Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I lose a protest because a picture is not worth a thousand words.

I sail every race these days full of myself and full of confidence that I know the rule book, Racing Rules of Sailing. Not that I know it from dint of hard study. Nothing can be more boring, even on a slow afternoon than reading a rule. I only look things up a little after a race where situations come up. Situations like this illustration from my autographed and well-thumbed copy of Dave Perry's book are always happening for me. And I sail with this picture in mind and not necessarily with the RRS rule in mind, which reads like this:
18.1 When Rule 18 Applies
Rule 18 applies between boats when they are required to leave a
mark on the same side and at least one of them is in the zone.

18.2 Giving Mark-Room
(a) When boats are overlapped the outside boat shall give the
inside boat mark-room, unless rule 18.2(b) applies.
(b) If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone, the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside boat mark-room. If a boat is clear ahead when she reaches the zone, the boat clear astern at that moment shall thereafter give her mark-room.

Here's what happened to me, tonight in a beer-can race.

Four boats in the same class were approaching the leeward mark, three on port, one on starboard. Red Boat (me) senses there will be a problem hails Green early enough for Green to take Red's stern. Green Boat, clearly outside the zone is approaching a a hotter (higher) angle than are the port tackers, thus is hailed at Position 1 by Red Boat clearly inside the zone. At this point Green Boat calls "Starboard" at Position 2. Red Boat hails that starboard-port does not apply inside the zone at a leeward mark. Green continues, and in the congestion from other boats, there is extremely minor brushing between Red and Green.
(This diagram expands when clicked.)

The Protest Committee Chairman drew a line 90o off Red's stern in position one, and declared that Red and Green were overlapped at the point when Red entered the zone.

The PC Chairman also read from RRS Definitions:

Clear Astern and Clear Ahead: Overlap One boat is clear astern of another when her hull and equipment in normal position are behind a line abeam from the aftermost point of the other boat’s hull and equipment in normal position. The other boat is clear ahead. They overlap when neither is clear astern. However, they also overlap when a boat between them overlaps both. These terms always apply to boats on the same tack. They do not apply to boats on opposite tacks unless rule 18 applies or both boats are sailing more than ninety degrees from the true wind.
Here's another diagram and comment from Perry:
Remember that .... when Rule 18 applies or both boats are sailing more than 90 degrees from the wind, the boats are considered overlapped even when they are overlapped even when they are on opposite tacks. This becomes important as boats approach the leeward mark on widely differing angles.... For instance, say that both boats are reaching on opposite tacks to be left to starboard. When the starboard tack boat O reaches the zone, the port tack boat I is five lengths from the mark, but based upon the angle of O's course, I is overlapped on the inside of O. Therefore, I is entitled to mark-room from O under Rule 18.2(b)...
After this experience, I guess I will have to pay attention to Perry's dotted lines.

And, as a result, I am depressed. I had no idea an overlap could occur between boats on different tacks. The Red Boat's protest was thrown out and, there been minimal contact, Red Boat was disqualified.

I am humiliated.

Wait! What is this?

This chart is from Dave Perry's own
100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes, which is updated for the RRS of 2009-2012!

Yes, this scenario covers a course with a starboard rounding. But what's the real difference?

Perry doesn't draw a dotted line from the transom of the inside port tack boat. If he had the outside starboard tack boat would clearly be ahead of it.

I am not humiliated. I am confused.


  1. To me it looks like the protest committee's ruling is counter-intuitive.

  2. It's my understanding that Rule 18 is one of the most difficult in the RRS book to master.

  3. As a positive outcome in all this, you at least have now a better knowledge of the rules, without having to waste a slow afternoon......

  4. Yo ho yo ho the pirate's life for me. Rule 18? We don't need no stinking rule 18!

  5. Since you have added Quiz 35, I have to make an additional comment.

    The difference between Quiz 35 and your 'narrative' case is that Perry has the inside Port Tack boat as the first in the zone. Big difference.

  6. You're right of course. I am chart-happy.

    I see what I have to do next time: swerve to starboard as I enter the zone, so I can artificially break the overlap, and then turn back to my course to the mark!