Monday, 14 February 2011

(pillow)Case of the Week (07) - 51

(This is an instalment in a series of blogposts about the ISAF Call book 2009-2012 with amendments for 2010. All calls are official interpretations by the ISAF committees on how the Racing Rules of Sailing should be used or interpreted. The calls are copied from the Call book, only the comments are written by me.)

(pillow)Case picture
Rule 11, On the Same Tack, Overlapped
Rule 64.1(c), Decisions: Penalties and Exoneration

A protest committee must exonerate boats when, as a result of another boat’s breach of a rule, they are all compelled to break a rule.
Summary of the Facts

The diagram shows the tracks of four large boats from approximately thirty seconds before their starting signal until fifteen seconds before. At position 2, MW was forced to bear away to avoid collision with W, and almost immediately afterwards ML and L were also forced to bear away to avoid the boat to windward. There was no contact between any of the boats. Had W steered a course to keep clear, she would have crossed the starting line before her starting signal. Each boat to leeward hailed the boat to windward, and each protested the boat or boats to windward of her.

The protest committee disqualified W, MW, and ML and justified its action with respect to the middle boats by stating that ‘failure to do so would limit the effectiveness of rule 11 because all boats, except the most windward one, would be immune from disqualification.’ MW and ML both appealed.



Both appeals are upheld. MW and ML are to be reinstated. Both of them, by their hails, attempted to avoid having to bear away, and neither bore away before becoming obligated to do so to avoid contact with the boat immediately to windward. Rule 14 required them to avoid contact if it was ‘reasonably possible’ to do so, and they complied with the rule. Each of them broke rule 11, but each was compelled to do so because W broke rule 11. Therefore, each of them is entitled to exoneration under rule 64.1(c).

USSA 1950/37


W – the terrible – should have been DSQ’d twice, no three times, don’t you think? >-)
But no, there’s only one penalty in the rules. At times I wish it was possible to do less and – as with this case – sometimes I wish to do more.

Is this a Gross Breach of a rule?

Unfortunately I see this all the time when on the committee boat, but :-# as PRO



  1. This was a blatant breach of R11 by W, yet they did not take an on course penalty. They bore off to avoid being OCS and thereby gained a significant advantage.

    I consider this a breach of the Basic Principle, Sportsmanship and the rules. (before R1). As such I would have DSQ W under R 2 and made is non-droppable.

  2. This case has had a bit of a history. It is, I think, the oldest case in the case book, although it was added to the case book at a relatively late stage. After the 2009 – 2012 rulebook came out, the case was considerably truncated.

    One of the paragraphs taken out read:

    “When it can be shown conclusively, in any such situation, that an intervening boat connived in a windward boats failure to keep clear by accepting the windward boat’s lee side as a refuge or by exercising little or no initiative in attempting to force her to keep clear, the intervening boat should be disqualified under rule 11. In making such a determination, the following points should be considered ....”

    I thought that this was one of the best written passages in the case book. Do you know why it was removed? Does it overstate the obligations on MW1?

  3. In the 2001-2004 casebook this paragraph was already taken out, but the drawing was considerably bigger.
    An extra 2 positions were visible before the two that are now in the sketch.
    I don't know why that passage was taken out.
    Anybody else?

  4. Except for unsporting or gross misbehaviour, the RRS make no attempt to let the punishment fit the crime.

    Mere incompetence or poor boat handling breaks no rule. No rule says that boasts shall sail in a seamanlike manner.

    Failure to know or understand the rules is not, without more, unsportsmanlike.

    Even breaking a rule with a result that the boat avoids a more serious disadvantage (such as being forced over the starting line in the present example) is not, without more, unsportsmanlike.

    That’s the game and it’s a good thing too, otherwise protest committees would be dragged into interminable and woolly psychoanalysis of what competitors intended, or knew or felt about things, and metaphysical ponderings on how ‘serious’ a rules breach was. As it is, the protest committee need consider only hard facts to decide whether a rule was broken or not.

    What if the reason W bore away was that her mainsheet had parted and she suddenly lost steering control? Wouldn’t that make her breach less ‘serious’?

    What if there was only one boat to leeward of S who was affected, instead of three? Would that make the breach less ‘serious’?

    I have suffered where SI give the protest committee power to award discretionary percentage or place penalties. It leads the protest committee to try to make for themselves some ‘elbow room’, by depressing and reducing penalties for ‘less serious’ breaches so that ‘higher’ penalties (80%, DSQ) remain available for ‘really serious’ breaches.

