Monday, 8 April 2013

UMPIRE Call; Moving backwards through the water in 2013

Just below is an animation depicting a situation I encountered last weekend at our local match race winter series in Lelystad. Blue and Yellow do an normal dial-up after entry, but then get into a situation where I didn't know any more.

Before you read any further, take out your rulebook and read 22.3 and C2.9, please.


Wind fairly light, maybe 2 Beaufort; Boats heavy and big; J109's.
We start with 10 - P/SB - Yellow changing course 16 - giving room - Blue under 10 is doing everything she can.
Blue tacks - completes and becomes ROW under 11.
Yellow, to windward, is keeping clear.
Blue stops - does not push her boom, but uses her jib to stay head-to-wind and then starts moving backward.Yellow becomes ROW because Blue is moving backward - rule 22.3 as changed by C2.9 - no 15.
Blue moving backward swings her stern - and is effectively tacking, but still keep clear boat under C2.9. Yellow in the meantime stops and waits. But forces being as they are - even for heavy boats - eventually starts to move backwards. She's never changed tack, so still SB.
At the same time as Yellow is starting to move backward, Blue looses her backward momentum and starts to move forward again - Tack is complete, now on P.
Because Yellow moves backward Blue becomes ROW. Does Blue have a 15? No - she acquired ROW because of Yellow's actions. If Yellow hadn't started to move backward Blue would not have become ROW. Yellow realizing this is going to end in trouble, tries desperately - doing everything she can - to keep clear.
Blue, not wanting to get a collision either, bears away as hard as she can.
But we end up with contact anyway.

Before the 2013 rules, Yellow would have stayed ROW and only because she "changed course from going forward to going backward", with a 16 limitation. In the new rulebook she's keep clear boat.

In the old rulebook I would have penalized Blue for not keeping clear. Blue choose to do this risky manoeuvre and must bear the consequences if it didn't work. Only if Yellow had pushed her boom out, to get to move backwards she would have been penalized - then the situation becomes her "responsibility".

Under the 2013-2013 rules I'm not longer sure.

Does Blue have a 16? If yes, I would penalize Blue , if not - and by deduction Yellow had the 16 - perhaps Yellow should get the penalty. But what is the difference then between the old rule and the new?

If Blue started forward - as keep clear boat - before Yellow started to move backward, Blue does not have a 16. She "changed course" before she was ROW.
If Blue started forward, after Yellow was moving backward she does have a rule 16 limitation. But could she tell?
I couldn't say who started first, neither could my fellow umpire. And we were concentrating on that - not manoeuvring a sail boat.

Anyway, both boats where doing everything the could, once they realized the collision was going to happen.
Still penalize Blue for getting in this position? But she's ROW!
Penalize Yellow for not keeping clear? But she had no chance to so. She didn't push out her sail to go backwards…...

We ended up giving a green flag

But I'm not happy.
Should have been a yellow AND a blue…………
Or what?

Give me your opinion, please.


  1. Welcome back. In your absence, I have been having to work on Monday mornings.

    I should not have had a chance if I had been an umpire on the water. I had to watch the video several times.

    I think ping yellow. She is ROW until she starts moving astern so that blue becomes ROW as a result of yellow's actions. Any change of course by blue thereafter is to try and keep clear.

    I take your point about yellow not having a way out. However, as soon as she is windward boat and almost stopped, she is vulnerable. Keep clear boat with limited control. Her safe option was to have tacked away much earlier.


  2. I would like to make an attempt on sensibly commenting this:
    I think it depends on whether Yellow started moving backwards before Blue went forward or the other way around.
    If yellow was starting to travel backwards with blue still also going reverse, yellow was the ROW-boat changing course and therefore only limited by 16. If blue then started moving forward on P she becomes subject to 15, since she aquired ROW by her own actions. As things then turn out she fails to initially give yellow room to keep clear and earns a blue flag.

    If Blue went forward on P before yellow starts travelling astern, blue then becomes ROW by yellow going reverse.As you've written, it can´t be neither a 15 nor a 16 for changing direction.
    By starting to travel backwards, yellow "deliberately" (could she have avoided to do so?) gives up right of way and in the end , fails to keep clear.That´d be a yellow flag.

    Please excuse if this appears to be nonsense.

  3. I think the answer is in the text. J109 boats are large and heavy.

    Blue when backing was a give way boat and Yellow was stationaly and right of way.

    The right of way boat could do nothing to stop going astern and would have had to take some avoiding action to stop going astern. so at this time blue infringed, the rest is the same incident.

    If you think of smaller boats Yellow would have had to take action to scull to stay inn the same place to avoid Blue.

    If you take such a risky step you have to take the penalty.

    Mike B

  4. We have two Yellow- and two Blue- (one of them mine) "pings" at the moment; thus still undecided > Green

    Anyone else?

