Thursday, 14 June 2012

Rule 18.5 and exoneration

I’ve been thinking about the intricacies of rule 18.5 and exoneration for breaking rule 16 by the right-of-way boat AT the mark.

Picture this situation:

120614 R18.5 markrounding

Red and Purple approach a leeward mark to be left to port. Purple enters the 3BL Zone first and Red must give markroom. Purple sails a course not directly to the mark but a boat length beside it, to be able to luff and come out ‘high’ next to the mark. She leaves a gab.

Red close astern sees that gab and uses it, to get inside, all the time keeping clear until position 5. Purple luffs very hard in position 5 (breaking rule 16.1) up to head to wind. There’s contact but no damage.

Both boats protest. (with hail and red flag). The PC declares both protest valid.
Red claims that Purple broke rule 16.1 by luffing very hard at the mark and should NOT be exonerated under 18.5(b) because she was not sailing her proper course. It was too soon to tack round the mark.

Purple claims she was prevented from sailing her proper course – already in position 5 – because Red came inside without having markroom and she wanted to “shut the door” .

Have a look at Case 63 (

Please give me your opinion.



  1. I've seen this a hundred times; Protested it once as the outside boat. Won that. (RL). The thing is, the outside boat is giving plenty of space to keep clear from pos 1 to 3, so no problems with rule 15. The course change happens from pos 3 to 6, and I'd argue that 3 to 5 is plenty of time for the inside boat to realize what's going on, so no rule 16.1 problems either. It is a mistake to try and take the inside, when you should know you have no rights or options in there. (BTW: This happens a lot in virtual sailing too).

    1. If the mark was a RC-boat and Red was forced to hit it, because purple came up so hard, would you still find for Purple?

  2. OK, here's how I see it:

    Irrespective of whether Red did or did not give Purple the required mark-room, Purple cannot be exonerated under 18.5(b) for breaking rule 16.1 by her luff at 6 because that luff was not "rounding the mark on her proper course" - she admits herself that she wanted to "shut the door" which is not "a course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule". Purple was also not compelled to break rule 16.1 by any breach of rule 18 by Red and so cannot be exonerated under rule 64.1(c) either. Purple also broke rule 14, but is not to be penalised unless there was damage or injury as she was RoW boat and also entitled to mark-room.

    As to whether Red broke rule 18.2(b), on the basis of the diagram I would say not - if Purple didn't want Red to come inside her then she should have started to luff earlier or luffed faster. If Red claims that she was unable to sail her proper course even before position 5 then she should have hailed "Protest" at that earlier point in time, even if she postponed display of her red flag until after she had rounded the mark (which I don't think would be unreasonable given that her crew would have been busy rounding the mark). Luffing into Red at 6 doesn't prove anything.

    For completeness, I would also say that Red did not break rule 14 as it was not reasonably possible for her to avoid contact with Purple given Purple's sudden luff.


    1. Well argued and I agree. Trouble is that most sailors and PC see this differently....

  3. I disagree with Noodle. Its the course change by purple after 5 that causes the trouble. Take the mark away and red has not been given room to keep clear.

    The mark is there, of course, and purple has mark room. That is room to sail to the mark and room to sail your proper course at the mark. Purple is above her proper course after 5 so she is not exonerated under rule 18. Ping purple.

    What purple should have done, I think, is protest at 3 or 4 for being denied mark room.


    1. As with most sailing issues, timing is the key.


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