Certainly, feel free to post this on your Blog; I'd be proud to contribute. Perhaps I should be more specific in my point, given your interest.
Rule 14 says:I take this to mean that: "...if reasonably possible." means that a boat must do everything reasonable to avoid contact. This would include a tack or gybe, a radical course change, and slowing down, amongst other things. It does not include damaging their own boat or someone else's and putting people in danger. It is the first test, if you will, and if a boat had done everything "reasonably possible", then the Judge need go no further. However, in most of the juries that I've participated, the boats do not pass this test, having made only a half-hearted attempt to avoid a collision. All one need do is observe a youth laser regatta to find numerous examples of this on the water.
A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible.
However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room
(a) need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat
is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and
(b) shall not be penalized under this rule unless there is contact
that causes damage or injury.
Sub-sections "a" and "b" clearly talk about what happens to the Right-of-Way boat in certain circumstances, so we may drop a discussion of those circumstances as the second test. The Right-of-Way boat may be guilty of a Rule 14 violation, but may be exonerated under "a" and/or "b".
This leaves us with EVERY other collision. As I read Rule 14, whenever there is contact between two boats, and it is not excluded by the "...if reasonably possible." phrase in the rule, then both boats must be guilty of a Rule 14 violation. This is clearly not observed in practice. A number of times competitors will respond, when I ask them if they did "everything reasonably possible" that if they had slowed down, let their sails luff, or turned away, they would have lost distance in the race and been less competitive, as if this was an acceptable excuse for "contact".
There are numerous collisions where Juries say things like: "Well, it wasn't very serious." or "It didn't alter the outcome so what's the big deal." or worse, "Boys will be boys, they bump into each other a lot in this fleet." All of these seem like entirely inappropriate responses from a Jury, and I have heard every one of them at one time or another in the Protest Hearing.
My question is: Am I reading this rule incorrectly? Does it not cover every contact between boats that is reasonably possible to avoid? Please provide your opinion, and if you feel it's useful free to publish my question and solicit answers.
Thank you again for the wonderful work you do on your Blog.
Beau, I don’t think you are reading rule 14 wrong.
Every time there’s contact the panel should answer the question: “Was it for either boat reasonably possible to avoid contact ?” If the answer is yes, rule 14 is being infringed.
Because of the ‘I don’t have to do anything until….’ clause in 14(a) and the ‘exoneration’ clause in rule 14(b) for the ROW-boat, most people perceive that as ‘no rule 14 broken’. But that is wrong.
Have a look at: LTW Readers Q&A | 026
Also, because of the way we go about our approach to an incident in the hearing, the other rules are much more at the front of the theater – so to speak. And once a boat is disqualified for a rule, the reasoning ‘what does it matter that she also broke rule 14’ is used, not investigate further.
That is also not correct. In fact that panel does the sailors a disservice.
As soon as they progress in their skills and end up in higher events, they will run into a protest where they themselves are DSQed for breaking rule 14, never having learned the specifics before.
A good panel must, after having found as fact that there was contact, draw a conclusion regarding rule 14. Every time!
And in many cases it will have to conclude that boats have not avoided contact while this was reasonably possible.
Next time in LTW Readers Q&A:Virtual Boats at the Windward Mark