Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Taking a Penalty in Match Racing IV (MR04)

As promised this next instalment about penalties in Match Racing is taking one around the pin-end of the finish.

The rules prescribe that you are not allowed to taken penalty within the zone. But that is only for the zone of a rounding mark! The pin-end of the finish is not a rounding mark, it is a passing mark. Therefore penalties are allowed in that zone.

The big advantage of taking your penalty around that mark is that you can finish directly after having completed your penalty - even with little boat speed - by bearing away to the line. It is one manoeuvre that - if you've done your training - has been done a hundred times before.

The Blue boat with the outstanding penalty needs to be approximately 4 to 5 boat lengths ahead, to be able to complete the penalty and still finish first. She enters the zone clear ahead and Yellow must give mark-room in position 1. Blue luffs after passing the mark and makes sure that her spinnaker head is below the goose-neck. (Something that has to be done before passing head to wind, that's when Blue is starting to take her penalty)

Passing head to wind she losses her mark-room under rule 18.2(b) and must keep clear under rule 21.2.
As soon as Blue has reached a course 90 degrees from true wind the penalty is complete. (in position 6). She's on port tack and Yellow is on starboard tack. So Blue is still keep clear boat. But because she now has an overlap with Yellow and is within the zone, rule 18 again switches on again. Blue is inside boat and Yellow must give her mark-room, under rule 18.2(a). Blue is already at the mark, so she's entitled to sail her proper course. Which is to bear away and finish as soon as possible. Yellow must gybe or sail by the lee, to give Blue that room.


There's one other thing - besides getting the spinnaker down in time - that is your boom. With bigger boats the boom is almost at a ninety degree angle and really sticks out. In rounding the mark it happens that the boom sticks out so far, that the end is over the mark and over the line. Rule C7.2(d) however dictates that the boat must completely be on the course side, after having completed her penalty, before she can finish. Part of the boom may never be on the correct side. So she can't finish.

If the RC gets a heads up from the umpires about the leading boat having an outstanding penalty, they watch - particularly that boom - so see if Blue ever manages to get completely to the course side, before crossing the line for the second time.



  1. You don't have to bear away after completing your penalty. You can finish by letting your main boom go over the finish line. Hopefully the RC is also aware of that and not focussing on the bow of the boat.

    1. Will that be equipment of the boat in its normal position?

      If you are sailing on a reach and let the boom all out so that the main is slack and fluttering, I would say you have not finished even if the tip of the boom is past the line.

      I think the safest way is to keep the mainsail correctly trimmed and continue bearing away (and maybe the boom will indeed cross the finish line before your bow).

  2. Doesn't blue have to unwind to finish (RRS 28)? Also what rule/case talks about the spin head being below the gooseneck?

    1. C7.3 Penalty Limitations
      (a) A boat taking a penalty that includes a tack shall have the spin-naker head below the main-boom gooseneck from the time she
      passes head to wind until she is on a close-hauled course.

      About 28, I think the imaginary string would indeed satisfy all the a-c requirements of 28.1. Just as if a boat rounds a windward mark, sails around it, and rounds it again, passing it on the correct side for a second time (the string would loop around the mark, not just touch it).

  3. Excellent summary, thank you.

    Two additional points. It is not just the boom that might be over the line but also the mast if the boat is heeling. The French America's Cup boat once missed completing a penalty because their masthead was never fully on the on-course side of the line.

    Also, the boat can rehoist their spinnaker when they have reached a closehauled course (between positions 5 and 6 in the diagram). That will count for their finish if in "normal position" but not if just streaming out to leeward. Most racers just spin with their jib.

  4. Interesting perspective and another lesson learned, thanks!


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