Wednesday, 1 September 2010

LTW Readers Q&A | 044; On the Same Tack

A question from Bill MacNeill:
This happened last weekend during racing.  Boat A had rounded the leeward mark and was proceeding on starboard tack to the windward mark.  Boat B was coming downwind to the leeward mark under spinnaker on starboard tack, she was not within 2 boat lengths of the mark.  Boat A hailed Boat B that they had right of way.  Boat A continued, close hauled.  Boat B made no attempt to keep clear and said that she had no helm to avoid contact.  Boat A had to drastically alter course to try to avoid contact, which did occur with no damage to either boat.  As an observer I advised Boat B that they were in violation of RRS.
They did nothing to absolve themselves, perform a penalty turn or anything. 
I feel that boat B was in violation of rules 12 and 14, am I correct?  Your answer would be appreciated.  Thank you.
Best regards,
Bill MacNeill
P.S. Boat A did a penalty turn, just in case.

Dear Bill,
I think you are on the right track.
As a windward boat, boat B definitely broke rule 11 (not 12) by not keeping clear of A - the right of way boat. The fact that they might be unable to steer is no excuse under the rules!
They also broke rule 14 by not avoiding the contact - when that was reasonably possible to do so.
There's one other rule to consider - rule 23.2. Because one boat rounded the mark and the other had not - they were sailing on different legs of the course
Because boat A - close hauled - was on her proper course in the beat to windward, she therefore was entitled to sail in the path of boat B.
Boat A did not break rule 14, she did everything reasonably possible to avoid the contact after it became clear that boat B was not going to keep clear. But even if it was found that she did not, she's not to be penalized because there was no damage.
You also wrote that boat A did A penalty turn. In this case unnecessary in my opinion, but if she was not sure - for instance about complying with rule 14 - and she wanted to take a penalty, rule 44.1 dictates a two turns penalty.
Unless that was changed in the Sailing Instructions.


  1. B definitely broke rule 12 but not 14 as there was no contact.
    Is it possible not to avoid contact, to have no contact and to be penalised for breaking rule 14?

  2. This seems like a standard same tack windward/leeward situation. B broke rule 11 (W/L), rather than rule 12 (CAHD/CASTN).

    Agree with Jos completely on rule 14.

    While Jos is right about rule 23, I don't think rule 23 deserves to be considered unless there is distinct evidence that one boat was not sailing her proper course, which I can't see in Bill's scenario.

  3. Are we being a bit hasty on rule 14?

    Does a boat break rule 14 if it is not under control?

    Say with broken steering gear?

    Say in a dinghy with a pivoting rudder-blade where the rudder blade has swung up out of the water?

    Say in a gust, down a wave, with the rudder cavitating and ineffective?

    I realise that Bill didn't describe these sorts of details, but shouldn't the protest committee make some sort of enquiry about whether or not it was possible to take avoiding action?

    My protest committee notes tell me, where there is contact, to always ask both parties and all the witnesses "What did you do to avoid contact?" Often gets very interesting answers.

  4. Did you each mean rule 11 (overlapped on the same tack) when you wrote 12?

  5. Hi Jos
    I would also consider of a RRS 2 infringment of boat B

  6. Never thought on 12 for such case, interesting.

    The Definition of Clear astern says that hull and equipment in normal position are behind a line abeam from the aftermost point of the other boat’s hull and equipment in normal position.

    I would say Boat B is not behind that line (relative view from the boats not the whole track). But the Point is: overlap (def: They overlap when neither is clear astern); so rule 11 would apply.

    What would be on the Weather Mark? Same Story? The boat in front has ROW while she is sail downwind by being ahead?

    GW Lati

  7. To all: The right-of-way rule is 11 not 12. I was not careful and just repeated Bill. But since they are on the same tack and overlapped it must be rule eleven!
    Sorry for this.

  8. There was contact. Boat B did nothing to avoid contact - it is not reasonable to arrive at a mark unable to steer. See also case 99. As B was neither ROW boat nor entitled to room she cannot not be penalised under 14a or b. To quote, using roughly 99.9% of my Latin - dura lex sed lex!

    B broke rule 14 as well as 11.



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