Your site is used and useful. Keep up the good work.
I need your help with the following scenario:
Two boats, Stan on starboard and Paul on port, are sailing downwind. Stan is clear astern of Paul. Stan is blanketing Paul and the distance between them is slowly decreasing. Stan is aware of Paul. Contact is made between Stan’s bow and Paul’s transom, but there is no damage. Stan did not alter course.
In the above scenario, did Stan break rule 14 and if so, is Stan then exonerated for breaking rule 14?
My answer: it depends on the pc chair. I have been a member of juries where the decision went either way.
It seems that some judges maintain that Stan must ACT to avoid contact. Stan did not ACT, therefore he broke rule 14. Others maintain that the rule 14’s However… (b) clause is a get-out-of-jail-free card. The contact did not result in damage, therefore Stan is exonerated.
Even the Senior Judges in our region (quietly) disagree amongst themselves on this one. It is a shame because the intent of the rule is there. My opinion is that the disagreement stems from the poor wording of the rule. What do you think?
Please use any of the above as you please.
I wish to remain anonymous.
Rule 14 has always been a source for many discussions among PC-members.
It's a special rule which should be used only when there's contact between boats and only AFTER the RoW or room issue has been addressed. That part in your question can be dealt with quickly: RRS 10 dictates that Paul, a boat on Port, shall keep clear of Stan, a boat on Starboard. Paul did not do this, so DSQ for Paul.
Regardless of the RoW/room issue, the PC then has to establish several facts to determine if any boat broke rule 14 and should be DSQ-ed for it. And there we run into your question.
The wording in rule 14 may be formatted as if there are two options for the 'RoW or entitled to room/markroom' - boat to not break rule 14, but that is not the case. The PC-members you refer to, mix two issues;
1, breaking rule 14
2. being penalized for breaking rule 14
A boat can break rule 14 and still not be penalized for it!
In your incident Paul - as Port boat - did nothing to avoid the contact and therefore he broke rule 14. There's no exoneration for him, so DSQ for breaking rule 14 (As well as rule 10)
Stan - as Starboard boat - also did nothing to avoid the contact. He should have done so, the moment it became clear the Paul would not keep clear. He could reasonably do this by either luffing a little or by bearing away. Stan also broke rule 14!
But, because there's no damage or injury, he can not be penalized for it. Here the exoneration in 14(b) kicks in. Therefore Paul will not be DSQ-ed for breaking rule 14.
Like I said, the format of the rule suggest that 14(a) is equal to 14(b)
This is not the case.
14(a) limits the responsibility of a boat to avoid contact and if adhered to, prevents the boat from infringing the rule
In 14(b) the boat must first have broken rule 14, before is has any effect.
The confusion comes from the eventual outcome. In both 14(a) and 14(b), the right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or markroom, is not DSQ-ed.
The difference is that in 14(a) he doesn't break rule 14 and in 14(b) he does.
I hope this helps?