Sunday 1 June 2014

OCS; Are we missing something?

OCS; Are we missing something?
A guest post by Mike Butterfield (IRO, IU, IJ) GBR

Boats that are OCS are one of the big problems for race officers. We do have a number of tools at our disposal to deal with it but I wonder if we are missing a trick.

At the moment our first line of defense is the raise the “X” with it’s sound signal and as an alternative we can have a general recall with “1st Sub” and it’s two sounds. It just depends on how confident (and quick) we are in identifying the boats OCS before we make the decision.

We know with “X” we have about 5 seconds and this year I had one start where it stretched to 13 and Redress was given to the sailors. Incidentally as they did not return (which would have taken time) and they were given a 20% place penalty by the RYA Appeals panel.

In our race management training we accept we will not identify all boats OCS and ask our pin, what they have, and they reply with two numbers, those they have as over and those they can identify. From this and our observations we see if we have most boats and make our decision “X” or “1st” sub.
Now we know ISAF have Race Management policies for the Olympics and ISAF events which covers this point. In these guidelines we are told “When the race management team is satisfied that all boats over the line have been identified, an Individual Recall will be signalled.”

Now we have just noted we differ from the guidelines, by our two number system, to get a good percentage of boats identified before we call Individual Recall. What may be needed for the ISAF events is not what we necessarily need to worry about for fair day to day racing.

ISAF say in their Race Management Policies:
 “The Race Management Team will not signal an individual recall and then a general Recall.”
Now I have never seen it done, and nothing is said of it in training race officers, so it appears to be universally accepted – BUT WHY?!

To me within the time constraints we have (and put at 5 seconds) we have little enough time on the average start line to enable us to decide if we have identified all or most of the boats that are OCS.
What we do know is that we have OCS boats so it seems sensible to call for an “X” with its signal so we have this option available and we may see who starts to return relative to the numbers identified.

If after we have consulted our ARO (pin) and DRO (on committee boat) we are not satisfied we have identified enough boats what is unfair in going for the 1st Sub at this point. There does not appear to be an issue of fairness as we have called them all back.

I can see no real downside to this approach and would like to advocate we adopt this as a sound race management practice, or at least open a discussion on it. Anything that might save a good start is worth trying, and we know often if we go for general recalls we are rewarding those who pull the start over and force us to move to the Black Flag.

I think this new approach could assist in our race management practices and I ask you to consider it.
If there are comments please  use the comment box below.

Mike Butterfield

If any of you want to discuss this privately with Mike, send an Email to the blog email and I'll forward you Mike's email address.

Thursday 29 May 2014


The use of the Answering Pennant?

In a couple events fairly recently I was confronted with the use of the answering pennant - AP in short - in combination with a numeral pennant;
AP over one and a bunch of class-flags
AP over four with another set of class-flags.

Here's a picture from the last event I was attending; The Delta Lloyd Regatta. We had a beautiful week with lots and lots of sunshine but, alas, also a couple of days with less than perfect wind. In fact, no wind. Hence the postponements.

During the day, when these combination of flags were used, I was confronted with a couple of discussions about the exact meaning. I though it was obvious and had not considered the arguments given.

In my understanding the numeral pennant under the AP gives you the number of hours the start is postponed from the ORIGINALLY scheduled time.
For example: The Finns were scheduled to start at 14:00 hours (2PM)
AP over numeral pennant three over the Finn-class flag would make that start time: (2+3=5) Five o'clock.

At half past four the signal flags are changed and now the same flagpole shows:
AP over numeral pennant four over the Finn-class flag. That would make the start-time in my opinion: (2+4=6) Six o'clock.

But then someone argued: With the hoisting of the first flags the scheduled time becomes 17:00 hours (5PM). If you then hoist the AP over four, the new starting time must be taken from that new time
i.e.: (5+4=9) Nine o'clock in the evening.

So it depends what is meant by "scheduled" starting time. I am always using the 'scheduled' time as (obligatory) printed in the SIs. But was confronted with a couple of knowledgeable sailors who used the second system.

In my opinion the signal should be clear, precise and not being subject to any other possible interpretation. Suppose you use the number one pennant repeatedly?
The first one makes the (printed) schedules time an hour later. But the second one, two hours, and the third one, three hours later!
If any sailor missed looking at the mast and noticing that the one was lowered and hoisted again, he would have a hard time figuring out at what time he was suppose to start. In contrary to always using the printed (SI) time. No matter how long you haven't looked, the pennant shown is always added to the printed time and that gives you the new time.

I would appreciate some feedback and/or comments.

Monday 31 March 2014

Back to the Basics (Part 6); Room

A blog post in a series: Racing Rules for Novices*
(*I'm going to try to do one of these on Mondays)

In this series I would like to give you my insights into those issues in the Racing Rules for Sailing, that nine times out of ten are asked in one of my rules talks, I do for clubs, sailors and/or class organizations, during the winter season.

In a great many rules a boat is entitled to "room". Room to keep clear, room to sail a proper course, room to tack, etc. etc. Even the definition "Mark-room" starts by giving room to pass the mark on the required side.

Frequently I get questions about room involving a specific distance; "If I keep half a meter away from the other boat, do I give enough room?" or "10 centimetres was enough, wasn't it?"

Sometimes I feel almost guilty in having to answer: "It depends". The actual space and time a boat is entitled to when she's been given room under the rules is depending on a number of factors. These factors are all described in the definition of "ROOM";
Room: The space a boat needs in the existing conditions, including space to comply with her obligations under the rules of Part 2 and rule 31, while manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way.
Let's go over these factors one by one:
Existing conditions; 
These include things like wind-strength, wave-height and all other environmental conditions. A boat needs more distance in high wave, hard wind conditions then in no waves and low wind. If there are rolling waves shifting the boat to one side, the distance it needs is bigger then when these waves are not there. But existing conditions also include the boat-type. You can imagine that a laser doesn't need as much room as say, a tornado, or a 12 meter yacht.

