Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Tactical Rounding with Mark-Room?

One of my regular readers (Thanks Mike B) send me an E-mail with a case stated by Umpire Jose Ignasio Cantero. He has noticed an interesting difference of interpretation of what a boat can do with Mark-Room:

Mail from Jose:
Dear All,

As usual, any time new rules come into practice, some interpretation is needed, but I think that I am either getting too old, or things are getting more complicated.
For the purpose of Mark-Room and leeward mark tactical rounding for an inside no right of way boat, it seems that there are currently two ways of thinking, the English interpretation and the American one. Basically, the Americans think that tactical leeward mark rounding (sail-wide-come-out-close) is something that the inside no-right-of-way-boat cannot do, whereas the Brits´ opinion is totally the opposite, and so I am including two pdf files taken from two sailing magazines, Sailing World from US (Dick Rose) and Yachting World from UK (John Doerr).
(MarkRoomUS.pdf & MarkRoomUK.pdf)

You may find the different criteria not only in these magazines, but same situation on two newly published rules books: "Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-2012" By Dave Perry/ Brad Dellenbaugh. American Way of Thinking ( TACTICAL ROUNDING NOT ALLOWED)
"The Rules in Practice 2009-2012" By Bryan Willis. English way of thinking. (YES TO TACTICAL ROUNDING).

We can also visit the following blog-page, http://www.ukhalsey.com/blog/ where we have two authors ( Butch Ulmer & Rob Overton ) commenting Rule 18, and again same situation. We are having a International Team Racing Regatta in Las Palmas, from Jan 29th till 31st, so what criteria shall we umpires apply?

And also, for IU with higher knowledge in English Grammar, can you explain to me the real meaning of the following phrases, used in the definition of Mark Room:
TO the mark & AT the mark?

"Mark-Room Room for a boat to sail to the mark, and then room to sail her proper course while at the mark"

How do we understand "to sail TO the mark" (in the ZONE)?
If we are in the middle of the down wind leg, the words TO THE MARK are easy to understand, (in example, rule 17 issues like "luffing rights" vs "proper course TO the mark"), but if we apply this meaning for the word TO while at the zone, we will never be able to do a tactical rounding on the leeward mark (sail initially wide, come out close). Should we consider that we are AT the mark whenever we are in the zone, then leeward mark tactical rounding would always be possible.

Thanks for your time, keep waiting for your comments
Jose Ignacio Cantero

Mike's answer:
Tactical Mark Rounding
I cannot only comment for myself on this topic.
I had worked on the assumption there had not been a “Game Change” and that a Right of Way boat could do a tactical rounding and one just entitled to “Mark Room” could not. I was surprised to see a contrary view in the Yachting World magazine.

I have looked of the comments of Rob Overton and believe he was on the sub - committee that wrote the rules so he should have an idea of what was intended. I believe that sailing to the mark is exactly that, the ability to put your boat adjacent to the mark by sailing in the space needed to do that in the existing conditions when manoeuvring in a seamanlike way. When “AT” or adjacent to the mark you can then sail a proper course. There is no precedent for saying “AT” means adjacent but it must somewhere near. It also gives a very good concept to work from.

This will only ever be an idea until there is an ISAF Q&A.

What else could lead you to this conclusion?
Well if the keep clear boat was to be allowed to do a tactical rounding this could easily have been provided for by the rule makes. If the Rule said “Room for a boat to sail her proper course to and at the mark” it would be clear. As this was not chosen we can only assume a different result was intended.
The problem as I see it was with the interface with RRS16. Under the old rules, RRS 16 did not apply to a ROW boat at a mark 18.2.d. The new rules do not give a boat ROW as the old rules did so any exoneration in the new rules to a just a ROW boat would not work.

We thus get the concept, of the proper course at the mark, when you would expect the additional manoeuvring to round the mark, to be exonerated for all entitled to “mark room”.

It should be noted that while the ROW boat approaches a mark or sails “TO” it RRS 16 provides protection to the other boat as that boat is given room to keep clear. If the ROW boat thus manoeuvres to do it’s tactical rounding there is protection for the Keep Clear other boat.
Now what would the position be if we allowed the boat only entitled to “Mark Room” to make a tactical rounding? There would be a time when she would move in the direction of the ROW boat without any of the protection RRS 16 gives in the other circumstance. This would not be sensible and confirms the give way boat cannot make a tactical rounding as most of the authors agree.

I hope this assists.
Mike Butterfield

I agree with Mike. There should be no game change, so only a ROW inside boat can do a tactical rounding. With the difference in the definition for two separate parts (TO and AT) within the zone, the rule makers intended that there was a separation, as there was in the 'old' rules.
You can do a tactical "swing wide-cut close" rounding when you have mark-room AND right of way, but not if you have mark-room as a keep clear boat.

You can give your opinion by voting in the poll (front page, right hand top of the side bar) and/or by writing a comment on this post.


