Rules FAQs

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I thought I'd list the interesting rules questions I've come across, and what I think or understand the "right" answers to be.  Nothing official, of course!

FAQ1.  In the middle of taking a penalty turn, I unfortunately hit another boat.  I know I have to do another turn for that, but then I'm fine, right?
A.  Good one!  There are a bunch of rules that come into play here.  [...]

FAQ2.  I was the leading blue boat and protested the green boat under RRS 28.1 shortly after it failed to round the mark on the correct side.  I was promptly protested by another boat for giving outside assistance.  What's going on here?
A.  This is one of those wonderful paradoxes [...]

FAQ3.  I was the inside boat (green) rounding the mark, but the outside boat (blue) did not give me enough room and I hit the mark.  Can I carry on racing and claim exoneration under RRS 31.3?
A.  Only if you have a time machine that will take you and the race back to 2000. [...]

FAQ4.  I was the inside boat (green) going to round the mark, but the boat clear astern (blue) caught my transom and made me miss the mark by inches.  Can I carry on racing and claim exoneration under RRS 64.1?
A.  The RRS says [...]

FAQ5.  With the new Racing Rules of Sailing 2005-2008, can I usually get away with a 270 penalty turn when I touch a mark?
A.  No, you can usually get away with somewhere between a 135 and 180 turn. [...]


FAQ1.  In the middle of taking a penalty turn, I unfortunately hit another boat.  I know I have to do another turn for that, but then I'm fine, right?

A.  Good one!  There are a bunch of rules that come into play here.  RRS 20 (a rule of Part 2, we'll need this detail in a moment) tells you to keep clear of other boats while doing your turn.  Well, you didn't, so yes, you must do a turn for that infringement.  We'll assume that the boat you hit wasn't "interfering" with you, as required by RRS 22.2.

But wait, it isn't quite that simple.  RRS 44 tells you that you can only take a penalty turn for breaking a rule of Part 2.  You generally have to retire for breaking the rules in other parts of the RRS.  Oh.  And, RRS 31.2 (a rule of Part 3) and RRS 44.2 (a rule of Part 4) tell you how to take your penalty -- you have to first sail well clear as soon as possible.  If you didn't (and your contact with another boat is pretty good evidence that you didn't sail well clear first), then you've broken a rule of Part 3 or Part 4 -- and you can't do a turn to absolve yourself of that.  Your choices for breaking RRS 31.2 or RRS 44.2 are either retirement or facing a protest committee.  And we already know that the protest committee will probably hand you a DSQ.  Why?  Because your contact with another boat is pretty good evidence that you didn't sail well clear.  Did we mention this earlier?  Your story for the protest committee really does need to be an exceptionally good one...

Moral?  Sail well clear first.

 


FAQ2.  I was the leading blue boat and protested the green boat under RRS 28.1 shortly after it failed to round the mark on the correct side.  I was promptly protested by another boat for giving outside assistance.  What's going on here?

A.  This is one of those wonderful paradoxes that the rules throw up from time to time.   RRS 28.1 says that a boat shall sail the correct course, and we suppose you thought you could see that green had failed to do so.  The trouble is, you didn't know that.  RRS 28.1 allows a boat to go back and correct herself at any time up until she finishes.  The only time you'll actually know if green breaks RRS 28.1 is after she finishes.  So your protest of green effectively told her, "Hey, you've missed the mark, go back!", and many think that is contrary to RRS E.4.2 which is a somewhat stronger version of RRS 41.  No wonder you were protested.

But that isn't the end of the story.  RRS 61.1(a) says that, for a protest to be valid, it must have been hailed at the first reasonable opportunity.  The rules don't actually say so, but the reason for this is "natural justice".  If a boat has made an error, it must be given the earliest possible opportunity to correct that error.  The thinking here is that delaying any protest hail is unreasonable since it makes it more difficult for a boat to put right any wrong.  So if you had waited until you saw green finish before protesting, your protest could be considered invalid, because you did not give green the opportunity to put right her wrong.  This means it is possible that, following your dismissed protest, green could be declared the winner even though she failed to sail the correct course!

This has the attention of the ISAF Racing Rules Committee through submission 159-03 from the Canadian Yachting Association to the 2003 ISAF November Conference.  The submission has an additional interesting note: "... the jury found nothing in the rules that requires a boat to be certain that rule 28.1 has been broken before she protests. In fact, 'An allegation made under rule 61.2' in the definition of 'Protest' implies the opposite - a protest is only an allegation 'that a boat has broken a rule' - not a certainty."

Moral?  Most sailors protest after green finishes, and most sailors ask the Race Committee, Observer, or Race Officer to file the protest instead of themselves.

[Update Feb 2005:  The new RRS 2005-2008 has changed 28.1 slightly, quite possibly because of submission 159-03.  Not a lot has changed, and you will still have to make your mind up, if you want to protest a boat for leaving out a mark of the course, just how long you are going to wait until you do it...]

 


FAQ3.  I was the inside boat (green) rounding the mark, but the outside boat (blue) did not give me enough room and I hit the mark.  Can I carry on racing and claim exoneration under RRS 31.3?

