(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 14, Avoiding Contact
Rule 19.2(b), Room to Pass an Obstruction: Giving Room at an Obstruction
Rule 20.1, Room to Tack at an Obstruction: Hailing and Responding
Rule 20.3, Room to Tack at an Obstruction: When Not to Hail
Rule 64.1(c), Decisions: Penalties and Exoneration
When boats are overlapped at an obstruction, including an obstruction that is a right-of-way boat, the outside boat must give the inside boat room to pass between her and the obstruction.
Summary of the Facts
PW and PL, close-hauled on port tack and overlapped, approached S on the windward leg. PL could pass safely astern of S. PW, on a collision course with S, hailed PL for room to pass astern of S when PW and PL were about three hull lengths from S. PL ignored the hail and maintained her course. When PW bore away to avoid S, she and PL had slight beam to beam contact. PW protested under rule 19.2 (b).
The protest committee held that rule 19.2(b) did not apply, stating that PW could easily have tacked into the open water to windward to keep clear, and should have done so. PW was disqualified under rule 20.1 and appealed.
S was an obstruction that PW and PL were about to pass on the same side.
Therefore, rule 19 applied. Under rule 19.2(b) PW was entitled to room to pass between PL and the stern of S. PL did not give PW that room, so PL broke rule 19.2(b).
PL was subject to rule 14, but since she held right of way over PW and there was no damage or injury, she cannot be penalized for breaking that rule. PW could not have known that PL was not going to give sufficient room until she was committed to pass between S and PL. PW broke rule 11, but she was compelled to do so by PL’s failure to give room as required by rule 19.2(b). Therefore, as required by rule 64.1(c), PW is exonerated from breaking rule 11. Also, when it became clear that PL was not giving room, it was not reasonably possible for PW to avoid the contact that occurred, so PW did not break rule 14.
PW was not required to “tack into open water to windward to keep clear” because PL did not hail under rule 20.1 for room to tack and avoid S. Rule 20.3 prohibited PL from doing so because she did not have to make any change of course to avoid S. PW’s appeal is upheld. The decision of the protest committee disqualifying PW is reversed. PW is reinstated, and PL is disqualified.
This case teaches that, although there is a perfect ‘alternative escape’ route for a keep clear boat to keep clear, it still may relay on the rules to give her the route those rules provide. If she wishes to take that route.
Because of the this and other limitation rules (15, 16, & 17) the right of way boat sometimes feels MORE restricted in her movements, than the keep clear boat. A keep clear boat can change course as fast as she likes, can tack or gybe or whatever – as long as she keeps clear. The right of way boat must always look ahead and calculate what consequences her actions have on the ability of the keep clear boat to keep clear.
Some sailors advocate a simpler way. To get rid of all those limitations on the right of way boat. I always urge them to consider the case of the faster boat catching up with them, who cries foul when the slightest bow point overlaps there stern or rudder……