Sunday, 3 July 2011

ESS 2011; Act 4: Boston, Race day 3

Today a guest post by one of my fellow umpires here in Boston, none other than: Match Race Greg !

Every morning during the Extreme Sailing Series the competitors and umpires meet for an informal debrief called "coffee with umpires."  This morning a situation was presented to the umpire team that focuses on the application of RRS 20 while approaching the course limits on a beat to windward.

In this situation three starboard tack boats are overlapped in close proximity to the course limit.  The leeward boat (yellow) hails and makes the appropriate arm signals to hail for room to tack.   Immediately after this hail the middle boat (blue) hails and signals to the green boat for room to tack.  The windward boat (green) responds by hailing and tacking.

Once the three boats have completed their tacks onto port they find themselves approaching a starboard tack boat (red).  The competitors and umpires determine that there is neither room nor time to keep clear by tacking or by ducking.

The Red boat protest for rule 10. To avoid a collision he will have to tack if Green will not respond….
Which boat(s) should be penalized and under which rule(s) should they receive a penalty.
Leave your comments below, Greg has promised to follow the discussion closely and answer asap.


  1. I think Green is the boat at risk.
    She did not call for room to tack from Red. had she done so she would have been protected.
    Green must keep clear of Red and if she fails to do so she breaks rule 10.
    Same for Yellow and Blue. They should also keep clear of Red, probably by luffing and stopping in this case.

  2. Greg-

    Can you clarify the following:

    You write: "The windward boat (green) responds by hailing and tacking."

    Do you mean that green hailed for room to tack, and then tacked?

    Or do you mean that green responded to the leeward boat's hail by saying "you tack", and then tacked?


  3. To me the only boat that is safe is Red he was not adequatelly haled so can continue on Starboard. Eventually he will have to consider Rule 14 but not yet.
    The other three are all at risk of disqualification.
    Yellow as she did not hail in enough time for Blue and Green to tack and duck Red and give her room.
    Blue, did hail as required by yellow but if yellow was late this is of no use to her. She could not hail hereself as she was not at the obstruction. She was not however compelled to break any rules. She could have slowed and tacked behind Green and missed red. Rule observence and seamanship still have a place.
    Green should have hailed but the facts seen to indicate it would have made no difference.
    Green is in a similar but weaker position to Blue and should be DSQ as well.

    Mike Butterfield

  4. In this incident, Green should have hailed Red for room to tack. By failing to hail Red, Green becomes the victim of the situation and breaks R 10. Green and Yellow also break R 10 but are exonerated under 20.2.

    Green’s hail of “You tack” has no effect on the outcome, as he tacked and gave the requested room to Blue.

    If Green had hailed Red for room to tack, and if Red had complied, but if as a result, Blue or Yellow either hit the obstruction or each other, then Yellow would not have hailed in time, and would have broken 20.1.a. In this case, Green would not be in breach of R 20.


  5. I do not think you can have exoneration under 20.2 as Red was never hailed and they were not taking room they were entitled to under 20.1(b).

    Mike B

  6. To answer Matt:

    Green's "hail" was as indicated in the diagram. They hailed the two leeward boats to tack and then tacked to keep clear themselves.

  7. One question to ask is “Is this one incident or two?”

    When Green hailed “You Tack” and tacked, under R 20, he took an obligation to provide room for B/Y to tack safely. The position of Red prevented Green from providing room, immediately that the tacks were made. This is the ‘one incident’ view.

    The ‘two incident’ view has Y/B/G after tacking, overlapped on port with Red as an immediate obstruction on stbd. As ROW, Green gets to decide which side of Red to pass. Given the timing, Green does not have time to call for room to tack, and has to pass astern of Red. But to pass astern of Red, Green as outside boat, has to leave room for Blue and Yellow. This also is not possible according to the umpire facts. So Green breaks R 10 and R 19.

    In either view, Blue and Yellow did nothing wrong. Green made the error. Green should be penalized, and Blue and Yellow should be exonerated under R 20 for a ‘one incident’ or 64.1.c for ‘two incident’ view.


  8. After the tack yellow, blue and green are on port. All three have to keep clear from the starboard boat red.
    Green as leeward boat of the three boats can decide where to leave the right of way boat. In case he decides to pass astern of red, he should leave space for blue and yellow to pass astern as well.
    In praxis it should be the best option for green to hold the boat on slow speed until the situation is cleared.


