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langousta 08-12-2004 04:42 AM

Another proper course question
We were racing the other night and encountered a situation that caused some confusion for us.

Another boat gained an overlap to windward while we were both on a close-hauled course. They were able to point higher than we were and were asking us to head up but we were unable to go any higher. The question is do we (the windward boat that has been overalapped) have to keep clear? Or can we continue to sail our proper course which will force them down off of theirs or force them to duck behind us?

Rule 17 talks about the boat gaining the overlap not sailing above their proper course but I am not sure what rights the boat that has been overlapped has?

zydecotoad 08-12-2004 08:57 AM

Another proper course question
The windward boat (you) must keep clear.

In order to keep clear you needed to tack,
or just luff long enough for them to pass you.


langousta 08-12-2004 09:42 AM

Another proper course question
Ok....Looks like we owe the other skipper a beer. :-)

Thanks for the clarification!

sailingfool 08-12-2004 03:20 PM

Another proper course question
54 Attachment(s)
"Another boat gained an overlap to windward while..." you must mean leeward or theres no conflict.

As to the rule you need to keep clear of th eleeward boat, i.e. avoid them bu tacking.

Here''s an example:
"In Example 6, W and L are on the same tack and overalpped and sailing on courses that are slowly converging. Eventually, W is sailing so close to L that if L were to make more than a minor course change she would immediately make contact with W. W has not "kept clear" of L within the meaning of the definition of "keep clear" and has therefore broken Rule 11. See Rule 11."


langousta 08-13-2004 01:02 AM

Another proper course question
Yes, I meant to leeward. Thanks for the clarification.

Also, thanks for the additional explanation!

paulk 08-16-2004 06:29 PM

Another proper course question
Lots of people have problems with the above-described situation because the windward boat thinks that their proper course is THE proper course, and that therefore the leeward boat can''t make them head any higher than they, the windward boat, wants to go. Lots of yelling "Go back to proper course!" ensues from the windward boats in these situations, as if there were only one proper course for the two boats.

If the leeward boat is heading higher (and going faster, btw, or they wouldn''t be establishing the overlap), the higher course IS Leeward''s proper course, and she is perfectly entitled to hold to it. As stated above, Windward must keep clear.

mikehoyt 08-17-2004 10:13 AM

Another proper course question


Your argument at first seems to make sense but then I ask myself why rule 17 exists? If you arguement is valid than it is always true that a boat establishing a leeward overlap from astern is travelling its proper course. Why then the rule and who says which skipper determines what the leeward boat''s proper course is?

I would think that would mostly be up to the judges.

Rule 17 stinks. Far too subjective and open to a wide interpretation. basically sets up situations where leeward boat has been given ramming rights.


aflanigan 08-17-2004 11:43 AM

Another proper course question

Rule 17 actually places an additional restriction on the leeward boat that establishes an overlap from behind that wouldn''t be there under rule 11. Under rule 11, leeward can luff up to head to wind.

Nor does rule 17 nor any other rule give a boat "ramming rights". No priveleged boat (such as leeward boat in a leeward/windward same tack situation) may change course without giving the other boat room and opportunity to keep clear in a seamanlike manner (rule 16.1. Think of a buffer of a few inches surrounding windward boat; leeward cannot simply break into this zone without breaking rule 16.1. Of course, the "keep clear" windward boat is obligated to maintain this buffer zone; that''s what "keep clear" means.

These rules are an imperfect attempt to prevent collisions and ensure fairness in competition. They aren''t designed to give one group of competitors, or any particular individual, an unfair advantage over others.

The main point that hasn''t been made yet is, if you are racing other boats, particularly in one design dinghies, you have to ask how it is that another boat is able to point noticeably higher than you, especially if they are sailing as fast as you or faster. This situation could come up if one boat overstands the layline, but presumably the boat that has overstood should be reaching faster by sailing lower and should be able to roll the higher pointing boat.

Allen Flanigan

mikehoyt 08-18-2004 04:28 AM

Another proper course question

Of course they cannot ram. Was being sarcastic.

My main problem with Rule 17 is its subjective nature. This could lead to situations where each of the L and W boats think they have the right of way and hold course til the last possible moment.

I like rules that have one interpretation much better. If the leeward boat always had they right of way (which I think is so often the case W can usually ignore rule 17) then this situation would be avoided.

I really do not like a situation where two skippers know the rules and each think they are right.


aflanigan 08-18-2004 11:18 AM

Another proper course question

I think there''s a lot in the rules that is subjective (for instance, definitions like "keep clear" and "room" and "seamanlike manner" are all subjective; they are interpreted differently based on judgement). This is really unavoidable, and why the rules are an imperfect tool.

You can find situations where two skippers know the rules and both think they are in the right in their actions on any race course in the country; it''s not limited to rule 17 by any means. For instance, I think I''m fetching a mark and someone on port tack comes to the mark and crosses and tacks on top of me. They will feel that the rule about tacking at the mark doesn''t apply to me because they don''t believe I can fetch the mark. So much does depend on subjective interpretations. If you can come up with rules that don''t rely on subjectivity, forward them to the IYRA and they''ll give you a lifetime award and put you in the hall of fame. If you think there are specific ways they can improve on a particular rule (like rule 17), let them know.

If I understand the evolution of rule 17, this replaced the old rule using "mast abeam" where a leeward boat was allowed to luff "as she pleases" and didn''t have any obligation to avoid contact (talk about a license to ram!). It was a confusing rule (the mast abeam part, anyway) that was considered to allow/encourage aggressive luffing battles downwind, so the rules modifications in 1997 strengthened prohibitions against contact and took out the "mast abeam" and "luff as she pleases" language.

Maybe modern electronics offer the only way to take some of the "subjectivity" out of interpreting and applying these rules; we could have on board computers and sensors that could indicate when a boat was sailing "above" her proper course based on wind direction, compass heading, VMG, etc. and set off a flashing red light that gives you five seconds to alter course or incur a penalty. But if we do this, we take away the opportunity for competitors to exhibit (or fail to exhibit) good sportsmanship and engage in fair play. A big part of this, in my subjective judgement, is to presume that the other boat''s skipper is trying her best to abide by the rules and is not trying to take advantage of them. Unless I see clear evidence to the contrary, I assume that when a skipper says she is sailing her proper course, I accept that and deal with it. If I get sidetracked into worrying about what an "objective" observer would think about who''s sailing proper course and who isn''t, I''m going to lose my focus anyway.

Racing or other competition can certainly bring out the worst in some folks; we''ve all seen skippers out there who try to use their knowledge of the rules (or others'' ignorance of them) to their advantage. I like to remember that it can also bring out the good in some folks, who do their best to know the rules, take their lumps when they''ve broken a rule, and remain on friendly terms with the people they compete with after the race. Call me Capt. Polyanna. Just don''t try to barge at the start!

Allen Flanigan

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