  5. Jos,

    Do you have any idea why the difference between 22.3 and C2.9 ?
    What did the Rules writers have in mind?

    I think umpires will have to decide whether Blue starts going forwards before Yellow starts going backwards.

    A new twist to the dial-up by the look of things.

  6. At position 6, and maybe seeing Blue turning toward her, Yellow could have chosen not to back down and become giveway boat, but to trim jib and go on starboard. I don't think it matters whether she used the sail to back down or not (unlike fleet racing, where it does), she can't plead act of God caused her to back down but it was her own action of staying head to wind. It is a very complicated situation and would be hard to get right on the water, but I would ping yellow.

  7. IMO 1) Rule 15 would apply if Blue get stopping (after move back) later than Yellow start move back = Blue get ROW (by C2.9) by own actions.(the stopping)...Does Blue broke r.15? mmm...I think rather no than yes...
    2) If Blue stopping earlier than Yellow starting move back rule 15 not apply - Yellow flag - she broke C2,9 .
    and i think If Blue don't change cours (when she get ROW) the contact would happen.all the same.

  8. What makes this situation so difficult is the transition of ROW - that determines 15 and or 16 limitations.
    When boats stop and start to move backward - especially big an heavy boats - it is at first almost not detectable.
    The umpires position makes it even harder, being at the back of the boats looking into the gab. Only a good wing can help in that situation.
    So again, we couldn't tell if Yellow started moving backward before or after Blue stopped and started moving forward.

    Reading all the comments up until now, I still think we should have penalized both boats.

    Yellow did not have to anticipate that Blue was going to go forward....
    When she started to go backwards she became keep clear boat - and from that moment she did everything she could to do so....

  9. Yellow is going backwards while Blue is going forwards - Yellow is the keep clear boat C.2.9.

    Blue on port, started to pass astern of Yellow on stbd. Blue could not anticipate that Yellow would come astern.

    When Yellow started to go astern, Blue became ROW. C.2.9 removes the 'backing a sail' so the condition is simplified. Yellow is moving astern must keep clear.

    As Blue became ROW, Under R 15, Blue did not have to give room to Yellow as it was Yellow's action (going astern) that led to the incident.

    Yellow breaks R 16.1 and 16.2 and C 2.9. Blue is exonerated under R 14.

  10. The only decision that is wrong is a 'green and white' There was contact and as the umpires could not determine which boat was wrong it should have been a 'twin'.
    It could have been possible in this situation to penalise either Yellow or Blue for the reasons in the other comments and in the debrief the penalised boat would have been advised why following the logic expressed in the original case and the comments. In this case a 'twin' would seem to be a fair outcome as both boats were doing all they could to comply with their requirements under the rules.

  11. As the incident is described in the diagram it is a clear Yellow penalty. Blue was keeping clear until Yellow changed course while backing and was the burdened boat. 15 does not come into play because ROW was obtained not by Blues actions but by Yellows. Yellow did not keep clear and Blue did all she could to avoid Yellow. I can't agree that Blue broke rule 16 since she was taking avoiding action to avoid a collision and Yellow can't break 16 since she is not the ROW boat and 16 only applies to a ROW boat. Yellow breaks rule C2.9.

  12. Dear Jos,


    If Blue had completed her tack and stopped moving backward when yellow was stopped, blue was on port ,yellow on starboard and blue was keeping clear. When yellow starts going backward blue becomes ROW boat but 15 does not apply. Penalise yellow.

    If yellow starts going backwards before blue gets ROW. 15 applies from the time blue becomes ROW boat. Yellow did all she could. Penalise Blue.

    If both were simultaneous or it could not be determined Twin since there was contact.


  13. Since it is unsure when yellow started going backwards relative to when blue started going forward, I think I'd use the last point of certainty. This appears to be that about position 10, blue started going forward. At that point, yellow's last point of certainty is that she is starboard and not moving. Blue was keep clear as port and was keeping clear because she would have passed astern of yellow. After that, yellow sails backwards and causes the collision despite the best attempts by both to avoid.

    My 'gut' would say that the collision resulted more from yellow sailing backward than from blue sailing forward and therefore I would have been inclined to penalise yellow.

    Of course this is somewhat in hindsight and a penalty on either or both could be justified for the reasons already given. A green-white is probably incorrect since there was a collision.

  14. very informative blog. really very informative. i have been looking to this animation for around 10, 15 times. its really cool. thanks for such a nice post.
    Hire A Yacht In Dubai

  15. since this is a match race situation a boat moving astern always has to keep clear. Rule C2.8

    in a fleet race boats who are moving astern through the water only lose their normal rights if they back a sail. with flapping sails its even allowed to drift astern, you still keep your rights. Yellow is the SB and has the ROW over Blue.

    source. Paul Elvstrom explains racing rules 2013



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...