Simplification of Starting Rules

Published on August 19th, 2014

by Mike Butterfield (GBR), IU IJ IRO
I would like to see the simplification of the starting flags, of which the current Racing Rules of Sailing offers two different parameters for how boats can be penalized:

* Line and Extensions: Penalized when any part of a boat’s hull, crew, or equipment is on the course side of the starting line or one of its extensions. (I Flag)

* Triangle: Penalized when any part of a boat’s hull, crew, or equipment is in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark. (Z, Black, and U Flags)

Click here for U Flag explanation, which is now being tested for possible inclusion in the 2017-2020 rules.

If we could simplify, it would appear to be in the direction of removing the ‘Line and Extensions’ description and going with the Triangle.

The origin of ‘Line and Extensions’ was to eliminate the option of boats seeking to start by coming down from the windward side of the starting line.

Here in Great Britain, we teach that the I Flag is very unfair and should be used carefully. The rule states that if a boat is over the start line in the last minute, it must round an end to restart, so the unfairness lies in how the penalty is different for a boat over in the centre of the line (a long way off the end) to one at the end. Perhaps this may be ripe therefore for some form of review.

With the U Flag, it stops boats doing this windward to leeward crossing of the start line, so perhaps it is not U Flag that is a waste of time but I Flag, which has reached its ‘sell-by date’.

I want to give U Flag a chance and look forward to using it; I hope to get the benefits of the Black Flag without the Race Committee work of numbers on a board after a recall.

There is other housecleaning as well. The Triangle description requires the penalty to be applied only when a boat is identified, whereas the Line and Extensions description makes no such mention. Also, the Triangle description states how the penalty applies if a race is “restarted or resailed.” If a race is resailed, is it not restarted as well?

We need to simplify all the time and this just may be a way forward.

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