been able to find any rule, call or case which states the prevalence of either rule on the other. A common sense solution could be to have the two conflicting rules offsetting each other, and to go back to the basic rules (10, 11 and so on), but I am not too happy umpiring using just commons sense. Can you (or your readers) shed some light on this situation? Do you believe it justifies a rapid response call?

BTW: the new rulebook (2009-2012) doesn't solve the issue.

Thank you, hope to meet you somewhere on a rubber duck,
Gianni Restano

Well Gianni, I did some research and could not find a call or case answering this either. But I do know that the rules in part A do not apply. The preamble of section D specifically states that they do not, when rule 20 or 21 applies between two boats. For now, both have to keep clear. I would think the boat taking a penalty has a greater obligation to do so, but I cannot back that up with the rules.

Perhaps one of the LTW readers has a different opinion? If not, it might indeed be worth a Question to the Rapid Response Call WP.



  1. Our rules don't work quite well in all situations... There are other cases where it is not possible to say who is the right of way boat.

    In the situation proposed by the Gianni, I agree that each boat has to keep clear of the other. If one of them or both fail to do so... she brakes a rule. I don't think that there is a rule stronger than other in this situation.

  2. My opinion:
    I agree that each boat has to keep clear of the other.
    If there will be a brench of it ... the boat cleaning the penaties has started, the other didn't so i think the once returning to start has a stronger obbligation to keeep clear because she is not racing yet.

  3. Section D rules do not over-ride section B rules. Rule 14 still applies, and both boats must avoid contact if reasonably possible.

    Rule 22.2 as modified by C2.10 also applies.

    So both boats must avoid contact. Yellow must keep clear of Blue. Blue must keep clear of Yellow and, in addition, may not prevent Yellow from taking her penalty unless sailing her proper course.

    There are other, extreme, instances in which both boats must keep clear, when the only effective rule is rule 14.

    In this case, if Blue was sailing her proper course to return to star as soon as possible then a rule was broken only if there was contact. If there was contact the umpires would have to decide whether one or other boat could have avoided such contact.

    If there was contact but the umpires cannot decide which boat was responsible then both boats should be given a penalty.

  4. Rule 14 doesn’t influence the umpire’s call on the water. It is only relevant after the race if there is damage.

  5. penalty to both boats.
    I don't see any other solution


  6. Had the same thing happen in Team Racing. Fortunately one boat spun for the incident so it never went to an umpire call. Talked about it with the other ump on the boat as well as some of the other umps and all agree that we were not sure how we would have called it.

  7. I agree that a twin penalty in case o contact or a green if there is no contact may be fair in this situation.
    Here are some considerations that may lead a penalty for just one boat:
    1) Before this situation is established, one of them has right of way and the umpires must decide if the keep-clear boat is still keeping clear, and when the situation has been established, "last point of certainty" can influence the resulting umpire call.
    2) If one of the boats put herself in a collision course with the other boat.
    3) If one boat took an avoiding action and the other didn't take.

  8. To Gordon and others that have brought the issue of rule 14 or rule 22 into the discussion, I have to disagree. Contact or interference is not a question in a breach of rule 20. It is a question of "keeping clear". By the definition you, "keep clear of another if the other can sail her course with no need to take avoiding action". In the situation described both boats are required to keep clear of the other. There is no weight given to one having more responsibility to keep clear as compared to the other. As an umpire you would need to decide if the circling boat forced the boat retuning to the start to alter her course, or the boat returning to the start forced the circling boat to alter course. If both did not, "keep clear" then they both are penalized, which would offset each other.

    This is not the only interesting occurrence from rule 20. If two boats are taking a penalty per 20.2 or returning to the start per 20.1 or moving astern per rule 20.3, under the rule they are not required to "keep clear" of each other. Note by the rule they are only required to "keep clear" of those "not" taking a those particular actions. In my opinion then the rules of part A apply between the two boats. Any disagreement?

  9. Juan Manuel Duarte13 November 2008 at 12:10

    Ok, I’m going to try a defense for the boat that is not taking a penalty.
    In this case it seems that the rules in conflict are 20.1 and 20.2, but 20.2 is modified by rule C2.8 then, as stated in the RRS introduction, this one take precedence over any conflicting rules in Parts 1-7. So in this case, penalize Yellow.
    Juan Manuel Duarte

  10. Norm has it right in my opinion.

    There is no conflict, just two boats that must keep clear of each other. Keeping clear is simply defined, and if the boat returning to start cannot sail her course because of the turning boat, penalise the turning boat. If the turning boat cannot continue her turns because of the returning boat, penalise the returning boat. If neither can continue their manoeuvre, penalise both because they have both failed to keep clear.

  11. Susannah Pyatt NZL25 November 2008 at 09:50

    Why on earth is a boat that already has two penalties on the other in a match race OCS?! All you need at that stage is a sensible (late even) start!

  12. I agree with Juan. The rules of the appendix take precedence. This is not the only situation where rules in parts 1-7 conflict with appendices. Penalize yellow.

  13. There are many, many occasions in the rules when both boats have obligations under the rules. Often the right-of-way boat has to give room to a boat required to keep clear. All boats have to avoid contact even if they have right-of-way. A boat luffing above its proper course does not relieve a windward boat of her obligation to keep clear. In all of these situations is it quite possible (and no so rare) that both boats break the rules and are therefore should be penalised. This case, of one boat taking a penalty and one boat returning to start, appears stranger as both obligations are in the same rule 20 (to become 21). However, the answer is the same. It is quite possible for them both to break a rule and for both of them to be penalised.

    Of interest to some will be the situation where both boats are leeward and on starboard. Now neither of them has any obligation to keep clear (but they must avoid contact). Can you construct that situation?


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