At first blush it seemed to be a rather easy appeal to decide, but there were several question asked by the PYIA AC that indicated they were struggling with the decision because we never found as fact whether Sugar Magnolia sailed her proper course after she passed the leeward mark boat. What follows is the correspondence between the PC and the PYIA-AC and the final decision by US SAILING.
Below is a letter from the PYIA AC with questions and the responses from the PC in italics. In addition, you will see some clarifications on the diagram requested by the AC.
October 14, 2010 Letter from PYIA-AC with PC Responses to Questions
Re: SOUTH SOUND SAILING SOCIETY 2010 FIRST WEDNESDAY RACE #3
PIYA APPEAL No. 1004
The PIYA-AC requires certain additional information in order to decide this Appeal. Please provide us with your answers to the following questions and amend the PC's diagram as requested:
1. After SM rounded the leeward mark, was the next leg of the Race a beat to windward or a free leg of the course? If the latter, please indicate on the PC's diagram the direction of the course to the next mark.
PC Response – This was a leeward mark, and the next mark was to windward.
2. Please show on the PC's diagram what SM's proper course – in the prevailing wind, sea state and current conditions – would have been (not necessarily the course she actually sailed) from the time that her bow was abreast of the leeward mark until SM would have accelerated up to speed on her course to the next mark. SM's proper course to the next mark would depend on whether or not the next leg of the Race was a beat to windward.
PC Response – We have modified the diagram to show the direction of the wind and the direction to the next mark. The next leg was a beat to windward so proper course was close hauled. We have added an arrow to the diagram showing the close hauled course for SM.
However, we didn’t find as fact whether SM was sailing her proper course or not between positions 5 and 6 only that she was below close hauled. We didn’t consider her to be “at the mark" when she broke rule 11 so we didn’t consider her proper course to be relevant to the decision. We could reopen the hearing to determine if it was her proper course, but our decision would be unchanged.
3. Did SM have her dagger board fully lowered by the time SM was at the leeward mark and began altering course to windward while rounding the mark?
PC Response – We do not know if her dagger board was fully lowered. The status of the center board was not a fact found.
4. What was the nature and extent of the damage to each of SM and ST?
PC Response – According to the testimony there was no damage to SM and ST had fiberglass damage at the point of contact possibly exceeding $200 to repair
Please reply to the foregoing questions and send the PC's amended diagram, to the PIYA-AC as well as both parties to the Protest, at your earliest convenience.
Yours very truly,
PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL YACHTING ASSOCIATION APPEALS COMMITTEE
November 23, 2010 Letter from PIYA-AC
PYIA-AC overturned our decision and found the SM was entitled to mark room and also found that SM did not break rule 14 so they reinstated SM. However, they forwarded the decision to US Sailing for them to review since they were concerned with the result. PIYA-AC requested that I not publish their decision as they believe that only final decision of US Sailing is relevant and I want to respect their request.
March 29, 2011 US SAILING completed their review of the appeal and the following is the text of their decision.
The primary issues in this incident concerned Sugar Magnolia’s right to mark-room and whether she
held that right at the time of the contact between her and Showtime. Rule 18 applied as long as at least one of them was in the zone. Rule 18.2(b) required Showtime to give Sugar Magnolia mark-room as soon as Sugar Magnolia reached the zone. However, the definition Mark-Room introduces another consideration. After Sugar Magnolia had finished sailing “to” the mark, and was “at” the mark, she was entitled to “room to sail her proper course,” the course she would have sailed to finish as soon as possible in the absence of Showtime. The critical question in this case is whether Sugar Magnolia was still “at” the mark when the contact occurred. In our judgment she was beyond the mark, not “at” it. Between positions 5 and 6 she had left the nearest part of the mark vessel astern, and the mark was no longer relevant to her course to the next mark. As the protest committee chairman commented, “We do not consider [Sugar Magnolia to be] at the mark when she breaks rule 11 because the mark is no longer influencing the course she is sailing from position 5 to 6.” We agree.
Since Sugar Magnolia was no longer at the mark when contact occurred, she was no longer entitled to room to sail her proper course. The fact that she was sailing her proper course (slightly below close-hauled to regain normal speed) did not extend the time she was “at” the mark. We therefore cannot agree with the PIYA Appeals Committee’s statement that “under the current rule a boat is ‘at the mark’ from the moment . . . her bow is first alongside the mark until she is sailing her proper course . . . to the next mark.”
At the time of the contact between the boats, the only rules of consequence were rules 11 and 14. (Although rule 18.2(b) still applied, it did not specify any rights or obligations after Sugar Magnolia was no longer at the mark.) Rule 11 required Sugar Magnolia to keep clear of Showtime but she failed to do so. She would have been entitled to exoneration under rule 18.5(a) had she been taking markroom, but she was not; therefore she is not exonerated from breaking rule 11. Had Sugar Magnolia been unable to keep clear of Showtime immediately after she was no longer at the mark, that could have been evidence that Showtime failed to provide mark-room, but in this case Sugar Magnolia could have kept clear of Showtime after she was no longer at the mark.
Concerning rule 14, Sugar Magnolia was required to avoid the contact “if reasonably possible.” She could have kept clear of Showtime after she was beyond the mark. Furthermore, she had been hailed by Showtime at position 5 and must have been aware that the boats’ courses were converging. She therefore had enough time and space to change course and avoid the collision, but failed to act soon enough, so broke rule 14. Showtime also broke rule 14. Although rule 14(a) provided that she did not need to act to avoid Sugar Magnolia until it was “clear” that Sugar Magnolia was not keeping clear, that fact had been evident for some time because Sugar Magnolia was not changing course as Showtime approached.
In summary, Sugar Magnolia broke rules 11and 14, and Showtime broke rule 14. Accordingly, the appeal of Sugar Magnolia is denied, and the decision of the protest committee to disqualify both boats is upheld.
Very truly yours,
US SAILING Appeals Committee
This incident took place approximately 9 months ago and is now finally decided. It has been an interesting process and an interesting discussion of the mark room rule and when is a boat "at" a mark. Perhaps in the near future there will be a new published appeal using this incident. from a Wednesday night race in Budd Inlet.