Manoeuvring promptly;
A boat is entitled to the room it needs to do the manoeuvre efficiently and promptly. But she does not get more room, if the crew are beginners who need more time and space to, for example hoist a spinnaker, or gybe or any other manoeuvre. The rules make no allowances for incompetent boat handling. If you are still learning you better make sure you do it away from other boats, because mistakes may result in being protested for taking too much room.

In a seamanlike way;
You are allowed to manoeuvre in a seamanlike way; that is to say with sufficient regard for the safety of the boat and crew. The room you are entitled to, is not so small that only, for instance, a crash-gybe, is possible. Especially rule 15 and 16 are interpreted that way. A keep-clear boat must do everything to keep clear, but not so that only an unsafe - "unseamanlike" - manoeuvre accomplishes that. Than the room provided is not enough.

Including space to comply with her obligations under rules of Part 2 and rule 31;
This addition is from the latest rulebook. But in fact it was already more or less done that way for a long time. The middle boat in a three boat overlapped mark rounding has to give mark-room to the inside boat and that means that the outside boat has to give that middle boat room to not only round the mark in the existing conditions, manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way, but also room to be able to give room to the inside boat, which is more room than the previous three conditions provided.

If you consider all these conditions, then you can make an educated guess on the distances involved. An experienced sailor can usually tell if a boat takes more room than the definition provides. As a jury-member I usually ask the sailors at the table, if I don't know the boat well enough. And also going out on the water observing the racing boats can tell you a lot.

And finally the principle of last certainty applies. Only when it is quite clear that a boat is taking more room than she is entitled to, can you start concluding that a rule might be broken.

Monday 24 March 2014

Back to the Basics (Part 5); Barging II

A blog post in a series: Racing Rules for Novices*
(*I'm going to try to do one of these on Mondays)

In this series I would like to give you my insights into those issues in the Racing Rules for Sailing, that nine times out of ten are asked in one of my rules talks, I do for clubs, sailors and/or class organizations, during the winter season.

This post continues last week's post on barging. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do so now, here's the link: Back to the Basics (Part 4); Barging I

Barging boats break rule 11 by not keeping clear of the leeward boat. As I said, take away the committee boat, and you see immediately what is what. But that committee boat is there and at the end, it does have an effect on the situation.

This is because of rule 16.1; the rule that puts a general limitation on the right-of-way boat, in our situation the leeward boat. Rule 16.1 says. When a right-of-way boat changes course, it shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

Please compare these three situations:

  situation A
Blue sails a straight course toward the stern of the committee boat 
situation B
Blue leaves a gab, but luffs before reaching the committee boa.

situation C
Blue leaves a gab, and luffs next to the committee boat.

In situation A, the leeward (right-of-way) boat never changes course. Therefore it never has a rule 16.1 limitation and all barging boats must keep clear, without Leeward having to give them room to do so. If the windward boat forces the issue and Leeward is forced to go down - she has to, in order to comply with rule 14 - the windward boat has committed a serious breach of the rules and may well be penalized for rule 11 AND rule 2.

In situation B, the right-of-way boat initially leaves a gap between its course and the stern of the committee boat. Windward, can go there and is able to keep clear of Leeward. As long as both these conditions exist, this is within the rules. However, before Leeward reaches the committee boat, she luffs, closing the gap. Because she's changing course she must give room to Windward to luff as well and keep clear.

In situation C initially the same thing happens. But the luff made by Leeward is at a moment that Windward cannot luff any more without hitting the committee boat. She has no safe (seamanlike) 'escape,' any more. Because of this, although Windward is not keeping clear, she's now 'protected' by the general limitation of rule 16.1. If Leeward luffs, she does NOT give room to Windward to keep clear and therefore she is breaking rule 16.1 and Windward is exonerated for breaking rule 11.

What you have to take away from these situations is that either you leave no gab between the course you are sailing and the committee boat from the beginning, and if you do, to close it before the windward boat cannot go anywhere else. Once Windward gets her bow next to the committee boat you cannot force the issue any longer, without breaking a rule yourself.
This last part is that much harder if there is not one, but several boats to windward, who all want to barge in. Under the general limitation rule 16.1 they ALL have to be given room to keep clear.
Sailing a straight course is you safest bet....


Haven't chosen next week's issue yet, but am sure to come up with something.

If you want to go back to previous posts in this series, here are the links:
Back to the Basics (Part 4); Barging I
Back to the Basics (Part 3): Sweet Seventeen
Back to the Basics (Part 2): Where's the referee?
Back to the Basics (Part 1): Keeping Clear

Monday 17 March 2014

Back to the Basics (Part 4); Barging I

A blog post in a series: Racing Rules for Novices*
(*I'm going to try to do one of these on Mondays)

In this series I would like to give you my insights into those issues in the Racing Rules for Sailing, that nine times out of ten are asked in one of my rules talks, I do for clubs, sailors and/or class organizations, during the winter season.

This weeks issue is about Barging.
It looks like that I need more than one week to write this up, so next week I'll continue.

Two Traditional Thames Barges in the Lower Thames Estuary, 1935
The dictionary has a whole list of explanations when you type in the word "barging". What is most obvious when reading that list, is that "barging" is associated with rude behaviour, to barge in when not appropriate, aggressively and clumsily. In short; a foul nobody wants to make...... or is it?

Barging in sailing happens very early in the race, before the starting signal and is mostly done either by boats who have no clue about the rules or are especially inapt in timing there approach to the start. But wait, it is also done by people who think they can get away with it, because if successful, it has potentially great benefits. The boat that is most close to the committee boat gets free air and can tack as she pleases.

Let us first have a look at why this rule infringement - basically a very simple windward-leeward issue - is still misunderstood by so many.

It begins with that there is a mark involved; a mark of the starting line. That mark can be - and in many cases is - a committee boat. The committee boat at the end of the starting line - if so described in the sailing instructions - is a mark of the starting line, and boats must pass it on the correct side in order to sail the course.

