Sunday 30 August 2009

Change in the Definition of Obstruction?


By Rob Overton

The Section C Working Party, consisting of Ben Altman, Chris Atkins, Dick Rose, Richard Thompson and myself, have made two submissions to ISAF that deal with rules 18 and (indirectly) 19. One is an "emergency" change in the definition of Obstruction, to go into effect January 1, 2010, and the other is a proposed ISAF Case dealing with the meaning of Room.

Before we get into the submissions themselves, let's look at the perceived problem. There are a number of scenarios in which Rule 18, Mark-Room, and Rule 19, Room to Pass an Obstruction, appear to conflict. Consider the following scenario, taken from a team-race call suggested by Matt Knowles. The boats are at a reach mark to be followed by a run:

Black is clear ahead of both Grey and White when she enters the zone, and Grey is inside White when they the zone. Grey and White are sailing faster than Black. Grey sails to pass to leeward of Black, and White elects to sail between Grey and Black. In doing so, White forces Black to luff up. Black protests White under rule 18.2(b) for not being given mark-room, and White protests Grey under rule 19 for not giving her room to pass to leeward of Black.

White's argument is that Black is an obstruction to both Grey and White because they both owe Black mark-room (see definition 'Obstruction'). So when Grey elects to go to leeward of Black, she must give White room to do so, too. By sailing up toward White between positions 1 and 2, Grey fails to give White room, causing White to sail too close to Black and thus forcing Black above her course to the mark. White admits she broke rule 18.2(b) with respect to Black but claims she was compelled to do so. She points out that when it became clear that Grey was not going to give her room under rule 19, she could not avoid both Black and Grey. So that means Grey should be disqualified, and White exonerated under rule 64.1(c) for her breach of rule 18.2(b).

Grey sees it a different way. White is required to give mark-room to both Grey and Black, and from positions 1 through 3 that means giving them room to sail to the mark. White could easily have seen that she would not be able to go between Black and Grey and still give mark-room to both of them, so she wasn't "compelled" to break rule 18.2(b). Therefore White should not be exonerated. Grey says she herself broke no rule; she was entitled to room under rule 18.2(b) and was simply taking the room to which she was entitled.

(Note that Grey can insure she is blameless by bearing off toward the wrong side of the mark to give White room to pass between her and Black, and protesting White. Now White has clearly broken rule 18.2(b) by not giving Grey room to sail to the mark, and Grey has given room as required by rule 19.)

This apparent conflict between rules 18 and 19 is caused at least in part by the fact that Black is an obstruction to both White and Grey. This is because the definition of Obstruction says a boat racing is an obstruction only if they both "required to keep clear of her, give her room or mark-room or, if rule 22 applies, avoid her." If those words " give her room or mark-room" were removed, then White's case disappears. Black would only be an obstruction as long as both Grey and White are clear astern of her, and after that, Grey would be under no obligation to give White room to pass to leeward of Black.

This is the substance of the submission the Section C Working Party has put forward to ISAF. The definition Mark-Room would say "… However, a boat racing is not an obstruction to other boats unless they are required to keep clear of her or, if rule 22 applies, avoid her. …"

But wait; think about the following scenario:

Under the current definition, PW is an obstruction to both PL and SW because, even though she has right of way over neither of them, they both owe her room to pass Yellow. This means that SW must give PL room to pass between her and PW. Under the proposed definition, neither PL nor PW would be obstructions to SW. SW would still be required to give PL and PW room to pass SL because SL has right of way over all those boats; but why should SW give PL room to avoid PW?

The answer is a basic principle, not explicitly stated in the Racing Rules of Sailing, but nonetheless clearly implied: It is not seamanlike to break the rules. Because SW owes PL room to pass between her and SL, and because PL cannot do that without giving room to PW, thus SW must give PL room to give PW room.

Because this is not explicit in the rules, nor in the ISAF Cases, the Section C Working Group has proposed a new ISAF Case that makes this principle explicit.

So how does this pair of submissions solve problems as in the first example above? Well, under the proposed new definition of Obstruction Black would not be an obstruction to either Grey or White, so rule 19 does not apply. End of problem.

Before making these submissions, the working group spent a lot of time thinking of scenarios where the change to the definition of Obstruction might cause problems. Despite our efforts, we could think of none. Can you think of any place on the racecourse where the words "give her room or mark-room" are necessary in the definition of Obstruction? If you can, please let me know by commenting on this blogsite or contacting any of the members of the Section C Working Party. E-mail addresses for Ben Altman, Dick Rose and I are on the US SAILING website, at

I've copied the text from the doc in it's entirety. If you can answer Rob's question, don't hesitate to do so!

Friday 28 August 2009

Late entries

After work today, I have to rush to 'Langweer' the venue for one of my clubs annual event. This year it is a special event, since we hope to celebrate our 150-year anniversary. The club was founded in 1859 on August 10. We already had a small celebration with a book presentation on the exact date in the same café the club was founded in.... (For those of you who can read a little Dutch, go and visit

Anyway, weather permitting, we hope to sail two races this weekend and this evening the sailors can register and get there SI and program books. Because of this anniversary we have bought a small 'keepsake' for every competitor and we have special prizes because of it, as well.

