Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Taking a Penalty in Match Racing; (MR01)

This is the first post in a new series about Match Racing. I’ll try to post regularly, at least one a week – usually on Tuesdays. They will be about actual manoeuvres and the rules in Match Racing


This first post in the series is about taking a penalty.

Yellow has an outstanding penalty and decides to take it well in front of the other boat when almost on the port lay-line. She’s sailing on starboard and Blue is at least seven boat lengths behind. With some skill she should be able to cross ahead of Blue and get to the windward mark first.
(NB: this manoeuvre would be better done on the starboard lay-line, because once you’ve completed and are back on close hauled course, you have right of way)

In normal fleet racing she has to comply with rule 44.2 which says: Sailing well clear of other boats as soon after the incident as possible, by sailing a One-Turn or Two-Turn Penalty promptly, making the required number of turns in the same direction, each turn including one tack and one gybe.

Q&A 2010-010 B021 2011-010-B021 explains further that if a boat does its penalty and has to stop turning half way because of another boat, she's only doing a correct penalty when that other boat has changed course to achieve this.

If the other boat didn't change course and was always on an 'interfering' course to begin with, the boat with the penalty hasn't sailed well clear and the penalty is incorrect and should be done anew.

If the other boat changed course after the boat began to turn she's is allowed to curtail her turn, so as to not break rule 21.2 and finish the penalty as soon as the other boat has passed.

However in Mach Racing Rule 44 has been switched off by rule C7.1.
There is no obligation to sail well clear.

A boat can take a penalty in close proximity of another boat, by forcing the other boat in a tactical situation to stay 'behind' as long as she is keeping clear when she's doing the penalty bit (from head to wind to 90 degrees from true wind in a downwind leg, and from gybing to close hauled on an upwind leg).

In the animation Yellow doesn’t ‘make’ it. In position 6 she stops turning because there’s a chance she would not keep clear of Blue if she does. She sails straight on to go behind Blue. One boat length later Blue decides to tack to defend the right side and Yellow luffs up and gets to close hauled behind Blue.

Has Yellow done her penalty or not?

On the water we decided she had, reading Q&A 2010-010 B021 2011-010-B021, I doubted that, thinking about it a little more, I think she has, because of the change made by C7 that the ‘sailing well clear’ part in rule 44 is no longer applicable.

Please tell me your opinion.


  1. Here are the relevant bits that I found, which one could call "analogous" to 44.

    C7.2(a)(1) When on a leg of the course to a windward mark, she shall gybe and, as soon as reasonably possible, luff to a close-hauled course.

    C7.4(b) When a boat taking a penalty either does not take the penalty
    correctly or does not complete the penalty as soon as reason-ably possible, she is no longer taking a penalty. The umpires shall signal this as required by rule C5.6.

    So, the trick is whether yellow completed (after gybing) the penalty "as soon as reasonably possible." I would say yes; she completed the penalty as soon as possible given that she was keep-clear boat under rule 21.2. So I agree with you this time :)

  2. I think that from the moment yellow's boom passed the centerline of the boat and gybed she is taking her penalty and she must keep clear of blue under RRS 21.2. She is doing so by sailing to go behind Blue. In addition as soon as Blue tacked, Yellow luffed as soon as reasonably possible to a close hauled course. So Yellow completed her penalty complying with C7.2(a)(1).
    I think that Q&A 2010-010 B021 is not relevant.


  3. I have always wondered this and to me it comes down to the word "promptly". without delay is how it is defined and by not continuing on thru the penalty turn...you have not fullfilled that requirement.

    I have always liked adding something to the rule 44.2 possibly stating that the maneuver must be a spinning maneuver, no ramping up for speed even if you are on a collision course, that is why there is rule 21.2.

  4. So do we agree that yellow completed her penalty under appendix C, but had this happened in fleet racing, the gybe would not have counted towards a penalty turn?

    1. That is what the Q&A is stating, yes.

    2. Sorry, didn't read it until now. It was 2011-010 rather than 2010-010 that you referred to :)

    3. My mistake, it is 2011-010 B21 indeed.

  5. C7.2a1 says jibe and, as soon as reasonably possible, come to a close hauled course. After Yellow jibes, it is not reasonably possible for her to go in front of Blue. As soon as Blue luffs and tacks, it is reasonably possible for Yellow to luff to close hauled and she does. Penalty is cancelled.

  6. Most of you seem to agree that Yellow has fulfilled her penalty. I'm glad we got it right on the water...


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