(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 28.1, Sailing the Course
Rule 32.1, Shortening or Abandoning After the Start
Rule 64.1(c), Decisions: Penalties and Exoneration
Rule A5, Scores Determined by the Race Committee
When one boat breaks a rule and, as a result, causes another to touch a mark, the other boat is to be exonerated. The fact that a starting mark has moved, for whatever reason, does not relieve a boat of her obligation to start. A race committee may abandon under rule 32.1(d) only when the change in the mark’s position has directly affected the safety or fairness of the competition.
Summary of the Facts
As S and P, close-hauled, approached the port end of the starting line, a strong tide was setting them towards the line and the starting line mark.
When S was two hull lengths from the mark, she hailed P to keep clear. There was no response, and S was forced to bear away to avoid a collision. Immediately after the starting signal, P sailed over the mark. As S luffed back to close-hauled, on a course to the wrong side of the mark, it jumped out from under P’s hull and bounced against S. P did not take a penalty, and S did not return to start between the starting marks.
S protested P under rules 10 and 31, and also requested redress, asking that the race be abandoned, citing rule 32.1(d). The protest committee disqualified P for breaking rules 10 and 31, refused S’s request for redress, and scored S DNS. The latter decision was referred to the national authority for confirmation or correction, along with a question: If S had returned to start as required by rule 28.1, could the race have been abandoned under rule 32.1(d) because of the mark having moved?
Although S touched the mark, she could not be expected to anticipate how it would move when another boat touched it. Therefore, as provided in rule 64.1(c), S is not penalized for contact with the mark because it was P’s two breaches that caused the mark to touch S. However, S could have returned and started as required by rule 28.1. The fact that the starting mark moved does not relieve her of her obligation to start. Because S did not start, the race committee was correct in scoring her DNS (see rule A5).
Rule 32.1(e) makes it clear that the most important criterion for abandoning a race is that, for some reason, the safety or fairness of the competition has been adversely affected. The last sentence of rule 32.1 and the use of ‘competition’ in rule 32.1(e) imply that the adverse event should affect all boats competing. Rules 32.1 (a), (b), (c) and (d) give examples of reasons that may justify abandoning a race; rule 32.1(e) implies that there may be other reasons. In this case, the unexpected movement of the starting mark as a result of P riding over it did not justify abandoning the race. Indeed, the exact position of a mark frequently and routinely changes as a result of wind, current, waves or it having been touched by a boat, even though its anchor does not move. Such movement is a risk that competitors must accept and does not justify abandoning a race.
When a boat breaks a rule, exoneration is only available by two ways:
- Because the infringement was caused by another boat breaking a rule and thereby forcing the boat to have broken that rule; or
- By taking a penalty (which may be to retire from the race), but only for a rule in Part 2 while racing or rule 31.
In this case boat S broke two rules: rule 31 and rule 28.1 For the first she did not have to take a penalty, because option 1 already exonerated her. P forced the mark touch.
For not starting there is no exoneration available. A boat is never forced to not start correctly. S could have gone back and sail between the starting marks. The fact that P initially forced to bear away and end up on the wrong side of the Pin-end, does not negate that.
Boat P also broke two rules: 10 and 31. She was neither forced to do this nor took a penalty. The PC could come to only one conclusion: DSQ.