ISAF Racing Rules Question and Answer Service
Published: 23 February 2009
Mark-Room Room for a boat to sail to the mark, and then room to sail her proper course while at the mark. However, mark-room does not include room to tack unless the boat is overlapped to windward and on the inside of the boat required to give mark-room.
Proper Course A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term. A boat has no proper course before her starting signal.
Is a boat entitled to mark-room allowed to make a tactical approach / tactical rounding (often called “wide in, tight out”) of the mark or is boat entitled to mark-room only allowed to a seamanlike approach/rounding?
Mark-room is split into two aspects:
(i) Room to sail to the mark. If the boat entitled to mark-room is the keep-clear boat, then room to sail to the mark is neither room to sail her proper course (if extra room is needed for a proper course approach), nor is it room to make a more tactical rounding. If the boat entitled to mark-room has right of way, she is free to sail any course within the limitations of the rules of Part 2, Section B, and, if it applies, rule 18.4.
(ii) Then, room to sail her proper course while at the mark. A boat may sail her proper course from the time she is at the mark and while she rounds or passes the mark and until she no longer needs the mark-room. This course would therefore be the one the boat would sail in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule. Only an inside right-of-way boat that is entitled to mark-room may make a tactical approach and a tactical rounding. However, if the inside right-of-way boat is subject to rule 18.4, then, until she gybes, she may not sail farther from the mark than needed to sail her proper course. Note that a tactical rounding may be wider than a
proper course rounding.
Before the 2009 rules there was a difference in rounding a mark when the inside boat also had right of way and was specifically permitted to make a tactical rounding unlike a situation with an inside keep-clear boat where a tactical rounding was not permitted.
Is that situation continued under the 2009 rules?
There is no game change between the 2005 and 2009 rules for the purpose of room given or taken at a mark. The removal of the preamble to Section C in the 2005 rules that said 'To the extent that a Section C rule conflicts with a rule in Section A or B, the Section C rule takes precedence' means that there is now no precedence to any of the rules of Sections A or B, so those rules always apply whenever a boat is entitled to mark-room. As a result, the words 'and if the inside boat has right of way the outside boat shall also keep clear' are no longer necessary.
Hopefully this will lay the matter to rest. You might want to print out this particular Q&A, to show it sailors in the room.
Room given or taken at the mark may not have changed, but as far as I can see, there has been a subtle game change between the 2005 and 2009 rules in mark rounding rule 18, regarding the application of rule 15 and 16.
Rule 15 was not applicable when a fetching boat gained an inside overlap with a boat that just had completed her tack inside the zone. In the 2009 it is, perhaps very shortly, before the inside boat is AT the mark. If you break it, before you are AT the mark, you will not be exonerated.
Rule 16 was switched off when a right of way boat changed course to round or pass a mark. In the 2009 rules, a right of way boat will be exonerated for breaking rule 16, but ONLY if she's AT the mark and she rounds the mark on her proper course.
By removing the precedence over Sections A and B, the right of way boat has been given a clearer picture of what it can do under the rules, but it also means that she has to comply with the general limitations in section B a little more.
This is consistent with the general overhaul in the rules, a couple of cycles back. Avoiding contact, when possible, has been given priority.
We will all have to wait and see what the new rules will actually bring into the room. And do our very best to stay consistent. A good understanding of the "transition areas" between applying a rule or not, is all we can do at the moment. No doubt there will be situations that we haven't yet thought about. But by understanding both "paths" we should be able to resolve them.