That committee boat is also - by definition - an obstruction. When sailing directly towards it and one of her hull lengths from it, a boat must make a substantial course change to avoid it. The committee boat is big enough to fall into that category, hence it is "an obstruction"

These two facts about the committee boat - it being a mark and also an obstruction - leads by many to the assumption that the rules, governing mark rounding (RRS18) and passing obstructions (RRS19), apply. And that is - surprisingly - partly true.
But - and this is the part a lot of sailors have a hard time grasping - NOT when boats are approaching the committee boat to start, until they have passed it.

The preamble specifically switches off section C (all rules regarding marks and obstructions) during that very brief period. When boats are sailing around in the start area, a couple of minutes before the start and they happen to pass the committee-boat together, overlapped, rule 19 is applicable. Only during the short time approaching the startline these rules are switched off.

So, depending on the type of boat your are sailing, how good you are in slow speed and the angle of approach, that time may vary from a minute or two to 10 seconds before the starting signal.
During that time the rules that dictate the situation are only the rules in section A, B and D. With rule 11 (Windward must keep clear of Leeward) the main right-of-way rule. During that time, windward boats are not entitled to room from the leeward boats to pass the committee boat on the specified side. They are not allowed to barge in.
Both Red boats are "barging", trying to get to the starting line. This is not permitted.

Because of this, an accurate depiction of the situation would be to forget the committee boat and treat the situation as if it was not there. In open water, a windward boat would have no doubt that she could not come down. She would know she had to keep clear. (This is an oversimplification, but on that subject more next week)

To make things even more complicated, there is an exception. If the starting mark (i.e. the committee (boat) is for example on the end of a long pier and therefore NOT surrounded by navigable water, the preamble of Section C does not kick in and rule 19 is once more applicable. In other words, if barging boats have no water to escape on the outside of the starting mark, you have to let them in, you have to give them room. This is not something that happens in normal racing, but I have seen Extreme Sailing Series races, in very narrow and restricted waters, where the committee boat was so close to a harbour wall that, for all intends and purposes, it was no longer surrounded by navigable water. So it does happen, occasionally.

The leeward boat can sail is high as she wants, it does not have to be close-hauled. Even with a rule 17 restriction she may go up to head-to-wind. All windward boats have stop or tack or whatever it takes, to keep clear.

If you can't wait for next week, you can go back to one of my earlier posts on barging:

Otherwise, to be continued.

Next week: Barging II

Previous episodes in this series:
Back to the Basics (Part 3): Sweet Seventeen
I am a little disappointed that no courageous sailor, umpire or judge came up with an answer to my last question. Fear not, you can keep trying, I'm not going to tell you.
Back to the Basics (Part 2): Where's the referee?
An uniform is not required, but did you check if the B-flag was where it was suppose to be?
Back to the Basics (Part 1): Keeping Clear

Wednesday 12 March 2014

ISAF Q&A's; Five new ones!

The panel has awakened from it's long winter-break, or so it looks. I received five new Q&A's in my mailbox. Some also very 'useful' for Race Committees.

Q&A 2014.002 B008
As the B indicates, this one is for boats; a clarification on a previous Q&A from 2013, number 017 B005 to be exact. In order to understand the question (and answers) you need at least this diagram:

Diagram from Q&A 2013.017 B005
Both Q&A's, the new one and the one from 2013, hinge on one issue: Has the Blue given mark-room (pas tense) or does she still have to. For (yellow) sailors: If you want to avoid this 'nitpicking' by the rules gurus: Don't go around the mark with so much leeway, stay close, gybe round it and you are covered.....

Q&A 2014.003 F002
Race committees, please pay attention. The Q&A Panel is putting the hammer down. Results are no longer provisional, final or any other adjective you care to give them: They are, from this day forward "RESULTS". Make it so!

Q&A 2014.004 L002
When it rains, it pours. Race Committee, you are again ordered to change your wicked ways. No more multi-discipline races with boards, boats and what not. They can be harmful to your health and create risk of collision, damage and injury.

Q&A 2014.005 F003
Will they never stop? Again and again the poor line-sighting volunteers get it wrong. Identifying wrong boats under the black flag. No wonder the Q&A-panel has to step in, to sort this mess.
No, wait.. at the end a sailor is also ....
Well, you should find out yourself, I can't bear this any more...

Q&A 2014.006 K002
I'm glad this is the last one. The RC has enough on their plate for now. At least this one is about ties in Match Racing. A favourite subject by far, among the scoring people who are volunteering to do it.

Perhaps a decent flow-chart would help. What do you think?


Ooh, I almost forgot: Here's the link to the updated booklet: ISAF Q&A Booklet
Put it in your library now, before you are caught, not having it.... and the Panel comes after YOU!

Monday 10 March 2014

Back to the Basics (Part 3): Sweet Seventeen

A blog post in a series: Racing Rules for Novices*
(*I'm going to try to do one of these on Mondays)

In this series I would like to give you my insights into those issues in the Racing Rules for Sailing, that nine times out of ten are asked in one of my rules talks, I do for clubs, sailors and/or class organizations, during the winter season.

This weeks issue is about rule 17.
Why is rule 17 so difficult for many sailors? Or  - a better analysis - why is "Hé you, so and so [insert appropriate swearword], sail your proper course" so frequently heard on the racecourse, when it is, even without the swearword, completely inappropriate?

First of all, ask yourself, do I understand what "Proper Course" actually is?
If yes, skip one and go to two. If you're not sure, start with one.

Proper Course is defined in the rulebook.
A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term. A boat has no proper course before her starting signal
"A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible...."?

We all know that when you are racing you want to finish as soon as possible - no wait, that's not correct - you want to finish before the other boats do! That means you sometimes want to sail a course that benefits that last goal, but is not the fastest way to finish. If you are the right-of-way boat, you will be able to sail any course you want - provided you don't break a rule. Well, nowhere in the whole rulebook is any rule that states you MUST sail your proper course. So, even when most times, most boats do sail to finish as fast as possible, there's no obligation to do so.

