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When a right-of-way boat changes course

Published on January 12th, 2022

The Case Book provides interpretations of the Racing Rules of Sailing, with the 2021-2024 edition providing a complete review of all the cases previously published and includes all new cases adopted by the World Sailing Council since 2017.

In this latest edition, many cases have been rewritten, some only slightly but others extensively, to illustrate as clearly as possible the application of the 2021-2024 Racing Rules of Sailing.

The Case Book Supplement for 2022 consists of one new case, Case 147. It is based on action taken during the 2021 World Sailing Annual Conference. The new case has been added to the 2021-24 Case Book and is provided below:

CASE 147
Rule 10, On Opposite Tacks
Rule 16, Changing Course
Rule 43.1(b), Exoneration

When a right-of-way boat changes course, her obligation to give a keep-clear boat room to keep clear under rule 16.1 begins. The right-of-way boat may give that room by making an additional change of course. If, while the right-of-way boat is making that additional change of course, the keep-clear boat unavoidably breaks a rule of Part 2 Section A, the keep-clear boat is exonerated by rule 43.1(b).

Facts and Protest Committee Decision

At position 1, three J/105s, S, PA and PB, were racing upwind, with S on starboard tack and PA and PB on port tack. At position 2, S bore away to avoid contact with PA. PA took a penalty.

When S luffed after avoiding PA, she was on a collision course with PB (position 3). Due to the proximity of the boats, PB was unable to keep clear of S either by tacking or by maintaining her course. S promptly bore away to avoid contact and hailed “Protest!”

The protest committee disqualified PB for breaking rule 10. PB appealed.

At position 2, S could continue to sail the course she was sailing with no need to take action to avoid PB; therefore PB was keeping clear (see the definition Keep Clear). At position 3, after S luffed, the boats were on collision courses, and PB was unable to keep clear of S either by tacking or maintaining her course. S needed to change course to avoid contact with PB.

When S, the right-of-way boat, changed course between positions 2 and 3, rule 16.1 required her to give PB room to keep clear. By promptly bearing away and avoiding PB, S complied with her obligation to give PB room.

Because S needed to change course to avoid PB, PB broke rule 10. However, she is exonerated for that breach by rule 43.1(b) because she was sailing within the room to which she was entitled under rule 16.1. PB’s appeal is upheld and she is to be reinstated.

See also Case 146.

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