A.  Only if you have a time machine that will take you and the race back to 2000.  In the 1997-2000 RRS, it used to be that If blue acknowledged and took her penalty at the time of the incident, then RRS 31.3(a) would exonerate you for touching the mark.  No longer!  (Thanks, Peter!)

You have to protest blue and go to a protest hearing to obtain exoneration.  Only RRS 64.1 provides for exoneration, and it deals with the decisions that a protest committee can make.  It is not within the power of the race committee or the race officer to exonerate you.

While we hope that the protest committee will see things your way, it isn't certain, so think hard about doing a turn yourself as insurance.  If you have the choice, also think hard about hitting the mark instead of blue.  That way, you have an answer for the smart Judge who asks, "Excuse me, but why did you contact blue?  Why should we not find that you've broken RRS 14?"

 


FAQ4.  I was the inside boat (green) going to round the mark, but the boat clear astern (blue) caught my transom and made me miss the mark by inches.  Can I carry on racing and claim exoneration under RRS 64.1?

A.  The RRS says:  "64.1 [...]  When as a consequence of breaking a rule a boat has compelled another boat to break a rule, [...] the other boat [...] shall be exonerated."  Larry Robinson notes the use of the word "compelled" here.  Though the blue boat may well have caused you to sail to the wrong side of the mark, you only break a rule if you continue to race without sailing the course.  Blue has not compelled you to miss the mark, since you can always sail the correct course should you chose to do so.

If there was entanglement or serious damage, you may wish to try and claim redress.  If blue remains a number of places ahead of you even after doing her penalty turn, you may also wish to protest blue under 44.1 for gaining a significant advantage.

Notice that the same line of argument applies if you sail over the start line, for example, while trying to avoid contact with blue on port tack.  You only break a rule if you do not return to start properly.  Since blue has not compelled you to do this, it is pretty certain that you will not be exonerated by the protest committee.

 


FAQ5.  With the new Racing Rules of Sailing 2005-2008, can I usually get away with a 270 penalty turn when I touch a mark?

A.  No, you can usually get away with somewhere between a 135 and 180 turn.  And, under certain circumstance, with 0.  Yes, zero.  Let's see how this might work.  Touch a mark, and RRS 31.2 applies.  The new 31.2 provides that, "A boat that has touched a mark may [...] take a penalty by promptly making one turn including one tack and one gybe".  The old definition of a penalty turn as a "360" has been changed because, we are told, there were some umpires and judges who penalised a boat for only doing a 355 turn...  Hmmm...

Normally, when you satisfy E4.4, one tack and one gybe turns out to be a 360 turn or so, because you want to carry on going in the same direction anyway.  But when you round a mark, you want to go in some other direction.  And, if you need to satisfy 31.2, things are now somewhat different.

The first two graphics show a beating boat needing to round a windward mark while keeping it to port.  We imagine that the next mark is the wing mark off to port.  In one graphic, the boat touches the mark while on the port layline.  We may assume that the boat on the port layline would normally need to tack around the mark and set off on her new course having turned through 180 degrees or so.  To satisfy 31.2, the boat can tack, then gybe, and carry on sailing, and if she is careful she need only go out of her way by around 135 degrees or less.

In the second graphic, the boat touches the mark while on the starboard layline.  We may assume that she would normally need to simply free off around the mark and take up her new course having turned through 90 degrees or so.  To satisfy 31.2, the boat can tack, then gybe, and carry on sailing, and if she is careful she need only go out of her way by around 180 degrees or less.

Of course, both boats have sailed further on than they would otherwise need to do, and if their incident took place while in a pack, well, they would also need to sail well clear first.  But in neither case would the boat need to do a 360.  The boat on the port layline does about a 225 turn, and the boat on the starboard layline does a 270 turn.

The next two graphics show a running boat needing to round a leeward mark while keeping it to port.  We imagine that the next mark is the windward mark directly upwind, and so we may assume that the boat would normally need to sheet in around the mark and set off on her new course having turned through 135 degrees or so.  In one graphic, the boat touches the mark while on starboard.  To satisfy 31.2 with a tack and gybe, she can first gybe and then tack, and she need only go out of her way by around 90 degrees.  Heck, if she wanted the port side of the course anyway, hey, she has gone out of her way by 0 degrees.

In the second graphic, the boat touches the mark while on port.  She can again gybe then tack, and she need only go out of her way by around 180 degrees.

Of course, the boat on port has sailed further on than she would otherwise need to do.  And in both cases, if their incident took place while in a pack they would also need to sail well clear first.  But in neither case would the boat need to do a 360.  The boat on starboard does about a 225 turn, and the boat on port does a 270 turn.

Moral of the story?  If you touch the mark while beating, do a tack first and then your gybe.  If you touch the mark while running, do your gybe first, and then your tack.  And, when running, make sure you are on starboard approaching the mark (you do that anyway, right?) and it might be that you can take a 0 degrees penalty turn.  Great!

2005-12-18


2011 Lester Gilbert