Wednesday, 11 November 2009

LTW Readers Q&A | 033; String theory

From Stephan Zeyn out of Hamburg. A question I had to think about… He presented the following situation in Match Racing:

blogcolorstripeThe leading boat had an outstanding penalty, slowed down on the way to outside of the finishing line at the committee boat and tried to do the usual move, giving a penalty to the trailing boat.

But - the trailing boat passed outside the finishing line to leeward and then crossed the finishing line to back to windward. The boat then turned and crossed from the direction of last mark the finish line again. The race officer scored this boat as first, while the other was still taking his penalty.

Later on we had a heated discussion about this incident. There is case 90 showing similar story at the start and there is the string rule from RRS 28.1.
I did not find any case or call regarding finish specifically dealing with this issue.

The more we discussed, the more it became unclear what the meaning of the word ‘until’ in rule 28.1 entailed. Does it include the procedure of finish, or does it lead to the finish, but not include the finishing procedure itself?

Basically the string rule is a tool to describe how to round the marks on a course. But it is only a tool. Our sport is SAILING, not STRING LAYING.

Believing that the string rule is valid until (including) finish, there is a good chance to get rid of a penalty for a leading boat. Believing it means until (excluding) finish, it would lead to a bigger chance for the trailing boat to finish before the other boat took his penalty turn.

Knowing that you are very much involved in the details of rules, I would be very much interested in your opinion.


Well Stephan, there are always new situations the rule makers haven’t thought about. This is a situation I never have seen before.

First I looked at the word until in the dictionary. Until is described as:

  1. up to the time that or when; till: He read until his guests arrived.
  2. before (usually used in negative constructions): They did not come until the meeting was half over.
  3. onward to or till (a specified time or occurrence): She worked until 6 p.m.

We can draw the conclusion that Rule 28.1 is in effect before the boat ‘finishes’. Everything before that must comply with the ‘string rule’.

If you consider sailing around the finish mark to the other side and then returning over the line to cross from the course side, part of ‘finishing’, your second premise would be true.

But ‘finishing’ is defined. The RRS describes exactly what it is. And in this particular situation the boat does NOT finish until she crosses the line from the correct side. Only then she has finished according to the definition and I agree that the RO should record her as such. But her whole maneuver to go to the outside is something she does before finishing.

So now we come to RRS 28.1. When we draw the string taut, it does not touch the finish mark on the correct side. By going around below the finish mark first, the string touches the outside, and not – as required by RRS 28.1 – the inside.

In order to change the outcome of this match race is to protest the boat for breaking rule 28.1. Either by the RC or by the other boat. And in my opinion the boat should then be disqualified by the PC for not complying with rule 28.1

Scoring the other boat as winner without a protest, is however not correct. She has ‘finished’ before the other boat has completed her penalty and – hopefully – finished also. Was there a red flag by the other boat?


If you have another opinion, don’t hesitate to comment.



  1. Hi Jos,

    the decision of the RO is correct:

    when the trailing boat is sailing outside the finish line to avoid the leading boat at the penalty then the finish mark is not a mark, it is only an object for the trailing boat. The finish starts when the trailing boat turns at the windward side and sails in the direction of the course from the last mark.
    The string is on the right side!

    That´s my opinion.

    Wolfgang Hofmann

  2. @Wolfgang
    The finish mark is a mark according to RRS 31, because it ends a leg of the course the boat is sailing on.
    If it is a mark it has a specific side according to the definition.
    That side must be left in the correct order according to rule 28.1 and the boat did not comply with the string test in the same rule.
    conclusion: DSQ.....

  3. ISAf Q and A 2006-003 is a similar case.
    RC should record boat as finishing and then protest under 28.1.

  4. Hi Jos!

    Ok you won, but you have to buy the next 10 bottles of beer.

    Wolfgang Hofmann

  5. While reading again RRS rules 28, 31, and the definition of finish, I notice the following thing.

    In the definition of finish it is written
    "... in the direction of course from the last mark ..."

    it is written last mark, and not the previous mark or the last mark before the finish one.
    So can we assume that the last mark is not the finish one, but the previous one, and that the finish mark is not a normal mark?
    (if the finish mark is a mark than the wording in the definition of finish would not be clear)

    Also rule 31 specifically make a difference between a finishing mark and other marks (even I could argue that also a finish mark can be

  6. There is nothing I can see in RRS28 that requires a finish mark to be passed on a required side, so I'm puzzled about how the string test is applied to finishing.(I can understand it's application from Start to the last rounding mark, but then I think it fails)
    If a boat comes around the "outside" of mark at one end of the finish line, completely crosses the line "from the wrong side", and then turns 180 degrees (and is thereby now heading for the line 'from the direction of the last mark' (as per ISAF Q&A 2006-003), I can't see how this breaches RRS28, the string test or the definition of "finish" - as they are currently written.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...