And to make things even more complicated, there might be more than one course that lets you get to the finish faster. Sometimes it is just choosing what you think is best.
There's a patch of wind 50 meters to the left; luff up, go there, and you might gain enough to compensate (and more) for the extra distance you sailed. Than that IS a proper course. As long there is a reasonable assumption that the course you are sailing, might get you to the finish faster, it is - by definition - a proper course.

" absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using that term" ?
Let us have a look at which rules are using the term:
Definition Mark-Room:  The other boat is the boat that must give you that Mark-Room
Rule 17: The other boat is the boat to windward you are making an overlap with.
Rule 18.1(b): The other boat is the boat on the opposite tack.
Rule 18.2(c)(2): The other boat is in fact your boat.
Rule 18.4: The other boats are any other boats. The rule actually has no other boat(s)
Rule 24.2: The other boat is the boat taking a penalty or sailing on another leg.
(there are a couple more in the appendixes, but those you can figure out yourself)

If you encounter a situation with multiple boats, the definition does NOT "take away" all those other boats to determine what the course would have been to finish as soon as possible, only the boats that I indicated in the list with rules.

Lets do an example:
Grey has a rule 17 limitation; Is she sailing above her proper course?
Green is taken out (of the picture). What is the answer now?

Two boats sailing on a beam reach encounter a third who luffs. Grey has a rule 17 limitation. She's shall not sail above her proper course. But because she has to keep clear of Blue, she has to luff and forces Green to go up with her. Now Grey is surely sailing above her proper course! Or is she?
The "other boat" referred to in rule 17 is Green. So take away Green.
Then you are left with Grey and Blue, and in absence of Green, Grey would also have luffed to keep clear. In order to finish as fast as possible (without breaking a rule) she must go up. Therefore she is still sailing her proper course. cah-PEESH?

"... A boat has no proper course before her starting signal"

That, as they say, is more or less self-explanatory. You can't sail a course to finish before the starting signal. Or, any course is good. Even head-to-wind.

So, finally we arrive at


Because most boats want to get to the finish as soon as possible, thinking that that is the whole ballgame - which it is, most of the time, but not always - they assume every other boats must do the same. So when they are held up, usually by a boat that luffs them, or sails a course they don't think is faster to the finish, they get frustrated and start yelling about "proper course".

It is only ever useful, when that other boat has a rule 17 limitation. If that other boat has not, she can sail any course she wants and boats that have to keep clear of her, must keep clear, Regardless if that forces them on a course away from the finish.....
Only a right-of-way boat can HAVE a rule 17 limitation. A keep clear boat never has. And that limitation under rule 17 can only happen to a right-of-way boat, when a set of four conditions are fulfilled. ALL of them. Not one, not two or three, all of them.
Those conditions are:
  • The boats are on the same tack
  • The boat comes from clear astern
  • She makes the overlap to leeward of the other boat
  • The distance between the boats is less than two hull lengths (with two different size boats, the hull length of the leeward boat)
If one of these conditions does not apply, or no longer applies, rule 17 does not apply, or no longer applies. The limitation is lifted, when a boat gybes. It is lifted when the distance becomes more than two hull lengths. It never applies when the overlap is to windward. It never applies when the boat is tacking into that leeward position.... etc. Remember? All of them.


I'm skipping three, four, five all the way to sixteen, so we finally can get to:


Under a rule 17 limitation a right-of-way boat SHALL not sail above her proper course.
(we used to have a rule restricting sailing below a proper course, but those days are over, forget that)

'Above her proper course'.... hmmm....
The keep-clear boat might have another idea about what a proper course is..... well, tough, she's not the one choosing. The right-of-way boat has that privilege.
The keep-clear boat might think the right-of-way boat IS sailing above her proper course. Again, tough luck, it does not mean she no longer has to keep clear.

I'm doing an animation again. In most rule-talks that seems to work best:

Course to the next mark (Finish) is downwind after the mark.
Two boats, approach a windward mark to be left to port, before going downwind toward the finish.

In position 1, Purple on starboard-tack, establishes an overlap from clear astern, with Grey on the same tack. The distance is less than two hull lengths, therefore from that moment on, Purple has a rule 17 limitation. Purple shall not sail above her proper course.

In position 4 Purple luffs head-to-wind. Is she sailing above her proper course?
According to the definition we first must take away the "other boat" mentioned in the rule. That is Grey in this case. Would Purple have headed up, to finish as soon as possible, in the absence of Grey?
Answer is yes, Purple would have done the same. Shooting the mark takes her to the finish sooner.
In position 4 Purple is NOT sailing above her proper course.

Now we look at positions 5 and 6. Is the rule 17 limitation lifted? Or, does one of the conditions no longer apply? Answer is no. She still has a rule 17 limitation.
Next, take away Grey. Would Purple sail the same course, to finish as soon as possible, if Grey was not there? Answer is NO!
Purple would have gone down toward the finish. So in positions 5 and 6 she IS sailing above her proper course and breaks rule 17. Note: Grey is keeping-clear. If she wouldn't, she also would break a rule (rule 11)

Sweet enough for you?

I'm leaving you with some "homework":
Please tell me what Purple has to do, in the same animation, so she can sail this course without breaking rule 17?


Next week: Barging

Previous episodes in this series:
Back to the Basics (Part 2): Where's the referee?

Back to the Basics (Part 1): Keeping Clear

Saturday 8 March 2014

Match Racing with a Leeward Gate

Perhaps for some of you not completely new, but for a lot of sailors and umpires it still is: a new course configuration in Match Racing. Specifically, the use of a Gate instead of a single leeward mark. I myself first encountered this set-up last year, in a German National MR championship in Berlin. And this year we use it locally at the Team Heiner Spring Match Racing 2014 series in Lelystad. I like it!