Why am I telling you this, you might ask?

Well because of this, we are enforcing the cut-off date for entry - being Monday August 24th at 20:00 hours - very strict.

I have had several phone conversations with sailors or sailor’s parents, who were very disappointed and upset, that they could not participate, because they forgot to enter on time. (We always had a closing date in past years, but accepted late entries nevertheless - sometimes with an added late penalty fee.)
I even got a call from a regional level race-management committee-member.

So I'm explaining again and again to different people why we followed this policy. We talked about it in our regatta committee and weighed pros and cons.

For example, the number of prizes is related to the number of sailors. I.e. 5-7 entries = two prizes; 8-11 entries = 3 prizes; 12-17 entries = 4 prizes, etc. With late entries we sometimes go over to the next 'level' and then I have to disappoint someone who's winning the fourth place by not having the actual prize. If you are twelve, that's a big deal.

Even with a stiff late penalty fee, last year we had 25 to 30 latecomers. They did not blink and paid up. Even on Friday evening for some of them. Mind you, I was happy to get them, seeing the decline in numbers for a couple of years, but it is an impossible situation for organizers.

People deciding on the weather forecast for the next day if they are going racing, might sound perfect, but if you need to organize the race it is a nightmare. Not only the prizes, but almost everything is related to how many sailors will actually participate. From getting the scoring program up to date, to checking the licenses, to deciding how big the prize giving accommodation needs to be, to you name it.

Some of the comments I was getting this week:
- The class told us they would enter everybody together!
- Every club does this, why can't you?
- If I decline to receive any prize, can I sail?
- But we didn't get back from holiday until yesterday!

There's always a reason, always an excuse. Individually some of them even valid or - worse - heartbreaking.

Lately I'm beginning to think that accepting late entries so easily last couple of years was a big mistake. We should have made it harder to get in, not easier! Then participating is worth something, then if you sail you have made that decision on time and are prepared. Then you really want to do it!

No doubt, I will have to explain this a couple of more times, tonight.
Wish me patience....


Tuesday 25 August 2009

Static v Animation

During the SNEEKWEEK we used Boat Scenario from Thibaut Gridel to assist us in drawing situations.
I asked the team to give me some feedback about it's usage and possible some pointers for Thibaut.

Most of them had not seen the program before and we took a half an hour to go to the possibilities in the beginning of the week. Practically all picked up the skill to draw a fairly accurate digram during the rest of the event. But to be absolutely correct in a difficult protest does take more time then is usually available.
Perhaps we only need to use it more to get the skill to do it quickly?

Second point to improve is the possibility to draw boats who sail 'by the lee'. That cannot (yet) be done and is sometimes needed in a situation.

The wind is always coming from the top of the page. Personally I don't think that is a problem, but there were others who wanted to be able to put in their own wind direction or turn the diagram...

I think it is a very useful to be able to draw with a program like Boat Scenario. In a couple of cases it was a big help to let the sailors see what we found as facts...

Let's see how you do with the two following images: one static and one animated:

click on the picture to get the animation

Leave a comment if you spot who's breaking a rule.

Monday 24 August 2009

Question to the National Authority (RRS 70.4)

In the beginning of this year I asked a couple of question to our National Authority in accordance with rule 70.4. These questions are looked at by our National Appeals Committee: "De Zeilraad".
If you want to know what an Appeals Committee usually does, have a look at this post: Appealing the PC.

I asked about the right to appeal and the time allowed to do that:
Is an appeal valid if it is received within the time limit after receiving the written protest decision of an request of reopening which is denied, but after the time limit of receiving the written protest decision of the original protest?

In other words, someone appeals the decision of the protest committee after first having asked for reopening. That reopening is denied, but the time it takes to do that is very long. The appeal is then send in, after the time is should be send in if you start counting from the original decision.
If this is allowed you could theoretically keep asking for reopening and never loose the right to appeal.

Our National Appeals committee answered. They indeed allow an appeal to be send in after the request has been denied. The protest is not finished until the reopening has been decided. So the time starts after that decision has been made.
There's no specific rule about this in our rulebook - so they looked at how it is done in common law and criminal cases. There the right to appeal is also not lost if you ask for reconsideration.

Even if you don't have a written decision from the original protest, only from the request for reopening, our appeals committee will still look at all the facts found, conclusion and decision in that original protest. That was my second question.
Again the protest is not decided and is not "finished" until a request for reopening has been made.

The time it is allowed to send in is fifteen days - look at Appendix F, but you can extend that a litlle by asking for a reopening first...

Wednesday 19 August 2009

LTW Readers Q&A | Arbitration?

One of my regular readers send me an Email with some questions about Arbitration.

Perhaps some of your readers can help me with some questions regarding the Arbitration procedure.

I have checked the ISAFweb site, and the following ISAF Member Nations web sites, CYA(Canada), RYA(Great Britain), US Sailing(USA), and Yachting New Zealand(YNZ)
Here is what I have found so far on the subject of Arbitration.

