Attack of the Killer Mark

Published on June 25th, 2015

Tim Finkle shares a freak incident from the J/70 class during 2015 Cleveland Race Week

We were in about the 4th or 5th spot at the top mark and ready to set the kite and start planing off downwind when the boat ahead of us hit the mark and started to drag it down the offset leg. Now it is blowing pretty good, around 18-20 knots, and the boat could not get the rode off their keel; they must have dragged it 20 boat lengths. We were in a tough spot, just behind them, and knowing that we needed to round that mark.

So we followed them, but what we didn’t know was that there was no weight tied to the mid-line of the anchor rode, so it was streaming straight back just under the water. When we thought the boat stuck on the mark was far enough ahead of us, we ducked down and set, thinking we would just sail by. However, just as we popped the kite and started to take off, we came to a screeching halt.

We looked down at the keel and saw anchor chain wrapped around our keel. Big problem! We proceeded to try everything we could to spin off of it, but there were two issues. One was that we were so far down onto the anchor rode chain that it hooked on the kelp cutter on the leading edge of the keel. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Danforth flukes of the anchor wedged themselves on the trailing edge of our keel.

After about 15 long minutes of trying to free ourselves, we decided the only way to get it free was to jump in the water and dive down to pull it off by hand. At the end of this debacle, I decided we should radio the race committee and retire from the race so that we wouldn’t hold up the next start. I never want to be the boat that everyone else is waiting for.

After the race, we gathered ourselves and talked about what happened and what we could have done differently to avoid that situation. We all agreed that it was pretty unavoidable without making a drastic alteration of course that would have negatively affected our placement within the race. Even then, we still had no idea what was underwater or that the anchor was there.

When we got back to shore, we filed for Redress and talked to several other sailors in our fleet who thought we had a decent case. It was worth a shot.

Epilogue: Unfortunately for Tim, the four options for Redress in the Racing Rules of Sailing (Rule 62, click here) did not cover this situation. The boat ahead did their penalty turn and there is no mandate for the race committee to put a countersink on the mark’s anchor rode. Redress denied (and bummer acknowledged!).

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