  9. Very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!!

    UK Education Consultants

  10. Stephan,

    One of the "facts" found is after completing the tack, Green did not have the ability to duck and pass astern of Red. Obviously they also did not have the ability to provide room to the inside boats to also pass astern of Red.

    John, I guess I would ask you whether or not Green complied with RRS 20 before we move on to the next step of the decision. If yes, then are Green's obligations to Blue and Yellow complete?

  11. Greg,

    I would ask for one more fact, or at least an interpretation. It appears from the drawing, and from my own experience in multi-hulls, that all three of Green, Blue and Yellow could have simply not accelerated out of the tack.

    We all know how slowly a multi-hull moves following a tack, and we know how they can hang on a starting line not going anywhere. Having completed their tacks and realizing that Red is ROW, why did they not simply wait with sheets eased for Red to pass across in front of them.

    Simply put, putting the helm down and tacking are not the only ways to avoid a Starboard tack ROW boat. It is frequently, and this is a great example, actually faster for the Port tack Keep Clear Boat to simply slow down or stop and then reaccelerate.

    In this case, Red would pass ahead, Green could accelerate as soon as she could pass behind Red, followed by Blue and then Yellow. Obviously, this is not what Blue and Yellow would prefer, but what rule is Green breaking by slowing down and waiting but not bearing off?

    This raises a question under R 19. If the correct way to avoid a collision is to stop for all three boats while overlapped, does Green need to wait until Blue and then Yellow are able to pass behind Red before accelerating?

    For a long time I have viewed stopping as a vastly under utilized tactic and this is a great place to explore the idea.

  12. This situation is crazy...from my perspective:
    1. Green is not allowed to hail Red, because green has room to tack. While Green does not have room to comply with rule 20, the rule does not distinguish this, so a hail by green to red for RTT would not be valid.
    2. Yellow provides room for all boats to respond and tack before the obstruction
    3. Green responds to the hail ASAP (as written above)

    So, it seems there is a gap in the rules for this situation. The only thing, based on current rules, that I think can happen is this:
    1. Yellow Hail
    2. Blue Hail
    3. Green tack
    4. The moment Green crosses HTW, Green hails for RTT for the Red Boat
    5. Blue Hails Yellow.
    6. Yellow stops tack, starts tacking back, etc...

    But that is a lot to figure out pretty quickly on the water. This situation seems like it should have come up in fleet racing before as the line up of boats / situation is not unique.

    So, the question I would have for the umpires who were there--why have we never seen this situation cause this problem before? Because as I see it, no rule was broken in the actions of the boats--just the way they stacked Green couldn't comply legitimately with the RTT hail of Yellow. But this was not due to a late hail--just due to how the boats were stacked.

  13. I know its common-practise and common-sense but under 20.3 does Blue actually have right to hail Green? (At the point she hails the diagram suggests that safety does NOT require her to make a substantial course change).

    Conversely - what limits the scope of Blue's hail just to Green? Does Red in fact break 20.1b by not hailing "you tack" or tacking herself on Blue's hail (as facts show that it is not addressed at a specific boat)?

  14. So, a few people have sent me their answers off-line. I know the answer is floating out there. Remember, this is an umpired race and the umpires have about 30 seconds to assign penalties to the boat(s) breaking a rule. We've now had a few days to think about this, so who gets your penalty flag?

  15. ISAF case 113 is germane. Red should be alert to the possibility of a hail. If red heard or should have heard the hail, she must tack. If not, green must hail red for room to tack. Case 113 says green is entitled to do this.

    Before I read the case, I was for pinging green. Now Red is at risk. 113 suggests green was wrong to hail you tack. If red was not already responding, green should have hailed for room to tack.


  16. Case 113 does not affect the Red boat...the Red boat does not have to take any action to provide room for Green to tack. Case 113 states: "will have to respond before the hailing boat is able to tack..."

    In this case, as drawn, all the boats are able to tack without affecting Red, so rule 20 does not apply between Red and any of the other boats.

    The issue is that once all the boats tack, Red is now an obstruction to them--so they need to figure out how to avoid Red to comply with rule 10.

    To Greg: on the water, with less than 30 seconds to make a decision, I would have incorrectly penalized Yellow for a late hail...or Penalized green for rule 10 vs. Red...or perhaps both.


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