(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 11, On the Same Tack, Overlapped
Rule 14, Avoiding Contact
Rule 15, Acquiring Right of Way
Rule 16.1, Changing Course
Rule 17, On the Same Tack; Proper Course
Definitions, Proper Course
Before her starting signal, a leeward boat does not break a rule by sailing a course higher than the windward boat’s course.
Summary of the Facts
As the two 14-foot dinghies manoeuvred before the starting signal, they crossed the starting line. While bearing away to return to the pre-start side, L, initially the windward boat, assumed a leeward position by sailing under W’s stern. Immediately after position 4, L luffed to close-hauled and sailed straight for the port end of the line. W meanwhile, with sheets eased, sailed along the line more slowly. At position 5, there was contact, W’s boom touching L’s windward shroud. L protested W under rule 11; W counter-protested under rules 12 and 15.
The protest committee found that L had right of way under rule 11 from the time she assumed a steady course until contact. W had room to keep clear, although she would have had to cross the starting line prematurely to do so. Therefore, it dismissed W’s protest and upheld the protest by L. W appealed, this time citing rule 16.1.
W’s appeal is dismissed. Between positions 2 and 3 L became overlapped to leeward of W, acquiring right of way under rule 11 but limited by rule 15’s requirement to initially give room to W to keep clear. L met that requirement because L gave W room to keep clear. Just after position 4, when L luffed to a close-hauled course, she was required by rule 16.1 to give W room to keep clear, and she did so. L had been clear astern of W and was within two of her hull lengths of W when she became overlapped
to leeward of W. Therefore, she was required by rule 17 to sail no higher than her proper course. However, she had no proper course before the starting signal (see the definition Proper Course) and the starting signal was not made until after the incident. Therefore, L’s luff did not break rule 17 and she was in fact entitled to luff higher than she did, even as high as head to wind, as long as while so doing she complied with rule 16.1.
After L became overlapped to leeward of W, W was required by rule 11 to keep clear of L. She did not do so and accordingly her disqualification under rule 11 is upheld. In addition, W broke rule 14 because she could have avoided the contact with L. L also broke rule 14 because it would have been easy for her to bear off slightly and avoid the contact. However, she is not penalized because there was no damage or injury.
Again a classic case. One that has survived the changes in the rules since 1965!
(Must be important, don’t you think?)
Although many an issue revolves around the limitations of the right of way boat (15, 16 and 17) the one thing that should clearly stand out in all these cases: Rules of Section A are to be followed!
The first and only obligation of the keep-clear boat is: TO KEEP CLEAR.
Only after you’ve done that – within a reasonable effort, and promptly – you can start to look at the limitations on the ROW-boat. She is after all the boat with right of way. She must be able to sail her course – whatever that may be – without having to feel the need to take avoiding action.
There are those that want the rules to be much more black and white. No limitations, no restrictions on course. With very few exceptions, the ROW boat should be able to do as she pleases. change course as hard as she wants, sail as high as she wants, etc., etc.
That would make PC work much easier, but it would not benefit the sailing. The keep clear boat would have to stay away at a much greater distance and really dedicate considerable attention to ROW-boats all of the time.
Be very happy that limitations exist!.
But it does not mean the keep clear boat can claim a greater part of the pie;
She still must KEEP CLEAR.