When is the Alpari  WMRT going to use a Leeward Gate?
I've uploaded a couple of papers written by Dave Perry, - 4-time US Match Racing Champion, 2-time Congressional Cup winner & Chairman, US Match Racing Committee - about the subject. I agree
with his rationale and assessment one hundred percent. You can find the links at the end of the post.
He writes about:
  1. The race course in match racing should provide the most opportunities for the trailing boat to pass the leading boat while still maintaining a fair test of skill.
  2. A well set gate opens up the game tactically for the trailing boat, and gives them some options that can increase their chances of passing the leader
  3. The race course configuration should be whatever provides for the best game for the competitors and spectators / media
The leading boat has the advantage of being able to choose which gate mark to round; the trailing boat has the advantage of being able to choose to round the same mark as the leader, or not. This makes the game much more interesting for both boats, and makes rounding behind the leader much less disadvantageous.

When the trailer rounds the same mark as the leader (which they are forced to do with a single leeward mark), they have two not-great choices: stay on the same tack and sail in the disturbed air and water of the leader; or tack (often when downspeed after the rounding). The problem is usually that the leader will tack with the trailer, ending up in a very strong position to start the second beat.

With a second mark to choose from, the trailer will normally round the other mark than the leader did, starting the beat in clear air and water, and out of phase with the leader. This opens up far more tactical options for attacking and trying to pass, or stay close to, the leader.

In the German Championship last year the outcome of the Matches was never clear until at least the second upwind mark. Because of the gate the trailing boat - if not too far behind already - had a fighting chance to get back in the game. Some sailors grumbled - they had to sail that much harder to stay in front, some sailors loved it - they could get past the leading boat. The match got more exciting and not boring in the second half, as you see with a lot of matches.

Of course everybody has to figure out what the best attack and defence manoeuvres are, with a gate. But once you do, the game gets more interesting.

As an umpire I had no trouble using the rules around the gate. We had to find the best position for our rib, but that was sorted out quickly - just trail the boats going trough.

I'm uploading a video a friend made in the TH Spring Match Race. This was shot during in the semi-finals on board of an umpire boat.

The trailing boat takes the left hand gate mark and immediately gets clear air and out of sinc with the leading boat. Instead of having to follow....

Perhaps you'd like to try this in your local Match Races? In the second paper there's some advice on how to re-write your NoR and SI's to do this.

Let me know how it goes!
Next step: Windward gates?


Papers by Dave Perry:
Tactics at Leeward Gates in Match Racing.pdf
Use of Gates in Match Racing.pdf

Thursday 6 March 2014

Basic Principle & the 35th America's Cup

Going trough the last America's Cup Racing Rules I noticed that the Basic Principle as printed in the RRS was not used. I asked some people connected to the AC and was told that because of rule 2, rule 69 in the RRSAC and art. 60 in the Protocol (code of conduct), the basic principle was not needed.
(The protocol can be found here: The Protocol Governing the 34th America's Cup
And article 60 is in one of the amendments:  Protocol Amendment No.11
And the latest RRSAC (v1.20) are here: ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing AC Edition v 1.20 )

For the most part I can agree with this. Rule 2 covers good sportsmanship and fair play, rule 69 covers more serious breaches and misconduct. And article 60 in the protocol more than covers anything that is done or said or written (negatively) about the AC.

But the Basic Principles in the RRS does one thing more, in my opinion. 
I quote:
Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire."
Nowhere else in the rules it is written that competitors are expected to 'enforce' the rules. All rules involving protest all have the word "may" which is permissive, not mandatory (shall).
A boat may protest another boat, but there is no obligation in rule 60.1

The only place there is any expectation that boats should do anything, against another boat that is breaking a rule, is in the basic principles.

Please don't misunderstand, even with the basic principle this obligation is in practice, pretty weak, but in the 34th AC even that was missing.

I would like to hear your opinion. Should the Basic Principle; Sportsmanship and the Rules be included in the next America's Cup or not?
Rules - 35th America's Cup?


I wrote this some time ago, but in light of Monday's blogpost thought it would fit...

Monday 3 March 2014

Back to the Basics (Part 2): Where's the referee?

A blog post in a series: Racing Rules for Novices*
(*I'm going to try to do one of these on Mondays)

Where's the referee? 
Or, why is there never anybody around to see all those infringements?

In this series I would like to give you my insights into those issues in the Racing Rules for Sailing, that nine times out of ten are asked in one of my rules talks, I do for clubs, sailors and/or class organisations, during the winter season.

To answer this week's questions, we will have to go into the rules that make the sport of sailing pretty much unique. Sailing is one of the few sports - perhaps only Golf  is the other one - that is mostly done without someone "refereeing". We don't have a couple of persons, dressed in black and white, zipping around in little rubber boats, blowing whistles and penalizing boats. Or do we?

Look at what is written in one of the BASIC PRINCIPLES:
Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.
Right in the middle, as if it wants to hide, is the word "enforce".
Competitors are expected to ENFORCE the rules. In other words, you yourselves are the referees when racing, you are the ones with the whistle. You do not need to get a black shirt, you don't need an actual whistle (shouting "Protest" is good enough) but you are still the ones who control which infringements are called out.

My analogy is a little overstated, I know, but that is how you should approach it. When you are agrieved by the actions of another boat, you must decide what you want to do. Either put up with it, and not complain that somebody should do something, or, as the basic principle is stating, enforce the rules and protest. Put up or shut up - that's the phrase, isn't it?

This self-regulation in sailing is deeply woven into all rules. For example, even when there are "umpires" on the water - like in match racing or team racing - they seldom penalize on their own. First a boat must protest another, by showing the protest flag, only then the umpires respond by assigning blame and giving out a penalty. (There are exceptions, but they almost all have to do with deliberately breaking a rule, or when no other boat is around to protest).
Even in the protest hearing this principle is upheld. All parties are expected to present "their" case in the best possible way as to convince the Jury that their facts are what has happened.

