Sunday, 16 October 2011

ESS Act 8; Almeria; CRASH!

On the fourth day of the Extreme Sailing Series Act 8 here in Almeria there was a boat stopping crash between Gitane and Emirates Team New Zealand. It happened on the beat toward the first windward mark in the harbour in race nine. I've made a scenario - diagram of what happened to the best of my ability.

I haven't seen the video - if there is any, but the diagram represents what we on the water judged as have happened. Purple is Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), Red is Luna Rossa (LR) and Grey is Gitane (G).
LR astern and to windward of G, both practically tacking simultaneously to go behind ETNZ.
After the tack LR became clear ahead, right of way boat. She initially slowed down to be able to go behind ETNZ. Because of the bear away G gained speed and tried to go behind ETNZ as well. When the boats crashed he boat speed of G was twice as fast as LR. Her left hull hit ETNZ about a foot from the stern, sheering of the aft left corner of the hull, and her right hull hit LR.

Rules applicable: 10, 12, 14 and 19
LR had to keep clear of ETNZ and did so.
G failed to keep clear of ETNZ and broke rule 10, she also failed to keep clear of LR as windward boat and broke rule 11. She claimed to have been denied enough room under rule 19 by LR, but because the overlap was established at the last moment, LR could not give room and according to 19.2 (b) last sentence, did not have to, because she was unable to do this.
ETNZ did not break rule 14 because it was never clear for her that the port boat would not keep clear. Gitane did break rule 14. She should have slowed down during the tack or go behind Luna Rossa to avoid the collision.

On a final note, the 30 seconds penalty for the next start did (again) not work so we are trying something else. Gitane came in fourth with that penalty. We are thinking about having to round the first windward mark as last boat for a rule 14 penalty.


  1. The diagram does not seem to support the explanation.
    LR luffs rather than bears away from position 4 and 5 when she is at the obstruction.
    My question is how is the windward boat (Gitana)who has a right to room supposed to know that the leeward boat is either not going to respond or indeed maybe not able to respond? This is a flaw in rule 19. Indeed why should a keep clear boat (Gitana) ever expect to be given room. She should simply keep clear of both boats (either by stopping or tacking) and the rule should be changed to reflect this.

  2. In the animation, I see Red luffing to port and closing the gap between her and Grey, and Red makes absolutely no attempt to change course away from Grey to give Purple room.

    Strikes me you were somewhat generous in finding that Red was unable to give room.

  3. The luffing in the diagram is my bad. I don't remember LR luffing.
    Fact is that rule 19 does not apply until boats are overlapped. That happens in position 4 with a speed difference between the boats. You are expecting LR give room to an accelerating windward boat in a timespan of 2 seconds!
    The rule lays the burden on the keep clear boat - and that is as it should be. Otherwise the right of way boat must anticipate that windward will stick its bow in every time.

  4. With these fast accelerating boats, LR and all others at all times must be aware of all boats. LR well knew that she needed to give room for G to avoid the STB boat that became an obstruction. It appears that LR made no attempt, or if she did, then she miscalculated.

  5. For me this situation exposes two major rules flaws.
    First, that 19 is contingent upon an overlap between the two port tack boats but does not address when the overlap begins to apply - the only guidance the RRS provide is in the definition of Obstruction, but its less than clear due to the conflict between when G is sailing 'directly towards' ETNZ and when she might have to substantially change course to avoid her. The diagram shows a simultaneous tack from starboard to port for G & LR. According to the diagram as the boats establish port tack they are overlapped. The overlap is broken as a result of LR putting her bow down. If that is all that's required of LR to rightfully lock-out G, then umpires & juries should expect to see it repeatedly. It appears that the overlap is broken after LR is within two boat lengths of the obstruction (ETNZ) so well before G is within one hull length of ETNZ, yet it is clear that LR always had opportunity to give G inside room.

    But, my bigger objection to the RRS in this situation is that a competing boat is ever considered an obstruction. It just doesn't stand to reason that a moving boat is an obstruction. Nor is it reasonable that RRS19 supersedes RRS 11. Shouldn't the basic right of way rules have precedence over the more esoteric rules limiting a boat's actions? Note that G makes a tactical decision to tack, so should be subject to RRS 10 & 11 throughout.
    Eliminating the condition that a competitor is an obstruction and eliminating the debate over if & when an overlap is established or distance from an obstruction would go a long way to simplifying the rules.
    Simplifying the rules and eliminating tricky interpretation scenarios should be primary objectives for those charged with writing them.

    1. Rule 19 dictates that only when there IS an overlap, does the rule apply.
      That has nothing to do with the definition of obstruction. The definition gives a test to determine if an object is or is not an obstruction. The one boat length and sailing directly toward an object are merely the way the size is tested relative to the boat.
      Something is still an obstruction if the boat is not sailing toward it.

      As to you second argument; if the r-o-w rules were to override 19 we would have a lot of damaged boats because not all obstructions can be safely passed on both sides.

  6. Well said John Sweeney. Lets just have the simple keep clear rules (10,11 and 12) applying when racing boats are an obstruction. This case would then be very easy to interpret and decide.


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