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  #1  
Old 09-04-2008
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Right of way question

I've been looking for an answer but can't find a straight forward answer...
I was on a broad reach on starboard tack, then a j/24 on a dead run on port tack. Who has right of way? He was flying the spinnaker. I changed my course in order to avoid a collision, but I think he should have changed his course.
thanks in advance
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Merit 25, #302. 1982
Flying Tern 14', 1968


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Last edited by alecs123; 09-04-2008 at 01:28 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-04-2008
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If you were on Starboard and to Leeward of him, you would have ROW. Starboard has rights over Port and Leeward over Windward.
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Old 09-04-2008
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The spinnaker changes nothing other than empathy for those of us who fly them short handed. In my reading of the rules you had rights of way on both counts, tack and leward/windward as Charlie states. In the same situation I would have changed course just out of courtesy for the spinnaker.
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Old 09-04-2008
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Same here, if able.
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Old 09-04-2008
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The 72 COLREGS do not give sailboats any "any right of way". The term "right of way", and thinking that goes along with this language is just plain dangerous and I have seen it get many unprepared and less knowledgeable sailors into big trouble. How many times have we all heard this?? "I had right of way over that idiot! I'm a sail boat god damn it"...

You were the stand on vessel but calling the term "right of way" is a little dangerous and tends to denote set in stone privileges.

There is only one certain situation in the 72 COLREGS, rule #9, where the term "right of way" is used and it does not apply in your situation.

The proper terminology is "Stand on vessel" and "Give way vessel". The ultimate goal of the COLREGS is to prevent collision and the COLREGS lay out certain criteria to follow under circumstances such as the one you experienced. When it becomes clear that you are a stand on vessel but the other guy does not know the rules of the road you need to make your intentions known as early as possible as you did.

Also bear in mind that the vast majority of boaters DO NOT know the COLREGS. You did the right thing by stating your intentions early thus avoiding a collision. If the J-24 had a clue he would have given way early and let you be the stand on vessel, as he should have, spinnaker or not..


Here is specific wording from the USCG regarding the Stand On and Give Way vessels:

"The International Navigation Rules do not confer upon any vessel the right of way however, certain vessels in sight of each other are responsible to keep out of the way of others. Usually, power-driven vessels are to keep out of the way of a vessel not under command or restricted in her ability to maneuver, sailing vessels or a vessel engaged in fishing. However, some exceptions exist when they themselves are not in command or restricted in her ability to maneuver (Rule 18), overtaking another vessel (Rule 13), are navigating a narrow channel or fairway (Rule 9), and other less explicit circumstances. Navigation Rules should be regarded as a code of conduct and not a bill of rights. They do not bestow rights or privileges, but impose the duty to either give-way or stand-on, dependent on the circumstances. What is important is not so much what things are, i.e. sailing vessel, operational, etc., but how to avoid collisions, e.g. although under sail yet able to be propelled by machinery, obtaining an early warning by radar, etc. Understand, the Rules are in place to prevent collisions not to define nautical terms or to be subjected to strict interpretation."
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 09-04-2008 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 09-04-2008
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I was on starboard tack and leeward. roughly I was on a west course 260° and he was on a south course 180°.
I think I'll report him to port authority, this is not the first time racing boats (not in a regatta) that make this moves.
thanks
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Old 09-04-2008
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Yes - but there could be several other factors that are involved. It was not specified that the boats were racing but that probably doesn't matter. However, if a collision had occurred it is likely that both boats would have been found to be at fault to some extent.
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Old 09-04-2008
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Originally Posted by alecs123 View Post
I think I'll report him to port authority, this is not the first time racing boats (not in a regatta) that make this moves.
thanks
It won't do much good but go ahead if you want to. If there had been an accident, reporting would be in order. Reporting someone not "giving way" is going to get you about the same response as reporting a guy you saw "driving over the speed limit"...
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Last edited by Maine Sail; 09-04-2008 at 01:51 PM.
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Well said halekai36. The correct term is "Stand On" and "Give Way" which gives clear indication to the vessels appropriate action in both cases. Some older salts used the term "Priveledged" and "Burdened".

The term right of way implies some sense of absolute right which the rules pretty much never support as the obligation to avoid collision is the primary principal of the COLREGS. Of course the term "Stand On" could be mis-understood to just keep going right into the side of the "Give Way" vessel when the rules state that even if you are the "Stand On" vessel you must deviate course to avoid collision. The point is follow the rules but in all cases avoid collision.
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Old 09-04-2008
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You were stand on vessel, and did not signal your intention (or at least didn't mention it if you did) to change course to the give way vessel, dude - while you report him report yourself.

Hal, you mention twice that Alec stated his intentions early, I fail to see how - he only changed course to avoid a collision (as he must do). He should have at least blown a horn - heck the j/24 might not even have seen him.

Stand on is just that, it implies that you WILL stand on, or at a minimum signal intentions to do otherwise PRIOR to changing course so that the burdened vessel does not in maneuvering to avoid you instead place themselves, and you in greater jeopardy.

Meeting head to head - horn signals:

Pass to port - 1 short blast,
pass to starboard, 2 short blasts.

Overtaking signals are different - port = 2 long 2 short, Starboard 2 long one short.

The fact that there are no signals for 'Crossing' as you were doing only strengthens the point that you were the stand on.

In similar situations, courtesy and thoughtfulness being my rule I would have signaled my intentions via horn signal and made way for him as he was perhaps less maneuverable and maybe racing.

Of course in the light air this month on the Bay I could have signaled by walking to the bow and pointing, and waiting for an acknowledgment (did that three times this past weekend).


Many times on our local river where we race there are sail boats out there that unintentionally get in the way of racers, not once has a friendly shouted "I'm racing, will you bear off" not been received with a smile and a wave as they bear off...even if they are the stand on.
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