Friday, October 31, 2014

Leeward Mark Rules Quiz

Here's a scenario that came up at an umpire debrief at the 2014 Hinman, which is the US Team Race National Championship.  Simple as it seems, it had the sailors and umpires discussing what rules applied for hours after the debrief.  And again the next morning.

Even after the event was over, several of the umpires, including some International Umpires and International Judges, continued to chew over the call via e-mail.  Finally, several of them wrote it up and submitted it to ISAF as a proposed Team Race Rapid Response Call.

X and Y were on the same team and A was on the opposing team. The incident happened at mark 3 of a digital N course, meaning that the next mark was off to the right, a little to windward of the direction X is headed at position 4.  X entered the zone clear ahead of A and Y, who were overlapped at the zone with Y inside A.  Boat A took a course to pass between X and the mark, and Y went in with her. There was contact between all three boats and Y hit the mark. There was a valid protest. What should the call have been?

This time, rather than giving my opinion I'm asking yours.  You can decide there was no foul, or that one or more boats should have taken a penalty.  The hard part is, you have to say why -- who, if anybody, broke what rules and who, if anybody, should have been exonerated under rules 21 or 64.1(a). 

In case you don't know much about team racing, I think it doesn't matter.  The only special team-race rule that might apply here is that in team racing, boats can break rules with respect to their own team-mates, but only if there is no contact and the incident didn't involve the other team.  In this case there was contact and the incident clearly involved both teams, so that rule didn't apply.  So the answer should be the same in fleet racing as in team racing.

I'll give you one hint:  It's more complicated than it might seem at first, and X is an obstruction to the other two boats (see the definition Obstruction). 

In my next post, I'll tell you what the august body of Hinman umpires finally decided!


  1. Making this complicated does a great disservice to racing sailors in general. The rules are supposed to be simple, straightforward and understandable – these were the objectives of the ‘new’ format of the rules when they were introduced in 1996. That we have these discussions now, some 18 years and five iterations of the rules since their introduction, speaks volumes.

    While there may be a philosophical discussion about the rights of A for room from Y to clear the obstruction X versus the obligation of A to give mark room to Y, the bottom line is that A has to give mark room to X at P1 and P2 even at P3, as the next mark is to windward. By establishing an inside overlap, A prevents X from sailing her proper course close to the mark.

    In addition, A has to give mark room to Y. That she is unable to give that room is not relevant and X is not a continuing obstruction.

    So the simple decision is to DSQ A under R 18.2 for preventing X from sailing her proper course, close to the mark. Y breaks R 31, but is exonerated under R 21 as A failed to provide room.


  2. I agree with John that the rules are too complicated. The problem is, how to simplify them and still get (more or less) the game we're so fond of? We try constantly to accomplish that, with, well, mixed results at best.

    Thanks for proposing a solution, John! Any other opinions (on the incident)?

  3. Ok – let me give it a shot!

    Facts as shown and no damage:

    is entitled to mark room from A and Y RRS 18.2 (b) and RRS 21 is exonerating her from breach of RRS 16.
    is not avoiding contact as required by RRS 14 but as the right of way boat she is not penalized as there is no damage.
    Do not penalize X.

    must give X and Y mark room but fail to do so thereby violating RRS18.2 (b).
    RRS 64.1 (a) does not exonerate her, as the breach of RRS 11, 14 and 31 by Y do not compel A to break RRS 18.2 (b) as A was able to give X and Y mark room by bearing off instead of luffing.
    must keep clear of X but fail to do so thereby violating RRS 11.
    She is not exonerated by RRS 21, as she is not entitled to room by X. She is not exonerated by 64.1 (b) – see above.

    must avoid contact with X and Y but fail to do so thereby violating RRS 14.
    She is not penalized for the breach against Y as she is right of way boat and there is no damage.
    She is exonerated for the breach of RRS 14 against X as the breach of RRS 11 and 14 by Y compelled her to break RRS 14.

    X is an obstruction to A and Y. A luff to avoid the obstruction but break RRS 14 and 11 against X.
    She is not exonerated by RRS 21 – she is not entitled to mark room from X.
    Y violate RRS 11 and 14 (see below). The breach of these rules compel A to break RRS 11 and 14 against X but not 18.2 (b) (See above).

    DSQ A for breaking RRS 18.2 (b).

    is entitled to mark room from A, RRS 18.2 (b)
    is not given that room forcing her to violate RRS 31, but she is exonerated by RRS 21
    is not keeping clear thereby violating RRS 11, but she is exonerated by RRS 21
    is not avoiding contact as required by RRS 14. RRS 21 do not exonerate her from this breach. The breach of RRS 18.2 (b) by A do not compel Y to break RRS 14 and she can not get exoneration under RRS 64.1 (a).
    DSQ Y for breaking RRS 14.

  4. Hans,

    I think if we say that Y is exonerated for breaking rule 11 because she was entitled to room from A, then we also have to exonerate her for breaking rule 14, which says in part, "... a boat entitled to ... mark-room ... (b) shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury." To put it another way, if there is no damage or injury we never disqualify a boat for breaking only rule 14 -- she has to have broken some other rule, too.

    If you agree with me on that, then basically you agree with John -- DSQ A for breaking every rule around and exonerate X and Y.

    Any other opinions?

  5. Ups – you are right RRS 14 itself exonerate Y.
    One open question left.
    It is not quite clear from the drawing if Y give mark room to X.
    It do not look like she do, and she then break RRS 18.2 (b) against X. The breach of different rules by A do not compel Y not to give X mark room, and therefore no exoneration from 64.1 (a).
    Penalize Y for breaking 18.2 (b) against X?