Back to the race course. You "blow your whistle" whenever you are involved or see a boat breaking a rule. And you are expected to do this as soon as reasonable possible. You wouldn't accept a football referee blowing a whistle half a minute after a tackle when the game has already progressed because of the foul... (excuse me, soccer referee).
By shouting "protest" the other boat becomes aware - if she doesn't already know - that they might have broken a rule. They have a choice then too. That boat can either take a penalty, usually a Two-Turns Penalty or, well, not.
If not, the ball is again in your court. If you feel strongly enough about the issue, you then can lodge a written protest with the Jury or Protest Committee. But that's again, up to you. You are expected to enforce, but it's your decision. Nobody will penalize you for not doing it, but you must then also accept the outcome.

Once the protest has been handed in, the PC will schedule a hearing and invite all parties to come to tell their stories about what happened. Parties can bring witnesses to help with their side. But the whole process starts on equal footing. The PC does not give the protester more "weight" because they brought the issue. The incident is decided on "a balance of probability", as close to the truth as they can get.

If you think that the PC will sort out the problem for you, you are in error. Even then YOU enforce the rules, so you better get all your ducks in row and be convincing.

Oh, on a final note, being a referee is not always the most thankful job. Usually nobody likes the person who's telling them that they are doing something wrong. It is a little mitigated in the rules, in that protest are "against" boats, not against a person. But I admit that that maybe only semantics....


Next week: Sweet seventeen

Previous episodes in this series:
Back to the Basics (Part1): Keeping Clear

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Rule 14; Always a mess?

Why is the application  of rule 14 always such a mess?

Couple of observations:
  • Rule 14 is in part B, and part B mostly restricts the rights of the right-of-way boat. Does part B have any rules on the keep clear boat?
  • If the ROW boat does nothing - or worse - the wrong manoeuvre, is the keep clear boat still breaking rule 14?
  • If the keep clear boat is doing everything, even turning as fast  as she can, at the last minute, and still there's contact, because the ROW boat does not enough, is the keep clear boat still breaking rule 14?
I've send in a Q&A a couple of years back, about rule 14. I've found it in my archive, but be aware, it is NO longer in the Q&A booklet!
In later Q&A booklets it became 2011-028, and 2013-005 and now it is in de Casebook under number 123 (reversed upwind, but still)

Now for the new situation: It is from an Extreme Sailing Series event last year.
Here is the animation:
(I'm sorry about the quality - if you click on full screen it is a little better)

Alinghi is slightly changing course all the way, from the moment SAP has gybed, almost hunting them. But because the umpire boat is parallel to them, the Umpires fail to notice this, they cannot see this. And after protests from both boats SAP is penalized on the water for not keeping clear under rule 10. When boats are less than half a length apart, Alinghi gybes and luffs hard. Nevertheless there is contact with the aft quarter of SAP's port hull and Alinghi's starboard bow, resulting in damage. The bow of Alinghi is cracked and there are some scratches of the hull of SAP.

Now, IF Alinghi had gone the other way - and behind SAP - there would have been no contact. The course change was very minor that way. There was no reason that it couldn't have done this, other than loosing places in the race. Wind was slight, maybe 4 knots. Boats were not moving very fast.

SAP, having a view that allowed them to actually see the course change by Alinghi, claimed that they would have crossed IF Alinghi hadn't changed course - from the beginning. SAP was of the opinion that, because of this, they were not given room to keep clear. Once they had gybed they could do nothing else than speed up as best they could.... Gybing back would have made things worse.

Alinghi claimed, they had to come up fast, at the last possible moment, to avoid a collision. They did their very best, but it wasn't enough, and there was contact.

Because of the low quality of the video, I've tried to re-create the tracking in an animation:

My question to you: Did only one of the boats break rule 14? Or maybe both?
Please don't go back to the Part Two rules issue. Right or wrong, that was an umpire decision.
And tell me if Case 123 helps you answer.

Monday 24 February 2014

Back to the Basics (Part1): Keeping Clear

A blog post in a series: Racing Rules for Novices*
(*I'm going to try to do one of these on Mondays)

An explanation and cases for the definition "KEEP CLEAR"

In this series I would like to give you my insights into those issues in the Racing Rules for Sailing, that nine times out of ten are asked in one of my rules talks I do for clubs, sailors and/or class organisations, during the winter season.

KEEP CLEAR; one of the definitions in the rulebook;
Let me start by telling you that it is NOT the same as in, for example, the traffic rules. One car has right-of-way, the other car SHALL give priority to the right-of-way car and do nothing to interfere with its normal operation, wherever (within the boundaries of normal traffic) that car may want to go.
Giving priority: allowing certain drivers to proceed without obstructing their way; (From Road traffic signs and regulations in the Netherlands)
In the RRS the "keep-clear" boat has (only) a very specific set of obligations to fulfil, which are a lot less than never interfering with the "right-of-way" boat (ROW boat). If a boat keeps doing those obligations, nothing more, nothing less, she is doing what the rules say she must and she does not break a rule in Part 2, section A. She is then, by definition, "keeping clear".

Lets analyse what is written:
Keep Clear A boat keeps clear of a right-of-way boat
(a) if the right-of-way boat can sail her course with no need to take avoiding action and,
(b) when the boats are overlapped, if the right-of-way boat can also change course in both directions without immediately making contact.

So whether the keep-clear boat fulfils obligation (a) is depending on the ROW boat. That boat must be able to sail her course - the course she chooses to sail - without having the feeling that she cannot do this, because there is another boat she needs to avoid.

Now the first thing you might want to ask is; One helmsman is not the same as another helmsman?
A beginner might feel the need to avoid much sooner that an experienced skipper. In a big boat you might want to avoid sooner than in a small boat.... Alas, the rules do not specify.
If you take the risk of getting close to a right-of-way boat, you take on the risk that she might feel the need to take avoiding action. There is a limit of course. Any PC will want to have an  understanding that the ROW boat indeed reasonably might feel that need to avoid.