  1. The RYA Powerpoint presentation 'What's New for 2009?' subscibes as follows;

    on Page 55, 18.2 Giving Mark-Room
    (b) If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone, the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside boat mark-room…

    Once at the mark, the mark-room that has to be given is room for a boat to sail her proper course while at the mark

    Old rule 18, as in the last slide, said that an inside right-of-way boat can sail a wide proper course at a mark for a tactical rounding, whereas an inside give-way boat was limited to room for a seamanlike rounding.

    The room for an inside keep-clear boat to sail a proper course at the mark may now be a little more generous than room for seamanlike rounding, but it is limited by the fact that the proper course entitlement begins only at the mark, and the inside keep-clear boat has no right to try to sail wider before she gets to the mark.

    'a little more generous' is subtle, but is not wide. I will vote on R-O-W boat.

    sen yamaoka
    PS: I have already translated all the presentation into Japanese.

    This info is also introduced by rrsstudy.blogspot.com.

     Room for a keep-clear boat to sail to the mark and then to sail a proper course at the mark may now be a slightly more generous entitlement than under the old rule.

    It is likely that UK has chosen halfway between seamanlike rounding and tactical rounding.
    I am at a loss for an answer!
    sen yamaoka

  3. On a quick read, I fear that Jose is misunderstanding the American commentaries.

    In the diagrams of page 2 of the Sailing World article quoted, there is an example expressly saying 'Sal is permitted to make a "tactical" approach to the mark'

    In Dave Perry's book at the foot of page 164 it says '... an inside right of way boat is allowed to swing wide and then cut close around the mark (often called "tactical rounding").

    RYA is probably right that there are some subtle changes but there is no real game change.


  4. My interpretation is that the inside non ROW boat cannot approach wide in preparation for a tactical rounding. Once at the mark (which I take to mean next to it. Think of an 'overlap' working backwards from the front part of the boat) The inside boat is allowed to swing out to improve the rounding.

    I predict a few arguments about how much you can swing out for a proper course. Also, the presence of a third boat (not entitled to room) might complicate things. With only 2 boats, proper course means as quickly as possible. With another boat behind, the inside boat might say his proper course is to swing very wide so as to be well up to windward on the next leg.


  5. I agree that some meaning must be read into the difference between 'sail to the mark' and 'proper course ... at the mark'. I understand this to mean a boat without ROW cannot make an 'in wide, out close rounding' as she might if the outside ROW boat was not there.
    How did you understand Bryan Willis' interpretation of this in your Dutch translation of his book?

  6. I tackled this issue in a post in the Sailing Rules! article


    When I said:

    [A boat might argue that] her mark-room entitlement to room to sail to the mark means room to sail her proper course to the mark.

    I don't think this is right. If the rules drafters had meant to create an entitlement for a boat to sail its proper course to a mark, they would have defined mark-room as room for a boat to sail her proper course to and at the mark. This they didn't do.

    Room to sail to the mark means room to sail a direct course to the mark (allowing for tide, leeway etc of course)


  7. I think we have to look at what a proper course is. It is the course a boat will sail in the absence of other boats.
    I then think, in this situation, we have to think that it is 'the course a boat would sail (from her present position) in the absence of other boats'
    I think all would agree that an inside keep clear boat only has to be given room to sail a course to the mark. She is not allowed to sail below this course. Therefore when she gets to the mark (she is now at the mark) her bow will be close to the mark. A proper course at this point is NOT to bear away hard and create more room so she can make a tactical rounding. It is to sail round the mark and go close in and wide out. To try to develop any other outcome would be stretching thigs in my opinion.

  8. Hi Jos,
    I am too stupid to write a comment to the actual discussion in a proper way. Perhaps you add my ideas somehow.

    To decide the question if we go the American way or the British way, I suggest we go on the rules´ way.
    Lets have a look at the definition of "Mark-Room" which cannot be changed, neither by Americans, nor Englishmen, nor Germans.
    A boat must have room to sail to the mark. Room in the definition of "Mark-Room" is written in italics, therefore it is used as described in the definition of "Room" ! Let´s have a look to this definition: "The space a boat needs in the existing conditions while maneuvering promptly in a seamanlike way." Any questions? Seamanlike, not tactical. But then: When the boat is at the mark, e.g. clos(est) to the mark, then -from that time on- it must be given room to sail her proper course, which is her tactical decision. Don´t forget: in the first sentence of the "Mark-Room" definition, we have two facts "sail to" and "while at"!
    Both are departed by a "comma" and the word "and":

    Summary: seamanlike "to" and proper=tactical "at"
    Willii Gohl

  9. Jos,

    On the issue of the US/UK interpretations of "mark room," it seems to me that the UK version requires insertion of the word "her proper course" in the definition changing "room to sail to the mark" to "room to sail her proper course to the mark." While it seems clear to me that the addition of these words materially changes the meaning of the definition, there appears to be brewing a potential game changing discussion between the two factions. A RC needs a way to avoid such situations if possible. Rule 86 prohibits a change to the definition or the rule, however, have you ever heard of sailing instructions that interpreted the rules in advance? Something to the effect of:

    "Rounding or passing Marks: When interpreting rule 18 and the definition of mark room the meaning of "room to sail to the mark" shall (or shall not) permit boat required to keep clear under the rules of Parts A and B to sail her proper course to the mark." The first variation would permit a tactical rounding for a keep clear boat while the second would prohibit it.

