Monday, 2 April 2012

(pillow)Case of the week (14/12) – 14

(This is an instalment in a series of blogposts about the ISAF Case book 2009-2012 with amendments for 2011. 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.)

(pillow)Case picture


Rule 11, On the Same Tack, Overlapped
Rule 14, Avoiding Contact
Rule 16.1, Changing Course
Rule 17, On the Same Tack; Proper Course
Definitions, Proper Course

When, owing to a difference of opinion about a leeward boat’s proper course, two boats on the same tack converge, the windward boat must keep clear. Two boats on the same leg sailing near one another may have different proper courses.

Summary of the Facts

After rounding the windward mark in light wind the fleet divided, some boats sailing towards shore to get out of the tide and others remaining offshore in hopes of a better wind. L had established an overlap to leeward of W from clear astern and they rounded the mark overlapped. W chose to remain offshore, while L began to luff slowly and informed W of her intention to go inshore. W replied ‘You have no right to luff.’ L replied that she was sailing her proper course and W was required to keep clear. The discussion took some time. L continued to gradually change course, and at no time did W state that she was unable to keep clear. The boats touched and both protested. The protest committee disqualified L under rule 17 for sailing above her proper course, and she appealed.



When, owing to a difference of opinion on the proper course to be sailed,two boats on the same tack converge, W is bound by rule 11 to keep clear and by rule 14 to avoid contact.

This case illustrates the fact that two boats on the same leg sailing very near to one another can have different proper courses. Which of two different courses is the faster one to the next mark can not be determined in advance and is not necessarily proven by one boat or the other reaching the next mark ahead.

The basis for W’s protest was that L sailed above her proper course while subject to rule 17. L’s defence and counter-protest were that she had decided that the inshore course out of the tide would result in her finishing sooner and that, therefore, the course she was sailing was her proper course. In addition, L argued that W had broken rules 11 and 14.

The facts found do not show that L sailed above her proper course; therefore she did not break rule 17. When L luffed slowly between positions 1 and 2, W had room to keep clear, so L did not break rule 16.1. L could have avoided contact with W. By not doing so, she broke rule 14, but is not penalized because the contact caused no damage or injury. By failing to keep clear of L, W broke rule 11.
W could have avoided the contact, and by not doing so she too broke rule 14, but is not exempt
from penalization. L’s appeal is upheld. L is reinstated, and W is disqualified for breaking rules 11 and 14.

RYA 1966/3


Like with passing an obstruction, it is the right-of-way boat who decides. If that boat feels that going inshore is a proper course, the windward boat must keep clear and go up as well

The definition of proper course allows for multiple courses and beforehand it is not always clear which . But even if the windward boat can show that the leeward boat is sailing well above its proper course, she still must keep clear. No boat is forcing her to break rule 11 – so she cannot be exonerated. She has but one option: Keep clear and protest. If she doesn’t and the leeward boat is found to have been sailing above her proper course, they both will be disqualified.

Although we are now getting into the first cases in the book and therefore well into the ‘oldest’, many sailors still get confused and make this – basic – mistake.


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