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lat42lon71 08-05-2009 02:24 PM

ColRegs - Racing vs Not Racing
This weekend I encountered a close miss, which still has me steamed.
Sailing a 30' crusier.
I don't race.
I placing safety first, then I avoid interfering with a race course, racers.

So I'm sailing on a STBD close reach on autopilot 5+kn. 300' ahead to PORT two larger racers tacked from STBD to PORT and were generally heading in my direction PORT side.
The 1st boat reset sails then headed up and crossed in front of me with plenty of room to clear.
The 2nd boat was having trouble resetting sails and was still PORT side. I watched him as we were getting closer, expecting he would head up in front of me as the 1st boat did.
We continued getting closer, now less than 50', and he was still PORT side and appeared to have the sails set for the new tack.
Being so close, I was satisfied that he would continue PORT side, to do differently would risk a collision. but...
He suddenly heads up and turns to PORT directly across my bow. I initially froze, then disengaged the AP, turned to PORT and avoided his stern by<10'
His crew was yelling PORT-PORT, I yelled are you F'n crazy. His reply was "We're Racing".
Now my question - My brief reading of race rules are they are more stringent than and do not contradict the ColRegs, regarding stand-on vs. avoid, and not with-standing this A-hole, what is a racer's attitude toward non-racing boats and what is their general respect for the ColRegs?


zz4gta 08-05-2009 04:07 PM

Even in racing, S trumps P. Crossing during a race will be less than 2-3' as long as both boats do not change course. Don't know why the race boat headed up, but you were the stand on vessel. That being said, racers don't like it when the gun goes off and a flying scot is 15' past the startline drifting at 2 knts. If its obvious they're racing, avoid the course, if not, I'd stay on stbd.

SEMIJim 08-05-2009 06:55 PM


Originally Posted by lat42lon71 (Post 511478)
His reply was "We're Racing".
Now my question - My brief reading of race rules are they are more stringent than and do not contradict the ColRegs, regarding stand-on vs. avoid, and not with-standing this A-hole, what is a racer's attitude toward non-racing boats and what is their general respect for the ColRegs?

Racers are no different than any other sailor, other than being a bit more aggressive in a race. Other than some tricky details regarding overlap and room at the mark, and issues with obstructions on the course, the stand-on/give-way rules and requirements to observe ColRegs are no different.

The boat in question was clearly in the wrong and the fact they were racing has no bearing on the issue, other than the fact that, apparently, the crew of the offending boat thought differently.

If you know what club or association was running that race, I would recommend you contact them and make them aware of the incident. Perhaps they'll make a point of making clear to future participants that just because they're racing doesn't give them the right to run roughshod over whomever happens to be on the water.


DrB 08-05-2009 07:51 PM

Okay, I have a differnt take
While you may have been the stand on boat, there are two things that I have issue with that you did, based solely on what you wrote in your OP.

Issue One: While it is not specifically stated, you imply that you were close to or on a race course. Maybe you weren't and the two racers that you state were 300' in front of you were just racing each other. If that is the case, then what I write next is not applicable. If you knew that you were close to two boats the were racing, in race, why not just alter your course and sail around the course, or at least to an area where the traffic is less. While two boats is not real traffic, once they get within several boat lengths and they are engaged, why not give them the benefit of the doubt and get out of their way, stand on or not?

Issue Two: If you're in close proximity of other craft, what is the reason for your using autopilot? I'm sure others with have opinion on both sides, but I think it is a little irresponsible to steer with an AP, especially with very close on coming traffic that is obviously encroaching on you; stand on or not. You basically waited until the last possible second to actually get up and disengage the AP and do a collision avoidance maneuver. What would have happened had you not been able to disengage the AP? You really left yourself no options by waiting to the last second. I very rarely use AP when sailing in an area where there is congestion. I do use AP if I by myself to raise and lower the mainsail, but that is it and it usually takes 5 to 10 seconds and I do it in area where the area is clear.


lat42lon71 08-06-2009 10:40 AM


The two boats were the only ones remotely near me, I expect they were badly trailing the pack.

Re 1 - I was close to a race course, which made me more attentive of the actions of the two boats, intending to defer to their actions. Boat 1 headed up with plenty of room - no problem. Boat 2 maintained Port to me tack. If I dropped down, I'd be crossing its bow and impeding its intended course, thereby impeding its race progress.

Re 2 - I was at the helm, disengage means hit the standby button, maybe 2-3 seconds between reaction and execution. I regularly disengage in close traffic. In this case I wanted maintain direct course showing my intentions.

It was not until the 'last possible second' there was an urgency imposed by the Boat2 action, and no reasonable expectation that manual evasive action would be required.

Thanks for the replies, I was looking for insight as to racing attitude, inferring from the Boat 2 skipper reply "we're racing" that I was missing something.


Hesper 08-06-2009 11:42 AM

The crew's yelling PORT - PORT really makes no sense and the excuse "we're racing" holds no water, so to speak. However, a racing boat crossing within "<10 feet" isn't really all that close as racers go. When it gets into inches, then I'd say it's close.

tommays 08-06-2009 11:46 AM

We race 1 or 2 times a week and while we like it when other sailboats stay out of the area when they can BUT we feel we have NO special rights over them

DrB 08-06-2009 12:15 PM

Racers have no special rights
So the skipper of "Race" Boat 2 was wrong when he said "We're racing", implying that they had special rights because they were racing.

And I agree with Hesper, 10 feet isn't "close" when racing. When you get to a few feet, that is a little dicey. However, my wife thinks that if two boats are within 300 ft, they're too close to each other.

Again, not saying that you did anything incorrectly, but I would have been a little more attentive to the situation and positioned myself further from the two boats, earlier than later, to avoid an potential conflicts. You were the boat with the Standon Rights and the race boat was not more privileged because they were racing.


mikehoyt 08-10-2009 12:31 PM

I would hope that the "Port Port" was someone on the other boat's crew addressing the helmsman.

The only problem with non racing boats in a race course is that non racers may react differently than racers in the same situation. A Port tack boat can cross in front of a stbd tack boat and will often cross with less than three feet between his transom and the bow of the stbd boat. In a race typically the Stbd boat knows this is going to happen and is prepared for it and holds course. If someone not accustomed to this starts taking evasive action by steering low at last seconds they might in fact make an action that could cause a collision. That is probably the only difference between racing and non racing boats,

Another point. With 300 feet of warning it would have been very easy for you to steer a course that would have avoided this situation altogether. yes you did have the classic Stbd-Port rights over the other boats but why push it when it does nothing to help you? Also being on auto pilot in such a situation seems silly. 2 -3 seconds to disengage is 2 -3 seconds you may not have.

Sorry to be blunt. You had right of way but probably should have steered clear long before the incident occurred.


merlin2375 08-10-2009 01:04 PM

Sounds like your average day in boston harbor...with some idiot that thinks that coming in 6th place instead of 7th is worth life, limb and property :)

The rules exist for a reason and they work because we're all supposed to adhere to the same rules (racers get no special rights).

Like everyone else said, from a purely personal standpoint. If you see a race fleet just stay away from them. Those guys are crazy :D

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