(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.)
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.
All match race sailors will recognize this manoeuvre as to trick your opponent in starting prematurely. It is an accepted tactic ‘ hooking’ the other boat and forcing him to get an OCS or tack away to the other end. As in all things, timing is essential.
Too soon and the leeward boat is over the line as well, too late and the gun will have gone before the other boat is over.
This tactic is used if you want to win the pin end of the start line.
In fleet racing this whole scenario is less likely because there are too many boats on the line, but the principle is still valid. A leeward boat, even if they have a rule 17 limitation, can still luff up to head wind, to force the windward boat over. Before the start the rule is still applicable but because there’s no proper course before the starting signal, it has no limiting effects.
If you luff head to wind to ‘ hook’ a windward boat, please be aware that as soon as the gunn has sounded, you need to bear away to close hauled course. If you do not you do break rule 17.
However, in all cases the windward boat MUST keep clear. If they do not they break rule 11 – and even if the leeward boat is sailing above its proper course, the windward boat cannot be exonerated.
I’m trying to post a little more regularly in coming weeks. Hopefully have some time during the events I’m doing. Currently I am a the O’Neill Worldcup 2012 Kiteboard in Scheveningen.