Serious Damage is Now More Serious

Published on June 15th, 2017

Dave Perry reports in the US Sailing blog how changes to the racing rules have expanded to penalize a boat that causes serious damage.

Under the new Racing Rules of Sailing for 2017-2020, serious damage is now more serious. Due to a change in the preamble of Part 2 (When Boats Meet), a boat breaking rule 14 (Avoiding Contact) causing injury or serious damage when not racing can, if protested, be disqualified from the race sailed closest in time to the incident. This may be the next race or the preceding one (see rule 64.1, Penalties and Exoneration).

Additionally, due to a change in rule 36 (Races Restarted or Resailed), this is also now the case if the incident happens after the prep signal but before the starting signal and the start is general recalled. Remember: a boat is racing from the prep signal until she has finished and cleared the finishing line/marks.

The rationale for this change is that under the previous rules, a boat could not be penalized for breaking rule 14 if she was not racing or if the start was general recalled. Unfortunately, serious accidents do occur just before a start or when boats in the racing area are not racing. It seemed unfair that the damaged boat may have to retire due to the damage, but the other boat could race in the upcoming race and not be penalized at all.

Note that new US Sailing appeal 115 (titled Question 115 in the Appeals Book) discusses the interpretation of the phrase “serious damage,” which also appears in rule 44.1(b) (Taking a Penalty), rule 60.3(a)(1) (Right to Protest; Right to Request Redress or Rule 69 Action), rule 61.1(a)(4) (Informing the Protestee), rule 63.5 (Validity of the Protest or Request for Redress) and several appendices.

When considering whether damage is “serious”, some of the “test questions” a protest committee should ask include:

• Did the damage put the safety of the crew at risk?
• Did the damage include a hole in the boat which compromised the integrity of the hull?
• Did the damage adversely impact the boat’s sailing performance in a significant way?

You can access The Racing Rules of Sailing for 2017-2020 and Dave Perry’s Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing and 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes at

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