Sunday, 25 September 2011

Break's over

Right, break's over.

I've been hard at work at my new assignment - commenting on an upgraded App for Android and iPhone called You Tack! You can find a link in the sidebar. As soon as the new version becomes available I'll post about it more extensively. If there are any current users among readers of LTW - feel free to give me pointers on improvements.

I've also been studying the Match Race Call book because of my umpire test - next week. Trying to get in the right mind set. Tests are different than on-the-water umpiring.

To unwind a little, I've begun to have a look at all the submissions that are scheduled to be discussed at the ISAF November conference. There are several interesting improvements being submitted.This one for instance:

Reporting Committee – Racing Rules
Other Committee – Race Officials
Submission: 143-11
Racing Rules of Sailing
Rule 14

A submission from the Chairman of the Racing Rules Committee
Purpose or Objective: To remove the contradiction that a boat can break a rule and not be penalised.

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.shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury.

Current Position
As above.

Replacing "shall not be penalised" with "shall be exonerated" simplifies the rule and makes it consistent with the principle that a boat breaking a rule shall be exonerated or penalised.
This submission was prepared by the ISAF Section C Working Party.

I agree with the proposed change in rule 14. It always was strange that you could break this rule as a right-of-way boat and still were not DSQ-ed. 

What is your opinion?


  1. There is a subtle difference between "not be penalised" and "exonerate".

    Exonerate means "free from blame", which can be read as meaning that the boat has not broken a rule. Not penalising a boat for breaking a rule does not free her from blame.

    Under the present rule a jury can find that a boat broke rule 14 but, because of extenuating circumstances, that there is no penalty for having done so. However, it is still confirmed that she broke the rule, which may have implications when considering redress, and also when owners contact their insurance company.

    Compare with rule 18.5, in which a boat can be freed from blame after having broken a rule.

    We all have an interest in keeping sailing a non-contact sport. It could be considered that the present version of rule 14 contributes to this.


  2. Its a distinction without a difference.

  3. It is far to subtle for me. I agree with the intent but the rule. Maybe it could be rewritten to make it easier to explain.

  4. I hate Rule 14, it is used as an excuse by skippers to ignore right of way. Every time we have a mild collision on the course the port tack skipper will say that the starboard skipper is at fault because he could have acted to avoid the collision. Recently I was about two boat lengths from the finish line on starboard and had another boat to leeward of me that was not going to make the line. He tacked to port and sailed right across my bow. I swerved to avoid t-boning him and we ended up sideswiping each other, wedged up against the pin end of the line. I had not anticipated he would pull such a boneheaded move and didn't see him till he appeared in front of me because he was behind my sail. Our PRO yelled at me and claimed I should be disqualified for violating Rule 14. The other boat was in a different class and we were not competing against each other, I had no reason to try to shut the door on him. I was merely sailing to cross the finish line. PRO's contention was that I should have tacked to give the other guy room, basically I was supposed to realize he would be needing to tack to port and I should have tacked to be nice. This rule puts a boat that is sailing according to the rules with right of way into a position where we have to defend ourselves.


  5. The 'shall not be penalised' wording looks like nothing but an attempt to draft a rule that was the converse of the pre-1995 Contact rule that said 'if there is contact and neither boat protests then both boats shall be penalised'.

    I can see no good reason for not changing 'shall not be penalised' into 'shall be exonerated'.

  6. I can't agree with Gordon's commentary.

    To be freed from blame does not mean that it should be taken that a boat has not broken a rule.

    The Part 2 (When Boats Meet) rules are outcome based. There is no concept of blame or mental element. On the observable or inferrable physical facts, a boat either complies with those rules or breake a rule.

    Especially now with rule 18.5, the whole protest process is structured to decide firstly whether a boat broke a rule and only then to decide whether she should be exonerated for breaking the rule. This fosters a simple, orderly decision-making process.

    Rule 14(b) does NOT provide for 'extenuating' circumstances. It simply provides conditions under which the degree of penalisation on a boat having the benefit of right of way or an entitlement to room is reduced (to zero), given that the other boat will, in addition to breaking rule 14, also have broken another Part 2 rule.

    Even if exoneration was seen as somehow setting aside or cancelling the breach of rule 14, it is not essential to preserve the notion of breaking rule 14 to support the grant of redress. Under the conditions of rule 14(b), for the penalty of a right of way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room to be either nullified or exonerated there must be NO injury or damage. For redress to be given under rule 62.1(b) there must BE injury or physical damage.

    If there is no injury or damage:

    * a right of way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room breaking rule 14, shall not be penalised (or, as proposed, shall be exonerated); and
    * a boat shall not be given redress under rule 62.1(b).

    Given that neither freedom from penalisation nor exoneration would apply unless there was no damage or injury, I cannot see how insurance would be relevant in any way.

  7. DonD,

    You need to understand how rule 14(a) works. It says 'a right-of-way boat … need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear.'

    That means that a right of way boat need not begin to dodge until the give way boat has already clearly broken the right of way rule.

    Any time a right of way boat is likely to be penalised for breaking rule 14, the give way boat will be penalised for breaking the relevant right of way rule.

    Your obligations as a right of way boat include, however, keeping a sufficient lookout so that you can identify the instant that it becomes clear that the other boat is not keeping clear, and maybe acting proactively, such as by hailing, to prevent the incident happening.

  8. Just one small point - the introduction to the RRS states "Other words and terms are used in the sense ordinarily understood in nautical or general use. My dictionary defines exonerate as "exculpate, free from blame, release (person from duty). The use of the word exonerate does introduce (by the back door perhaps)a notion of blame into the rules.

    Apologies for sloppy use of word extenuating - there are certain circumstances in which a boat may break rule 14 and not be penalised.

    Agree with Brass on other points.


  9. Thanks Gordon,

    I understand the meaning of exoneration as 'free from blame' and don't dispute that.

    Perhaps what i am saying about (at least) Part 2 rules is that all breaches are equally blameworthy, until an exoneration decision is made.

    I don't think the second meaning of exoneration 'release (persom from duty)' which would have the effect that you have been toying with of saying, for example, that a right of way boat that did not keep clear had not broken a rule if she was exonerated is appropriate under the RRS.

    I have no doubt that a boat that breaks a rule and is not exonerated is blameworthy, and that a boat that is exonerated is (at least) less to blame.

    I just don't find the concept of blame useful in deciding protests:

    * either a boat breaks a rule, or not;
    * either a boat is exonerated, or not.


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