Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Port Starboard At The Finish

Last night there was an incident at the finish that is worthy of discussion. The facts as described to me were:
1. The wind was approximately 8 knots
2. Yellow was on starboard and Blue was on port approaching the finish line near the middle of the line
3. Approximately 2 lengths from the finish Yellow hails starboard to Blue
4. After Blue finishes but before she completely clears the line Yellow bears away to avoid Blue

There was no protest filed but Yellow asked my opinion as to what rules apply.

Clearly the rule that applies is rule 10 that a boat on a port-tack must keep clear of a starboard-tack boat. The question is if Blue can be penalized for breaking the rule. To determine this lets look at the preamble to the rules of Part 2 which says.

"The rules of Part 2 apply between boats that are sailing in or near the racing area and intend to race, are racing, or have been racing. However, a boat not racing shall not be penalized for breaking one of these rules, except rule 23.1."

The rules apply if you are in the racing area and intend, are, or have been racing, but  you can only be penalized only if you are "racing".

We need to go to the definition of racing to determine if Blue can be penalized. The following is the definition of racing.

"A boat is racing from her preparatory signal until she finishes and clears the finishing line and marks...."

So, although Blue has finished at position 2 she is still racing because she hasn't cleared the finish line yet, and should be penalized.  However, if Yellow is forced to alter course after Blue has cleared the finish line, then although Blue breaks rule 10 she cannot be penalized because she is not racing.


  1. It appears Yellow hailed Blue well before the finish, claiming starboard tack rights. Blue did not honor the hail. Blue did not finish and clear the line before interfering with Yellow.
    Therefore, Blue has two options:
    1. Return to the course side of the line, do a 720, then finish. Or,
    2. Accept disqualification

    Yellow could have clarified the situation by heading up a few degrees and forcing Blue to jibe, then as windward boat Blue would have been obliged to keep clear. Sailing is not just a game of boat speed - a certain amount of that can be bought. Sailing is a sport of thinking, understanding natural forces; tactics, understanding the rules of the game; then applying both in an effort to sail a course more efficiently than the others. That is why we keep doing it.

  2. I agree 100% with the analysis here.

    JG I don’t think the having yellow head up would be the wise thing to do. Because it potentially means that Yellow gives up valuable VMG and Blue in gybing can do it in a way that suddenly requires Yellow to sail “proper course”. So there are lots of good reasons for Yellow NOT to head up “to clarify things”. Simply calling STB is sufficient.

    Note also that if the same situation were further down the line towards the pin – close enough that Blue could not turn down and clear her boom over the pin, then things would be different. Now we have a “room at the mark” situation, and RS 18.5 exonerates Blue as long as she only takes enough room to clear the mark.

  3. Blue clearly interfered with Yellow while Yellow was still racing. Penalize Blue under 23.1

  4. I agree with Eric. Even after Blue has cleared the finish-line she can be disqualified under rule 23.1. See the introduction of part two, second sentence.

  5. I don't agree that a starboard boat having to head down after Blue has cleared the finish line would constitute "interference". One would have to have effected Yellows finish or place in the race to have interfered with another boat not simply make them alter course. I think it is a higher standard.