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Thought for the day - So you think you know the rules?

I want to test some ideas for articles prepared for the MYA web site. They feature the rules situation at the windward mark. The situations were designed by me and the interpretation of the rules by David Lees from London Round Pond and experienced rules judge.

The first three articles are designed to look at the situations from a protest committee point of view highlighting all the rules that apply. The aim then is to offer tactical advice so that one does not need to carry the detail of the rules in your head but you know whether you are safe or not in any situation.

I chose the windward mark as this is where the fleet first crowds together. In the first scenario two boats approach the windward from outside the zone on starboard.

The second scenario, the boats enter the zone on opposite tacks and the port tack boat is able to tack inside the starboard to round the mark and the third scenario is the same as two but there is no room for the port boat.

Here is the first article

Blue and purple enter the zone on starboard with the boats overlapped. Purple shouts you have no rights but Blue luffs head to wind to round the mark and hits purple who forces blue into the mark.

Both protest. How would you decide who takes a penalty? Try writing your answer down before you read below.

How do the rules apply

At the start of the situation in position 1, Rule 11 applies, and purple must keep clear of blue as the windward boat. Blue will only lose her right of way if she manoeuvres beyond head to wind as in rule 13. As blue approaches the mark she has mark room as the inside boat in Rule 18.2 and starts to luff smoothly to head to wind to round the mark giving Purple ample opportunity to keep clear and thus avoid breaching rule 16. Purple shouts you have no rights to luff head to wind, holds course and hits blue pushing blue into the mark in breach of rule 14.

At all stages, blue is the right of way boat being leeward boat and requiring mark room from purple. The act of blue luffing head to wind changes nothing as she is at all times the overlapped leeward boat but if she passed through head to wind, she would lose all rights.

Here are the relevant rules which I quote in full for the elimination of any doubt:

Rule 11 On same tack overlapped When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.


After a boat passes head to wind, she shall keep clear of other boats until she is on a close-hauled course. During that time rules 10, 11 and 12 do not apply. If two boats are subject to this rule at the same

Rule 14 Avoiding contact A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat, or one sailing within the room or mark-room to which she is entitled, need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room.

Rule 16 Changing course When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

Rule 18.2 Giving Mark-Room

1. (a) When boats are overlapped the outside boat shall give the inside boat mark-room, unless rule 18.2(b) applies.

2. (b) If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone, the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside boat mark-room. If a boat is clear ahead when she reaches the zone, the boat clear astern at that moment shall thereafter give her mark-room.



(a) When as a consequence of breaking a rule a boat has compelled another boat to break a rule, the other boat is exonerated for her breach.

(b) When a boat is sailing within the room or mark-room to which she is entitled and, as a consequence of an incident with a boat required to give her that room or mark-room, she breaks a rule of Section A of Part 2, rule 15, 16, or 31, she is exonerated for her breach.

Purple forces a collision and as windward boat will receive the penalty. Blue being forced the mark is exonerated as per 43.1 (a) and receives no penalty.

When we are sailing you cannot think of the rules in this way as there is no time, however when it comes to a protest this is the level of detail the protest committee will go to. What is important to work out is in each situation you encounter, whether you hold right of way and if not, what are your obligations to keep clear.

The best sailors avoid conflict at all costs but you can be sure in a tight situation, they know the rules inside out. Do You?

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