(This is an instalment in a series of blogposts about the ISAF Case book 2009-2012 with amendments for 2010. All cases are official interpretations by the ISAF committees on how the Racing Rules of Sailing should be used or interpreted. The cases are copied from the Casebook, only the comments are written by me.)
Rule 19.2(b), Room to Pass an Obstruction: Giving Room at an Obstruction
Rule 19.2(c), Room to Pass an Obstruction: Giving Room at an Obstruction
A leeward boat is an obstruction to an overlapped windward boat and a third boat clear astern. The boat clear astern may sail between the two overlapped boats and be entitled to room from the windward boat to pass between her and the leeward boat, provided that the windward boat has been able to give that room from the time the overlap began.
Summary of the Facts
When running towards the finishing line, W became overlapped with L when almost two hull lengths to windward of her. Subsequently, M sailed into the space between L and W. All three boats finished with no narrowing of space between L and W and no contact. W protested M for taking room to which she was not entitled, citing rules 19.2(b) and 19.2(c).
The protest was dismissed on the grounds that W had given room to M as required by rule 19.2(b). W appealed.
Rule 11 required W to keep clear of L throughout the incident. While M was clear astern of L, rule 12 required her to keep clear of L, and after she became overlapped with L rule 11 required her to keep clear of L. As the diagram shows, both M and W met these requirements. Because both W and M were required to keep clear of L throughout the incident, L was an obstruction to W and M during that time (see the penultimate sentence of the definition Obstruction).
However, because L was a boat under way, L was not a continuing obstruction to them (see the last sentence of the definition Obstruction). When M became overlapped with W, rule 19.2(b) began to apply between them. It required W to give M room between her and the obstruction, unless she was unable to do so from the time the overlap began.
As the facts clearly show, W was able to give M that room when the overlap began and continued to do so at all times until the boats finished. Therefore, W complied with rule 19.2(b). Rule 19.2(c) did not apply because the obstruction, L, was not a continuing obstruction. M broke no rule; therefore W’s appeal is dismissed.
The key in the obstruction rule since the change in 2009 is ‘able to give room from the time the overlap began’
Sailors as well as umpires and judges must always go back to that moment to decide if a boat get room or not.
In the above case it is not that difficult because the distance between L and W was big enough to begin with. If that distance was smaller, say just enough so that W was keeping clear, M would have had a much harder time. By sticking her bow in between the two boats in front, she does get right of way over W, but initially she must give W room under rule 15 and also must keep clear of L under rule 11. W then must make room for her before she can safely overtake L.