  10. As David says, the SIs cannot change the definition. If it needs to be interpreted, that will be done in a call or appeal case. If the SI conflicts with the official interpretation, it will be said to change the definition and be invalid.


  11. After four years study the racing rules are revised. And the wording is (as usual) so complicated that “some” interpretation is needed. And see what happens: four of the top-ten rules experts in the world have different explanations. And a fifth one says about his view: “This will only ever be an idea until there is an ISAF Q&A.”
    Do you folks realize what happens? Do not you find it weird? The reality is the rules drafters of the ISAF are not able to make proper rules. And they know. In their own rules book they refer for “authoritative interpretations and explanations” to The Case Book. And when there are still ambiguities you can contact Q&A.
    And what are we talking about here? A decades old tactical manoeuvre, practised by every club racer and taught by instructors of youngsters, say twelve years old. Is there anyone of you who can explain these sailors what is going on and why? Have you forgotten that the rules are meant for a sport?
    I repeat my vision: the rules makers of the ISAF are destroying the sport. Already today, we have two worlds: one of yacht racers (often with their own local interpretations) and one of rules scientists. And they are growing apart fast.
    Besides all this, the Americans and the English do not disagree so much. The RYA and the USYRU publish the same book: Handy Guide to the Racing Rules. A little book that gives you a look at what really matters. And I bet this is all the majority of the yacht racers world wide know about the rules – ask your national authority how many copies of rules they sell. And they are happy and have nice races and are totally not interested in your discussions. So, have a look at yourself and be critical to what the ISAF is doing.

  12. Adriaan has a point. It is said that the introduction of a new rule 19 and changes to 18 has made things simpler. I hadn't noticed. I dislike definitions with conditions like the ones for Clear astern and Mark room. The trouble is, I could not do any better. It is always easier to find loopholes than to write something so tight that there are none. Team and match racers will go through the rules very closely to find anything which might give them an edge.

    In the meantime, the average fleet racer's knowledge of rules is poor and he is not helped by their complexity. We all enjoy discussing the nuances, but if we talk to a normal person, they get bored very quickly.


  13. Hi from the wintry wastes of Canada, Jos:

    I have just checked the Bryan Willis book and as far as I can see, he agrees with the rest of us: for a give-way boat it's only room to sail to the mark, and that proper course does not kick in until the inside give-way boat is at the mark. So it is not a case of UK vs. NA. but rather that my old Wayfarer friend (and a former Wayfarer World champion!) John Doerr has made a mistake.

    Best regards,

    Uncle Al (W3854)

  14. Hi everybody from sunny winter (+22ºC) Las Palmas, Canary Islands,

    Regarding to Al Schonborn´s comments on Bryan Willis´ book, I would suggest a closer look to page 76 diagram, and wordings for both A & B boats below.

    We can see a Keep Clear Boat (inside port tacker) forcing an outside ROW (starboard tacker) to gybe into port at position 2.

    Considering where the wind is coming from at the diagram, and based on the premise of "No Game Change for 2009-2012", Shouldn´t it be the inside port tacker who must gybe at position 2 and outside starbord tacker should bear away upto dead down wind?

    Just for a minute, imagine we are Team Racing, and boats are entering the zone at position 2 (Two boat lengths), as 18.4 does not apply for Team Racing, we have a situation in which port tacker A forces starbord tacker B to gybe, and while being overlapped, no RRS17 restriction on A.

    Aren´t we giving a huge advantage to Port Tacker B?

  15. Now I understand the problem. John Doerr seems to have invented a new 'tactical' mark-rounding where an inside give way boat can force her way to a wide rounding (See Doerr's second diagram).

    I don't think Bryan Willis is supporting this line, although his page 76 diagram does show I sailing wide of the mark. The difference is, in Doerr's diagram we see I, the give way boat, changing course to sail wide, in a curve, while in Willis diagram I is sailing a straight course to the gybe point.

    I think Willis' diagram is just a little careless: maybe A should be a boatlength or so further to leeward so that she was undisputably sailing 'to the mark'. The way I see Willis' diagram is B voluntarily gybes so as to avoid becoming the late overlapped inside boat: at that point, of course B gives right of way to A, who may then sail his 'tactical' course. This is vastly different from Doerr's situation where I is the give way boat throughout.

    In Willis' situation I reckon that if @1.5 B hailed 'sail your proper course to the mark', A would be obliged to bear away to a course direct to the mark. Maybe B could protest A for taking too much room to sail to the mark at that time (that would be a simple rule 10 protest, with the argument that rule 18.5 did not apply).

    I agree with Uncle Al. (BTW, thanks Uncle, love your work, I've used it quite a bit for teaching).

    John Doerr, in writing that article hasn't appreciated the difference between sailing _to_ the mark and sailing a proper course _at_ the mark.

  16. The final word



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