This is a situation I was personally involved in at Gosport Model Yacht and Boat Club. Spoiler – the answer is to the best of my knowledge, but I would be delighted for any rules experts to step in and give their view. Contact me here.
Yellow and blue are approaching a port rounding windward mark. As the two boats approach the windward mark on port tack they are not overlapped. The skipper of the blue boat shouts to the skipper of the yellow boat, you have no mark room and proceeds to tack hitting the yellow boat before returning to close hauled. The picture is not quite accurate as the blue boat’s sails were only just beginning to fill at the time of contact. It was a club race and a healthy discussion ensued although both protagonists decided to refer to the rule book after the race to see who was in the right.
Who is at fault? What do you think? The relevant rules are listed in full at the end.
HOW DO THE RULES APPLY
As they enter the zone there is no overlap and as both are travelling at the same speed there is nothing for either to be concerned about. Prior to this situation yellow had sailed fast and free to get close enough to Blue to stop her tacking for the mark without infringing yellow.
Rule 18 MARK ROOM does not apply as the boats were almost on opposite tacks at the time of the incident. See rule 18.1 (a)
As blue passes through head to wind she has no rights under Rule 13 (WHILST TACKING) and 16 (CHANGING COURSE) and would need to complete her tack to be on starboard giving yellow room to evade blue’s new right of way. But she does not return to close hauled on the new tack in time and is therefore in breach of rule 13 (WHILE TACKING) and needs to be careful of a harsher penalty because she also breached rule 14 (AVOIDING CONTACT).
There is a variation on this scenario below:
Supposing yellow had panicked and crash tacked to avoid blue, and both collided mid tack then the last sentence of Rule 13 applies. “If two boats are tacking simultaneously , then the one on the others port side shall keep clear”. In this second scenario, yellow would be penalised.
So here is a situation where if yellow was clear on the rules, she could have held her course instead of being obligated to avoid blue. The panic tack changes the situation and she becomes the boat at fault unless she argues blue gave did not give yellow room to keep clear under rule 15 and she altered course to avoid contact.
The applicable rules
Here are the relevant rules to save you having to look them up:
Mark-Room Room for a boat to leave a mark on the required side. Also,
- (a) room to sail to the mark when her proper course is to sail close to it,
- (b) room to round or pass the mark as necessary to sail the course without
touching the mark.
However, mark-room for a boat does not include room to tack unless she is overlapped inside and to windward of the boat required to give mark-room and she would be fetching the mark after her tack.
Rule 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 (ON OPPOSITE TACKS), 11 (ON THE SAME TACK OVERLAPPED) and 12 (ON SAME TACK NOT OVERLAPPED) 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.
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 15 ACQUIRING RIGHT OF WAY
When a boat acquires right of way, she shall initially give the other boat room to keep clear, unless she acquires right of way because of the other boat’s actions.
18.1 When Rule 18 Applies
Rule 18 applies between boats when they are required to leave a mark on the same side and at least one of them is in the zone. However, it does not apply
(a) between boats on opposite tacks on a beat to windward,
(b) between boats on opposite tacks when the proper course at the mark for one but not both of them is to tack,
(c) between a boat approaching a mark and one leaving it, or
(d) if the mark is a continuing obstruction, in which case rule 19 applies.
MYA Racing Officer