    If you have this situation, then protests will become more complicated:
    * protestors will add allegations of breach of rule 2, and want to present evidence and argument about this; and
    * both parties will need to bring evidence and argument about the ‘seriousness’ of the breach and the quantum of the appropriate penalty.
    This will hugely complicate the protest process and make it longer.

    The game says that there is one penalty for breaking any rule. Let’s keep it that way.

  5. I can't add to the historical background to the case, but I strongly disagree with JohnG that it is a well written passage to be found in a case.

    It uses emotional language, and relies on 'thought crime', rather than the observable behaviour of boats.

    How on earth is a protest committee going to find evidence that two boats 'connived' together, let alone conclusive evidence?

    Likewise, how is a protest committee going to measure the amount of initiative exercised by a boat?

    I am only too pleased not to have to try to apply such an interpretation.

  6. Brass

    I think you are reading far too much into case 51 – as it exists now or as it existed before 2009 - which may be a consequence of the fact that I didn’t quote the entire passage that was deleted in 2009. Case 51 never said anything about discretionary penalties, degrees of fault, psychoanalysis, thought crimes or rule 2.

    Case 51 is primarily concerned with the question whether boats MW and ML should be exonerated. The protest committee disqualified them both because they broke rule 11 in regard to L. The appeal committee overturned the disqualifications because they were forced into a violation of rule 11 solely because of W’s illegal course. The appeal committee noted that ML and MW only bore away after W forced them to do so, that they had hailed W and had protested her.

    The paragraphs deleted in 2009 contained an important proviso. MW and ML were exonerated because they were forced to break rule 11, but the outcome would have been different if they had not been forced. If they had milked the situation. If they could have avoided L, but they nevertheless took advantage of W’s breach in order to get an advantage over a right of way boat. Then it could be said that they would have connived in the windward boat’s failure to keep clear – “connive” means “turn a blind eye to (an action one ought to oppose, but which one secretly sympathizes with), be secretly accessory to” in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary.

    All this seems to me to logically follow from rule 64.1(c).

    So how do we tell whether a boat was forced to break a rule or not? Case 51 said (prior to 2009) that we should see what initiatives MW and ML took in attempting to force W to keep clear. In other words, look at their actions were rather than any psychoanalysis. Did they hail etc?

    Case 3 is similar. Would the outcome have been the same if PL hadn’t hailed PW for room to tack, but instead had simply used her lee side as a refuge to avoid having to give way to S?

    I believe that case 51 was well written because it gave practical guidance on how to tell when a boat has been compelled to break a rule, in terms of rule 64.1(c), and when she hasn’t, and this was written in a clear and concise manner. What I am not sure about is whether it overstates the obligations on ML and MW for the purposes of the 2009 to 2012 rules, and that is why I raised the issue on this blog.

    Concerning discretionary penalties, I’m not a fan of them either, although they are becoming more common. They have been used at the Laser worlds. They are also used in a lot at Asian regattas, possibly due to a cultural need to avoid a disqualification to save face.

  7. One thing to add.

    "How is a protest committee going to measure the amount of iniative exercised by a boat?" In the same way as they do when they consider whether a boat did everything reasonably possible to avoid contact under rule 14. See case 107.

  8. John G,

    I don't want to continue a discussion of the merits of the paragraph that has now been deleted from Case 51, except that you asked whether it overstates the obligations of the middle boats.

    I certainly think it did. It implies that A [leeward] right of way boat is somehow or other obliged:
    • to force the give way boat to keep clear;
    • luff so as to force the windward boat to luff to keep clear;
    • hail the windward boat to keep clear and do so promptly;
    • not sail herself into an obviously untenable position between two boats ahead.

    Nothing in the rules does anything whatsoever to create these 'obligations'. Case 29 specifically allows a boat to 'wedge in' between two boats ahead.

    I don't share your difficulty with applying rule 64.1(c) about when a boat is compelled to break a rule by another boat breaking a rule. In my limited experience, in these sorts of 'sandwich' or 'squeeze' situations, it's pretty obvious where the middle boat had 'nowhere to go' but to fail to keep clear.

    Does this list of tests help:
    • Was the change of course or other action that put the middle boat into the position of failing to keep clear no more than was reasonably necessary to avoid the other boat failing to keep clear of her?
    • Alternatively, was the change of course or other action extravagant or excessive, and was it this extravagant or excessive action that put the middle boat into the position of failing to keep clear?
    • Would the middle boat have kept clear ‘but for’ the failure to keep clear by the other boat.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...