Re: Silly question...
Fuzzy details on the setup here. We don't know how big the boats are, and it appears that you were rounding a windward mark to starboard. Your description of not being able to tack for the mark for fear of getting hit makes it sound like though you may have been clear ahead of the other boat by 15', you were to leeward of him. Your understanding of "giving two boat lengths if we are overlapped" is incorrect. The Racing Rules of Sailing are the same everywhere, worldwide, and are available on the ISAF and USSailing websites. Read rule 18. It states essentially that when two boats are overlapped at a point THREE boatlengths from the mark, the INSIDE boat is entitled to enough room to get around the mark. It sounds like you must have been the outside boat in this situation, but we don't know how far away either boat was from the mark. If you had wanted to tack, you could have, but you would have needed to duck the stern of the other boat in order to avoid any Port/Starboard issues. Race committees often try to make sure marks are left to port, rather than starboard, to avoid the problem you encountered: boats on the layline on port tack being disrupted by others approaching on starboard.