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post #1 of 19 Old 07-25-2013 Thread Starter
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Autopilot while racing

I've seen sailing instructions that make special note that single or doublehanded divisions are allowed to use autopilot. The implication is that fully crewed divisions are not. When I ask around at a yacht club people tell me that the general racing rules of sailing (ISAF RRS) prohibit the use of autopilot.

That would be fine, but when I look up the RRS at sailing.org in the study version, the regular version, amendments to the RRS, or the equipment rules, I can find no reference to autopilot, autohelm, or electric steering. No document seems to mention it anywhere. The only reference at all to steering is rule 42.2 and 42.3.

If there really is a rule against autopilot use, where the heck is it?

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post #2 of 19 Old 07-26-2013
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Re: Autopilot while racing

Perhaps it is a case of "in this class, you're allowed 5 members on board". The AP sets one person free to do other functions and that seems to be in contradiction of the class rules. For example the rules in the AC are very clear and an AP would clearly breach them.

On the other end, the Vendee Globe has AP as an almost mandatory piece of kit.

That said, I am speculating and don't actually know the answer.


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post #3 of 19 Old 07-26-2013
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Re: Autopilot while racing

Generally speaking rule 52 is in play:

52 MANUAL POWER
A boat’s standing rigging, running rigging, spars and movable hull
appendages shall be adjusted and operated only by the power
provided by the crew.


But local sailing instructions can override this rule... and usually do especially in Single-hand and Double-hand, mostly for safety reasons. Symmetrical spinnaker launches under decent wind get entertaining (pronounced dangerous) without the artificial electric hands when sailing short handed. Ask me how I know, yikes.

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post #4 of 19 Old 07-26-2013
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Re: Autopilot while racing

Shnool has nailed it.

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post #5 of 19 Old 07-26-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Autopilot while racing

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Originally Posted by SHNOOL View Post
Generally speaking rule 52 is in play:

52 MANUAL POWER
A boat’s standing rigging, running rigging, spars and movable hull
appendages shall be adjusted and operated only by the power
provided by the crew.

Any engineer can tell you there is a very clear distinction between power and control. Power is measured in Watts and is the basis of real work. Control is simply information. The important part of an autopilot is control, not power.

Since hydraulic backstay adjustments are clearly allowed by rule 52 so long as they are hand pumped hydraulics, so should any other hydraulic adjustment as long as it powered by a human instead of powered by some other source. It seems a rather trivial matter to replace an electric hydraulic pump with a hand hydraulic pump and an accumulator to store up hydraulic pressure to run the helm, with the valves controlled by an autopilot. Such a system would clearly be operated by the power of the crew and should have no conflict with rule 52.

If rule 52 said "operated by the crew" it would be a different matter, but since it says "powered by the crew", there should be no complaint.
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post #6 of 19 Old 07-26-2013
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Re: Autopilot while racing

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Originally Posted by SailingJackson View Post
Any engineer can tell you there is a very clear distinction between power and control. Power is measured in Watts and is the basis of real work. Control is simply information. The important part of an autopilot is control, not power.

Since hydraulic backstay adjustments are clearly allowed by rule 52 so long as they are hand pumped hydraulics, so should any other hydraulic adjustment as long as it powered by a human instead of powered by some other source. It seems a rather trivial matter to replace an electric hydraulic pump with a hand hydraulic pump and an accumulator to store up hydraulic pressure to run the helm, with the valves controlled by an autopilot. Such a system would clearly be operated by the power of the crew and should have no conflict with rule 52.

If rule 52 said "operated by the crew" it would be a different matter, but since it says "powered by the crew", there should be no complaint.
How far do you think that sophistry would get you in a Protest Hearing?
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Re: Autopilot while racing

+1.

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post #8 of 19 Old 07-26-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Autopilot while racing

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How far do you think that sophistry would get you in a Protest Hearing?
It would certainly get you nowhere since there is either a commonly held interpretation of the rule which is based on a poor understanding of engineering and physics, or perhaps the rule makers have a clear intent but they didn't know how to word it. Fact remains that the rule as written does not preclude automatic control per se. Never the less, there's no point in attempting it since it would simply piss off other people and any protest would win.

The majority of RRS seems totally archaic and arbitrary in their selection of which technologies that can be used and which cannot. Why allow GPS in offshore sailing? Isn't celestial navigation a classic sailing skill that needs to be involved? Sailors can use satellite photos for weather, GPS navigation, endless instrumentation, and enough technology to fly a space shuttle, but they cannot use a simplistic device to keep the boat running in a straight line.
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Re: Autopilot while racing

My experience (very limited) is to be upfront with your RC, and the club that is hosting it.

Ask them flat out if it's permitted... We DID ask about auto-pilots no? Not hydraulic backstays.

Heck it was a shocker to me that some clubs/rules are against electric winches (not that I have such niceties). Again, I assume if you are racing PHRF and you were upfront, I doubt they'd have you remove your winches just to race.

Oh and if you are crazy enough to solo sail, and get permission to use your autopilot... keep the symmetrical spinnaker launches for ONLY during light wind (less than 10knts). It can become a circus quickly. In 12-15 wild fun (danger) happens.

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post #10 of 19 Old 07-26-2013
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Re: Autopilot while racing

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Originally Posted by SailingJackson View Post
It would certainly get you nowhere since there is either a commonly held interpretation of the rule which is based on a poor understanding of engineering and physics, or perhaps the rule makers have a clear intent but they didn't know how to word it. Fact remains that the rule as written does not preclude automatic control per se. Never the less, there's no point in attempting it since it would simply piss off other people and any protest would win.

The majority of RRS seems totally archaic and arbitrary in their selection of which technologies that can be used and which cannot. Why allow GPS in offshore sailing? Isn't celestial navigation a classic sailing skill that needs to be involved? Sailors can use satellite photos for weather, GPS navigation, endless instrumentation, and enough technology to fly a space shuttle, but they cannot use a simplistic device to keep the boat running in a straight line.
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