Five O'Clock Somewhere

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some rules questions

Yeah, I’m supposed to be working on my word count, so why am I getting hung up on sailing racing rules?

My two starts Sunday were really bad – on the first, I was late getting to the line, and on the second, I hit the pin and did a penalty turn. But probably both were someone else’s fault.

Zorro was upset with me when I didn’t cross the starting line until more than 30 seconds after the start of the first race. He thought my timing to the line was bad. But really, one of the other boats got in the way. I was on starboard, and so was the other boat; it was to my right. I tried to head up, and I hailed the other boat that I was heading up; I was leeward and had the right of way. But the other boat just wouldn’t get out of my way. Yeah, I could have protested that other boat, but I don’t want to start my racing career as somebody who’s quick to put up the protest flag. I ended up 30 seconds late for the line because the other boat held me back.

In Sunday’s second race, things were more serious. Part of the problem was dissent among the crew – my main trimmer and jib trimmer were arguing about the distance and timing of the line, and my foredeck crew, instead of keeping a lookout for traffic, got drawn into the argument. We were approaching the line, and suddenly Mother Superior’s boat appeared, from starboard, careening at us, and I hadn’t had the least warning. Yes, we were to leeward and therefore had the right of way, and Mother Superior had the burden. But I was taken by surprise and I instinctively pulled the tiller over hard to avoid a collision – yeah, that was Rule 14, but really, I just wanted to save my boat. If Mother Superior had hit Black Magic, at the speed she was going, she would have lopped the bow right off the boat, and we would have sunk.

So we hit the pin, and because we hit the pin, we did a penalty turn before taking off on the race course. Again, probably we could have flown the protest flag. We probably would have a very good case against Mother Superior – the only argument she might be able to raise would be that I had inadequate watch on my boat to avoid collision. But I did avoid collision even so.

It’s now too late for me to protest Sunday’s races. But I’m wondering what I should do to make sure that the rest of the racers know that from now on, I’m not going to let them walk all over me. I don’t want to become the annoying racer who flashes the protest flag at every regatta. But I also don’t want to become the fleet doormat.


Blogger Tillerman said...

Good point. I suggest that as a first step you talk to the other sailor afterwards about the incident. Maybe they saw things differently from you and thought they were in the right.

Then move on to discuss either with the individual, or perhaps with the whole fleet, the question of whether you are all going to play fair and do your penalties on the water after an incident.

If, after that, people are still fouling you and not taking penalties then fly the flag and protest them.

Tue Nov 14, 08:11:00 AM MST  
Blogger Pat said...

* One of the skippers in question has been racing for about 30 years but is still shaky on the rules... or if not, is either reckless or willing to endanger other crews.

* One of the other skippers, who is much newer to racing and fortunately is getting much better very rapidly, has already rammed and holed a committee boat.

* One of the most experienced skippers in our fleet was merely amused and said that "all those gals are boat bashers" and seemed to think it was cute and harmless.

Tue Nov 14, 04:06:00 PM MST  
Blogger Tillerman said...

Intersting. Sounds like it needs a fleet meeting to air the issue of how you all feel about rules and rule observance.

If part of the issue is lack of knowledge then some education sessions in the off-season could be the answer. These can be made fun - quizzes, competitions etc. At one club we just all gathered after racing to talk about incidents on the water and what rules applied with the tacit understanding that these weren't protest meetings with consequences but just opportunities for us all to learn.

But then there needs to be some consensus on "are we all playing the same game?" Some sailors genuinely want to go out and have a good time and not bother about rules. Others will agree that they want to play the game as it's meant to be played. But it's a recipe for misery and aggro if you have both kinds of folk in the same fleet.

Tue Nov 14, 09:33:00 PM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

I like the talking after the races without it being a protest meeting sort of thing. Something our club has done on occasion is have a mini-lesson on some point of the rules immediately following skippers' meetings, before everybody gets out on the water -- I found those particularly informative, but the guy who used to do those isn't all that available nowadays.

Of course, if I complain too much, they may send me off to judge school.

Tue Nov 14, 11:20:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm no expert, but if you had rights, you could either fall off or tell them to come up. It appears you fell off and didn't say anything to that M-other boat.

Wed Nov 15, 11:27:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

It is true that in Sunday's second race, we didn't hail the other boat -- because of crew confusion, we didn't see it coming until the last half second, and at that point, my instinct was to avoid collision by falling off. So yes, in that race, we may not have had grounds to protest. I don't know what might have happened if we had had a good lookout to see that other boat bearing down on us and hail for room.

In Sunday's first race, we did hail the other boat repeatedly, and the skipper didn't respond. We kept saying that we were heading up and calling for the other boat to give room. But it remained obstinately between us and the starting line. So what's the best course of action -- head up and swap paint with the other boat, on the basis that we'd given that skipper ample warning that we were going to head up? How does Rule 14 work in that situation, when the other skipper is refusing to obey the right of way rules, and the only way to get where I want to go is to collide with his boat?

Or is there some rule that's newer than the current rule book that says I'm not allowed to point higher than the other boat and force it to tack?

Thu Nov 16, 02:01:00 AM MST  
Blogger Tillerman said...

To answer your last question first... Rule 17.1 does place some limitations on how high a leeward boat can point, all depending on how the overlap was established. But before the start there is no "proper course" for a boat and so a leeward boat can luff all the way up to head to wind as long as she gives the windward boat room to keep clear.

After the start your proper course is presumably close-hauled so 17.1 comes into play. If you came in from astern to establish a leeward overlap then you can't luff above your proper course, close-hauled. But if the overlap was established some other way then you are allowed to sail above your proper course.

Yes, of course you should try and avoid contact (rule 14) but you can still protest even if there is no contact.

The fact that you didn't hail the other boat in the second instance is irrelevant. There is no obligation under these circumstances to hail the windward boat, though obviously in the first incident it would have been helpful in the protest room if you could have said you hailed the windward boat and they still didn't go up.

Thu Nov 16, 07:48:00 AM MST  

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