Starting this week and lasting through the next four years, the new Racing Rules of Sailing will be in effect. These new rules (often abbreviated as the RRS) are on the whole not substantially different than the 1997-2000 edition, but there are some important changes that will affect all sailors.
While the RRS is divided into seven Parts, 16 Appendices, and is spread over 150 pages, most sailors' familiarity with the RRS involve their use of Part 2When Boats Meet. These are the rules used most often by sailors in tactical decisions, and by judges and umpires when those decisions may be in dispute. Here's a review of the Part 2 changes and some thoughts on their application. New wording is underlined, and defined terms are in italics:
RRS 16.2 "Changing Course: In addition, when after the starting signal, boats are about to cross or are crossing each other on opposite tacks, and the port-tack boat is keeping clear of the starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not change course if as a result the port-tack boat would immediately need to change course to continue keeping clear."
This rule was added only two years ago as a result of concern over so-called "hunting" by the starboard tack boat, in which aggressive moves by the right-of-way boat might be performed in such a way to prevent the port-tack boat from completing her obligation to keep clear. Note that this rule only applies after the starting signal, but also only when "boats are about to cross or are crossing each other on opposite tacks."
Now, "about to cross" is the phrase that will meet with debate, since it will vary with the types of boats involved and their maneuverability in the existing conditions. As shown here (at right), this rule will constrain the starboard-tack boat S, either upwind or downwind, to not force the port-tack boat P to have to take additional 'avoiding action' (the phrase used to describe 'keeping clear') if P is initially keeping clear.
RRS 17.1 "On the Same TackProper Course: If a boat clear astern becomes overlapped within two of her hull lengths to leeward of a boat on the same tack, she shall not sail above her proper course while they remain overlapped within that distance, unless in so doing she promptly sails astern the other boat. This rule does not apply if the overlap begins while the windward boat is required by Rule 13 to keep clear."
The new sentence in this rule was intended to clear up difficulties under the old wording of this rule on how rights change in a slam-dunk tack. As Figure 3 shows, when S tacks to port close enough to P to have not completed her tack before P becomes overlapped to leeward (but not so close to have not kept clear while tacking, as required by Rule 13), then P will not be constrained to sail her proper course, and may luff S.
Also, the addition of the word "promptly" was intended to allow an overlapped boat to leeward the opportunity to pass the windward boat, either by passing to weather or by tacking.
RRS 18 The rule that governs "Rounding and Passing Marks and Obstructions" has received some significant re-wording. I'm including the most important highlights here, with defined terms italicized and additions underlined.
It's significant to note that a new preamble was added to further define room as the space necessary "for an inside boat to round or pass between an outside boat and a mark or obstruction, including room to tack or gybe when either is a normal part of the manoeuver." This was added to clarify the exact meaning of room as it specifically applies in mark roundings. Note that tacks and gybes are allowed by an inside boat rounding a mark, but only when "either is a normal part of the manoeuver."
RRS 18.1 "When This Rule Applies: Rule 18 applies when boats are about to round or pass
" There is no significant change, except that the addition of "round" or "to pass" just clarifies that the rule applies to boats rounding the same mark.
RRS 18.2 "Giving Room; Keeping Clear," has been re-worded and broken into five sections: (a) Overlapped - Basic Rule; (b) Overlapped at the Zone; (c) Not Overlapped at the Zone; (d) Changing Course to Round or Pass; and (e) Overlap Rights. RRS 18.2(a) implies that a boat which is entitled to room and has right-of-way rights may take the additional space needed for a tactical rounding, whereas a boat which is entitled to room, but does not have right-of-way rights may only make a seamanlike rounding. RRS 18.2(b) clarifies that a boat which had an overlap at the two-length zone will always have the right to room, regardless if that overlap was later broken in the zone. RRS 18.2(c) allows a boat which is clear ahead at the zone to round the mark as she pleases, except that the rights end if she passes head to wind (i.e., if she tacks). RRS 18.2(d) allows a boat that is rounding a mark (but not an obstruction) to maneuver without being constrained by RRS 16 to allow another boat room to keep clear. RRS 18.2(e) is not new, and is similar to the former 18.2(a) and 18.2(c).
RRS 18.3 "Tacking at a Mark," is a rule that comes up often in close mark roundings by restricting tacking manoeuvers within the zone. New this year is the restriction that it applies only at marks and not at obstructions; that it applies only if the boat completes a tack in the zone (and is not merely luffing or tacking); and that the boat involved which is not tacking must be fetching the mark. Just as in the previous wording, the boat that tacked must still not force the other boat to sail above a close-hauled course.
RRS 18.4 "Gybing," has been re-worded to indicate more clearly that the inside boat has rounding rights only up until she completes her gybe while rounding the mark.
RRS 18.5 "Passing a Continuing Obstruction," is little changed from the old 18.5 except that it is more easily understood, since the reader doesn't have to refer to 18.2 to get the complete meaning of this rule.
RRS 19.1 "Room to Tack at an Obstruction:
The hailed boat shall
(b) immediately reply 'You tack', in which case the hailing boat shall tack as soon as possible and the hailed boat shall give room, and Rules 10 and 13 do not apply."
The words 'as soon as possible' have replaced 'immediately' so as to give the hailing boat a more reasonable amount of time to tack in the prevailing conditions.RRS 20
"Starting Errors: A boat sailing toward the pre-start side of the starting line or its extensions after her starting signal
to comply with Rule 29.1 or 30.1 shall keep clear
of a boat not doing so until she is completely on the pre-start side."
This rule now allows a boat returning to the start after having broken the I-Flag Rule (30.1) rights to do so, provided it is in the minute just prior to the starting signal.
RRS 20 "Penalty Turns: A boat making a penalty turn shall keep clear of one that is not."
The wording was changed simply to make 'penalty turn' singular rather than plural, since there are times when only a single turn is required.