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Is the boat head to wind, or just have the sheets blown?

Luffing doesn't negate the fact they're on starboard and the overtaking boat must keep clear. Luffing at a start is an easy way to hold your spot in a competative OD fleet and used quite often.
 

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He was not heat to wind, just had his sheets out and sails flogging.

It seems like a poor strategy, I like to hit the line at full speed when I start. But it used to be, a luffing boat had no rights.
Idealy, full speed is great. But most of the time there are too many boats to get that kind of position and clean air. On a very crowded line, blowing the sheet may be the only way to stay on the first row. Only thing you could do about it, is sail under them and try calling them up, but then you would've overtaken from astern and have no rights.
 

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Yea, when there's room on the line, there's no reason to be dead in the water, you're supposed to sheet in ~10-15 second early to accelorate but I guess they forgot that part! Now when you have a OD fleet with 40+ boats, you start to see a real fight for the front row, as the second row will have choppy water, and really bad air.
 

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Once you pass head to wind you have no rights under rule 13, until you reach a close-hauled course. I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a closed hauled course. Must your sails be trimmed properly or is it simply the boat's course that matters?

What rule is that from? Rule 17 only prevents a leeward boat that acquire overlap from astern from sailing above her proper course, but a boat has no proper course before the race starts.
Correct, the way I wrote it is confusing. There's no proper course before the start, but as soon as the gun goes off, you can't sail above your proper course.
 
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