The CYA has a document on their web site titled "Experimental Arbitration System".

The RYA has a document titled "RYA Racing Best Practices-Rules Disputes" that is quite extensive and thorough in describing their Arbitration procedure. Also, the RYA protest form includes a check box for Arbitration under "Type of Hearing Requested".

US Sailing discusses Arbitration in Chapter 8 of their Judges Manual and has a Judges form titled "Arbitration Report".

The ISAF describes the Arbitration procedure in chaper 10 of their International Judges Manual.

Also there is an ISAF "Racing Rules Reporting Committee" "Submission # 113-03" (not dated but may be from 2003) that recommended that the Appendix 8 (now Chapter 10) of the ISAF Judges Manual become an Appendix to the RRS. Obviously that has not happened.

The New Zealand Yachting federation discusses Arbitration in their "YNZ Regulations". Interestingly though it appears that New Zealand had an Appendix "Z" for the Arbitration procedure in their 2005-2008 rule book. But for 2009-2012 it has apparently been dropped as a prescription and is now their Regulation # 4.5.5. Also, in their (YNZ) Appendix L they include a couple of suggested SI's (1.7 and 16.2) for when Arbitration will be used. I find no other ISAF member nation that has changed ISAF Appendix L.

My questions are as follows.
  1. Why is there no ISAF Rules Appendix that describes the Arbitration procedure? Perhaps just advisory in nature, similar to Appendix M, or simply add an Arbitration procedure to Appendix M?
  2. Why does the ISAF Appendix L not provide the suggested SI's and text for an SI when Arbitration will be used?
  3. And, is there a reader of your blog that can furnish a copy of the text of the YNZ Appendix Z that was apparently a prescription to the New Zealand rules in 2005-2008?
  4. Can anyone in New Zealand explain why their Appendix Z of their 2005-2008 rule book was not in the 2009-2012 New Zealand rule book and instead became Regulation 4.5.5?

Dear Dick,

I have no answers for your queries. Locally I've tried arbitration for a couple of years, but it never caught on. Only some of the events - mostly youth classes - use it, in my neck of the woods. They follow pretty much the standard as described in the Judges Manual.

If you can help Dick with his questions, please leave a comment or mail me.


Tuesday 18 August 2009

Flog the Blog Day (21)

Since I shamelessly didn't post regularly last month, FTB-Day was missed as well.
You will search in vain for FTBD (20). Perhaps you can wield your cane twice as hard this time?

I've been contemplating stopping altogether - just didn't have the inspiration any more. Found it hard to write and generally didn't open a rulebook unless absolutely necessary. But I had a good "Sneekweek" with a nice team and now the vacations are over, I'm getting into a more steady routine again. Which also includes blogging....

I'm not promising anything - probably won't post daily any more - but I'll do my best to put up some interesting stuff, a little more regularly.

You can help with this. Please don't hesitate to send in your cases or photo's or situations or whatever. To start of: I received a link from one of my fellow umpires from Kielweek. I've downloaded the video. (Thanks Manuel!)

It shows a match with the new Elliot 6's during the Kiel week event. You can see Boguslaw and me in the umpire boat. The video shows a not very spectaculor race - something the spectators might find disappointing - but for us as umpires it's hard enough to be in the right place all the time and after so many flights per day - we had days with 15 fligths - hard enough to keep concentrated. I think we did okay in this one.

Monday 17 August 2009

ISAF Q&A | 034

ISAF Q&A 034 describes what is to be done when one of the gate marks is missing.

I found the second question the more interesting one. Imagine the confusion when boats start to claim mark-room at a - according to this Q&A - non-existing mark!
This illustrates perfectly that every sailor should - if there's any doubt about the application of mark-rules - stick to the basic's and us the ROW-rules of part A!

Monday 3 August 2009

Sneekweek 2009 Monday

I'm currently chairing the protest committee for the Sneekweek 2009. A big event on inshore water for one of my local clubs the KWS (Koninklijke Watersportvereniging Sneek). We have 760 boats in 36 classes, who do one race per day.

The discussion in our daily meeting this morning focussed on two issues.

The first one:

How far does the PC have to investigate a rules infringement which is not mentioned in the original protest but does happen within the same incident?

As an example: A boat alleges that the outside boat has not given mark-room after a luffing dual close to the zone. The PC finds as fact that the leeward boat did not enter the zone before bearing away and did give mark room. But because of another boat, which already passed the mark there might be a rule infringement of rule 19. The outside boat should perhaps have given more room for the inside boat to also pass to windward.

Regardless of the outcome of this example: The basic question is: Should this be investigated by the PC when both parties (and of course specially the ROW-boat) have no issue with this?


A boat is being protested and during or shortly before the hearing it decides to retire from the race. Nevertheless the protesting party wants to go through with the hearing because there was damage and he wants something on paper to send to the insurance.

Should the decision be: Protest dismissed? Or should the decision be: Protest is upheld, but there's no penalty because boat X has retired?

Please leave your comments.

I've been away from the blog for a couple of weeks - just didn't have inspiration and took a short break. I'll try to get things going again.
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