The Propulsion Rule on the Race Course

Published on December 14th, 2017

The Propulsion rule in sailing (Rule 42) is that attempt to get people to compete within a certain style of sailing. While there are one design classes which modify the rule to suit their tastes, the rule as written states that…

“a boat shall compete by using only the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease her speed. Her crew may adjust the trim of sails and hull, and perform other acts of seamanship, but shall not otherwise move their bodies to propel the boat.”

Clever sailors have always sought to use whatever means it is to go fast, and managing what is permissible within Rule 42 has long been a difficult situation on the race course. While competitors can protest infringements, it is not uncommon for prominent events to also utilize the tools within Appendix P.

Appendix P states that on-the-water observers will be present to identify boats breaking rule
42. When an infringement is observed, the observer will make a sound signal, point a yellow flag at the boat, and hail the boat’s sail number.

The penalties range from a boat making a 720° turn for first offenders to repeat offenses requiring retirement from that race, and for habitual offenders, disqualification from all races in the regatta.

The Sailing Instructions at the Youth Sailing World Championships (Dec. 11-15) in China have utilized Appendix P, and the International Jury has posted the offenses online. What are they looking for? Here is a sampling:

Start line
Sculling both ways approaching the start, 42.2 (d)
Repeated body pumping resulting in flicks of the leach, 42.2 (a)
Body pumping at the start two times to pass the pin, 42.2 (a)

Upwind leg
Sheet pumping, 42.2 (a)
Repeated rolls of the boat, 42.2 (b)
Body and sheet pumping, 42.2 (a)

Reach leg

Pumping and rocking, 42.2 (a) 42.2 (b)
Repeated sheet pumping, 42.2 (a)
Body pumping with clear flicks of leach, 42.2 (a)
Repeated sheet pumping and rocking with the body, 42.2 (b)

Downwind leg
Sheet pumping, 42.2 (a)
Body induced rocking , 42.2 (b)
Body induced rocking, no turning of the boat, 42.2 (b)
More rocks with no change of course, 42.2 (b)
Pumping the main without initiating surfing, 42.2 (a)
Rocking without changing direction, 42.2 (b)
Bigger rock than change of direction 42.2 (b)
Moving boat in causing the boat to roll, then out. No steering. Repeated, 42.2 (b)

Read more about: Rule 42Appendix P

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