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.
P.S. Boat A did a penalty turn, just in case.
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.