What about a save distance?
Six boat lengths is fine, nobody will reasonably think that a right-of-way boat needs to do anything. One boat length might be too close and half a boat length is most likely getting you into trouble. It also depends on where the closest distance occurs.

Port passing in front of Starboard
Port passing behind Starboard

Ten centimetres passing in front of a right-of-way boat is NOT keeping clear, ten centimetres passing behind a right-of-way boat, is.

The most talked about case in the Casebook is Case 50, dealing with exactly this issue. In short: If a port tack boat passes in front of a starboard tack boat, and the latter changes course, claiming she felt the need to take avoiding action, the port tack boat must convince (read: proof to) the PC that the course change by the starboard tack boat was unnecessary. If Port cannot do this, she is NOT keeping clear. Even if the shortest distance was several meters.
If you "get" case 50, you understand part (a) of the definition.

In short, there is no fixed distance. But the closer you get, the more risk you take.

Obligation (b) is a little more complicated.

When boats are overlapped, most likely they are sailing on a parallel course, next to each other. No matter how close the keep-clear boat is getting, as long as the ROW boat is sailing a straight course, the windward boat is fulfilling obligation (a). The ROW boat CAN sail her course without the need to take avoiding action. Save it for situations involving heavy seas, that distance can be pretty close. Certainly less than half a boat length.

Is Windward still keeping clear all the time?
Nevertheless is the windward boat - the keep-clear boat under rule 11 - in this situation, NOT keeping clear, now under obligation (b). The ROW boat must be able to change course (in both directions) WITHOUT immediately making contact. From position 3 to 6 the leeward boat cannot luff (or bear off) without immediately hitting the windward boat.
Be aware, under the current rules you can also have an overlap with a boat on opposite tack! For instance, when both are sailing a course below ninety degrees from true wind.

This brings us to the rest of the Casebook. Besides the already mentioned Case 50, there are five more dealing with the definition of "keep clear" specifically:

Case 30 
A boat clear astern that is required to keep clear but collides with the boat clear ahead breaks the right-of-way rule that was applicable before the collision occurred. A boat that loses right of way by unintentionally changing tack is nevertheless required to keep clear.
(pillow)Case of the week (51/11) – 30

Case 60
When a right-of-way boat changes course in such a way that a keep-clear boat, despite having taken avoiding action promptly, cannot keep clear in a seamanlike way, the right-of-way boat breaks rule 16.1.
(pillow)Case of the week (34/11) – 60

Case 77:
Contact with a mark by a boat’s equipment constitutes touching it. A boat obligated to keep clear does not break a rule when touched by a right-of-way boat’s equipment that moves unexpectedly out of normal position.
(pillow)Case of the Week (36) – 77;

Case 88
A boat may avoid contact and yet fail to keep clear.
(pillow)Case of the Week (27) – 88;

Case 91
The fact that a boat required to keep clear is out of control does not entitle her to exoneration for breaking a rule of Part 2. When a right-of-way boat becomes obliged by rule 14 to ‘avoid contact . . . if reasonably possible’ and the only way to do so is to crashgybe, she does not break the rule if she does not crash-gybe. When a boat’s penalty under rule 44.1(b) is to retire, and she does so (whether because of choice or necessity), she cannot then be disqualified.
(pillow)Case of the Week (17) - 99

[Note: I still have to update all the cases with the terminologies of the 2013-2016 rules. Don't worry, the principle (outcomes) in all cases have not changed. If you want to read the latest text, please have a look in the new Casebook. You can find it here on the ISAF website: The Case Book]

Back to the NOT interfering I mentioned in the beginning. Nowhere in the definition of keeping clear is anything written about "not interfering". As long as the keep-clear boat fulfils her obligations (a and/or b) she CAN interfere with the right-of-way boat. In fact, match racers do nothing else but interfere and usually as the keep-clear boat.

If you have specific situations or questions, please don't hesitate to email or write a comment.

Next week (Part 2): Where's the referee?


Sunday 23 February 2014

Feedburner Email Services Restored

Looks like the email service by Feedburner has been restored. If all is as it should be, you've now received at least two blogposts through Feedburner.

While updating you from my own computer - using the mailing list downloaded from Feedburner - I got a whole bunch of messages with delivery failures. It is my own fault, I haven't been blogging, so changes in your Email addressees were not noticed before.

Some 45 people, previously included in the mailing list, have not received any update because of this.
So if you read this post, and have NOT gotten any updates in your mail, there's a big chance that your Email address is no longer valid.

The only solution, if you want to receive mails from LTW, is to re-subscribe with a working Email address. Use the button below or the one on the top left...

My apologies for the hassle.

I'm in the process of deleting all the old (not valid) email addresses from the mailing list in Feedburner.

Subscribe by Email

Yours truly, behind his desk, preparing the next post.....
Well actually, I'm not at home at the moment, I'm on the water umpiring
in a 2K Team Race event in Medemblik from the DMTRA....

Saturday 22 February 2014

New Rapid Response Team Racing Call

Isaf published a new Rapid Response Team Racing Call, the first one in 2014:
Available at the following link: Rapid Response TR Call 2014.001

It deals with exoneration when no boat protests:

Y is overlapped on the inside of B when B enters the zone of a mark to be rounded to port. The umpires agree that Y touched the mark. No boat protests and no boat takes a penalty. What action should the umpires take?

If the umpires decide that B gave Y mark-room, they should act under rule D2.3(a) and penalise Y for breaking rule 31.

If the umpires decide that Y touched the mark because B failed to give her mark-room, they should make no signal. Y broke rule 31 by touching the mark; however, she was sailing within the mark-room to which she was entitled and is exonerated under rule 21(b).

Although B broke rule 18.2(b), she cannot be penalised under rule D2.2 because no boat protested, and rule D2.3 does not permit umpires to initiate a penalty when a boat on the other team breaks a rule of Part 2.

