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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