Crossing Rules: When starboard hits port

Published on January 13th, 2014

The 2014 supplement to the ISAF 2013-2016 Case Book, which provides interpretations of the Racing Rules of Sailing, contains new cases that were approved at the ISAF Annual Conference in November 2013. Here is one of them…

Assumed Facts for Question 1
In a fleet race with 10 knots wind, two one-design dinghies, each 5 metres in length, are approaching each other on close-hauled courses. S is on starboard tack and P is on port tack. Both boats hold their course and speed. There is contact between S’s bow and P’s starboard quarter, about 20 centimetres from P’s stern, causing damage. Neither boat takes a penalty. S protests P.

Question 1

How do the rules apply to this incident? In particular, did S break rule 14?

Answer 1

In this situation P judged incorrectly that she would cross ahead of S without breaking rule 10. P could have tacked to leeward of S and thereby kept clear of S and avoided the contact. Because P failed to do so, she broke both rule 10 and rule 14 and is disqualified.

Rule 14 requires a boat, including a right-of-way boat, to avoid contact if reasonably possible. However, rule 14(a) also states that a right-of-way boat need not act to avoid contact until it is ‘clear’ that the other boat is not keeping clear. In the conditions described, when P’s bow crossed in front of S’s bow it would be clear to a competent, but not necessarily expert, sailor at the helm of S that there was substantial risk of contact and therefore that P was not keeping clear. At that moment there was still time for S to bear away sufficiently to avoid the contact, and therefore S broke rule 14. Because the contact caused damage, S is disqualified and is not exonerated (see rule 14(b)).

Assumed Facts for Question 2
The assumed facts are the same as those for Question 1, except that just before the contact occurs S bears away slightly in an attempt to avoid P. However, S misjudges the manoeuvre and there is contact that causes damage.

Question 2
Did S break rule 14?

Answer 2

As noted in Answer 1, at the time it became clear that P was not keeping clear, there was still time for S to bear away sufficiently to avoid the contact. Therefore, it was reasonably possible for S to have done so. She failed either to bear away sufficiently or to begin to bear away early enough, but that does not mean that it was not reasonably possible for her to have avoided the contact. Therefore, S broke rule 14 despite having borne away slightly before the contact occurred. Because the contact caused damage, S is disqualified and is not exonerated.

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