I think this RR Call was published because Appendix D does not have a simular rule as in Appendix C. In Match Racing that rule states:
C8.1(b) Rule 64.1(a) is changed so that the provision for exonerating a boat may be applied by the umpires without a hearing, and it takes precedence over any conflicting rule of this appendix.
Do we need wording added to Appendix D?
What do you think?

Thursday 20 February 2014

Starting; a three mark solution.

Traditionally in fleet racing the starting line is a 'line' on the water perpendicular to the wind and defined by two marks on either end. The Race committee vessel as a mark on the starboard side and a 'pin' boat or mark on the other end. By moving the pin upwind or downwind the RO can influence the angle of the line and make it more or less favoured at one end.

Several larger fleets have run into trouble with this traditional set-up.
Because of the number of boats the line becomes impossibly long. (The standard formula for the length of the line is hull-length times X number of boats times 1,5). For instance; a fleet of twenty 'Valken' (6.5 m1) is 20x6,5x1,5= 195 meter. But if you take 72 Melges 24's you get: 72x24x1,5=2591 feet = just shy of 800 meters!
Even with a double pair of eyes on each end, chances are the Race Committee is not going to be able to recognize all boats who are OCS.....

So, large fleets get split up into groups, and those groups get hustled for two separated starts.
(A-B/C-D. A-C/B-D, A-D/B-C), Half the fleet, half the length of the line and 400 meter is manageable. After three races the fleet is split into gold and silver. Top and bottom half of the results.

Many classes hate group sailing. You never compete to all in all races and the split is always disappointing to some. Sailors want large fleets where everybody participates.

At a Melges 24 European Championship I was attending this summer, the class and Race Officer had found a different solution. Perhaps not new for you, but it was my first time seeing it on the water. They did not use two marks on the starting line, but three!

The Race committee vessel took station in the middle and there were two pin ends. One on the left and one on the right. The line was split into two lines. Here's a diagram:

three mark starting line

The advantages in sighting are clear. By adding a middle boat with two pairs of eyes on each side, you half the change that an OCS boat is missed. The line is effectively only 400 meters even with 70 Melges. The whole fleet can be started in one go.

Mind you, there are also some problems to solve. The first being that it is much harder to line up three boats exactly perpendicular to the wind. specially in shifty conditions. And that is very much needed!

If the RC doesn't, all the 70 boats will go to one end and you will have too many boats starting on too short a line. But in all fairness, that can also happen with a two mark line.

Secondly is the 'return round the end' rule. (rule 30.1)
With long lines the India flag is effectively as deadly as a Black. Boats starting in the middle who find themselves over the line have to sail so far and long to get to an end, that they might as well quit. They'll never catch up with the fleet.

So how to use the middle boat? If rule 30.1 isn't 'tweaked' you end up with boats returning around the middle boat from both ends and crossing behind the committee boat on different tacks. The Melges class have a 'adjustment' of rule 30.1 in their Sailing Instructions.

Both OCS boats have to start on the right....

This way returning boats comply with the requirements of rule 30.1 but always on the same tack. Much easier to sort out right of way and keeping clear.

And lastly you do need more people sighting on the starting line. The communications calling OCS is more complicated as the number of rubber boats is one more...

The three days I spent on the water with the Melges 24 class I saw this set-up. It works! You have a shorter line manageable by the RC and still a large fleet of 70 boats starting at the same time. When the fleet bunched up at one end the RO usually had to call them back with a general recall, or postpone before the signal, but that would have happened on a two mark line as well.

So next time you get a request from a class with many boats you can offer them this solution. You'll have some work to (re)train your race committee volunteers, but it might be worth doing..

Please leave a comment if you have done this three mark starting line set up before...
And tell what you think about it.

Tuesday 18 February 2014


Published on the ISAF web site; 
International Sailing Federation
Guidelines for the Use of Social Media
by ISAF Race Officials 
I know it is hard in a "commission-run" federation, especially one that has to operate with people from all over the world and one that gets "new" commissions every four years. But I've been waiting for this since 2010. It took only four years to get to this one piece of paper.....
Here is the link: ROC Social Media Guidelines

Some excerpts:
1.2 Restricting the use of social media is not designed to inhibit freedom of speech or rights to privacy, but it is inevitable that appointment as a race official means the official must limit their use of such tools in order to comply with their duties as an official.
2.2 A competitor can say to the media that a decision is bad, the call was wrong, the race committee or the measurer made a mistake etc. But,except in authorised circumstances, a race official must not disclose confidential information. In particular:
(a) Except the official facts found, conclusion and decision, a judge serving on a panel should not disclose any other information about the hearing or the panel’s discussions.
3.1 The spirit of blogs in all sports should be to attract people towards our disciplines, explaining cases by authoritative judges, race officers, umpires and measurers, in order to offer a service at all level from the beginners to the professional competitors. Blogs are an interactive tool through which everybody can give an opinion and discuss interesting points (such as decisions or particular data) concerning the sport.
3.2 If an ISAF Race Official runs a blog, he should inform the ISAF Office of this fact.
4.4 It is acceptable for race officials to be Facebook friends with competitors (but not to be “fans” of their teams or organisations). However, race officials must be aware that information they put on their profile during an event must not give competitors who are Facebook friends an advantage or access to information which others do not have (see below).

4.5 No comments should be made about the performance of competitors at any time

List of things to do:
  • Screen Facebook for "fanning". [check]
  • Print these Guidelines and reread them before clicking on the Publish button of every post. [check]
  • Never post about issues in a running regatta - wait until the issue has no longer any influence on the outcome - generalize the subject without revealing specific information (make it about the rules - not about the event) - and then write about it....
    Hmmm, I might run into some difficulty with 2.2(a), also in light of the "no time limit" in 2.1, because any opinion I might have, is coloured by the information, but I'll work on that. [......]
  • Write to the ISAF office.(Guideline 3.2) [check]
  • .....

Can I now get back to blogging, please?


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