We had a great day at Emsworth today. 19 boats, testing starts and and interesting course and many incidents with and equal number of turns. Richard Callas was a wonderful organiser and he and the rotating volunteer umpires kept us all clean and ensured we got ten races in. There was the occasional weed and a few of us found a fairly solid obstruction near the windward mark which ended our race.
The wind was 5-12 knots from the SSE so an excellent direction.
The boat performed well and when I could get cleanly off the start there was comfortable lead to be had. High and fast was the order of day upwind. I tried to coax the boat to sail a little freer but it was not having it. Me thinks the boat knows better than me so I left it in charge.
There were two identical incidents I was involved in, both with boats converging on port and starboard. I had many close shaves when crossing starboard tack boats today but when they held their course I was always clear.
The facts of the incidents
What happens if the starboard tack boat starts to tack thinking he was going to hit me and was therefore trying to avoid a collision instead of bearing away behind me and then protesting. The cross never happened so we could not be clear a collision would occur.
Here are the right of way rules and a relevant Limitation on the right of way rules and a couple of relevant cases:
10. ON OPPOSITE TACKS When on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.
11. ON THE SAME TACK, OVERLAPPED When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.
12. ON THE SAME TACK, NOT OVERLAPPED When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.
13. WHILE TACKING 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 time, the one on the other's port side or the one astern shall keep clear.
16.1. When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.
There are a couple of cases I could find but none directly relevant
CASE 50 When a protest committee finds that in a port-starboard incident S did not change course and that there was not a genuine and reasonable apprehension of collision on the part of S, it should dismiss her protest. When the committee finds that S did change course and that there was reasonable doubt that P could have crossed ahead of S if S had not changed course, then P should be disqualified.
When a right-of-way boat changes course, the keep-clear boat is required to act only in response to what the right-of-way boat is doing at the time, not what the right-of-way boat might do subsequently.
My thoughts So the port and starboard rule is crystal clear but in both my incidents the starboard boat owner thought they would hit the port boat. The fact the right of way boat tacked before the cross brings into the equation rule 13 above and 16.1 below. The very act of luffing as a right of way boat is prohibited and in a close cross could ensure contact occurred. If the starboard tack boat was going behind the port tack boat then tacking takes away their rights. It doesn't matter what the helm thinks might happen. Behaving in this way gives the port tack boat no chance to prove his innocence.
My question is what do we think would happen in a protest room.
View from an RYA race officer
In your incident, I believe that if the starboard tack boat thinks there will be a collision he must try to avoid so if it went to protest it would be a difficult decision between the starboard avoiding a collision and the port boat saying he was going to clear without a collision. I think the starboard boat may win!
View from a rules expert
A good question Nigel so thanks for raising - there is nothing specific in the 'Call Book for Radio Sailing' but there is case number 50 (World Sailing Case Book '21-24) which talks about 'resonable apprehension of a collision': - When the committee finds that S did change course and that there was reasonable doubt that P could have crossed ahead of S if S had not changed course, then P should be disqualified
I think for 'radio sailing' then the argument about 'reasonable apprehension' would become stronger the further from the control area you get - we could all call the cross near the finish line, we struggle when the boats were close to the far wall, and I would be taking that into consideration if I was on the PC.
I should be more careful when crossing on port. What do you think?
A good steady day marred in two races, one where I picked up weed twice and once where I hit something in the middle of the pond, the boat stopped dead and the race was done. The 0 score was the race I did my umpiring duties.
Next stop, Emsworth on Sunday/