Wednesday, March 1, 2017


There are two interpretations rattling around in respect of tacking at a starboard rounding mark. (One  has been called "Scurrilous") So here is an attempt to open the discussion - because until there is a World Sailing Call on the subject everything is just opinions.
So the situation:-

Yellow approaches on Starboard, luffs and passes through head to wind before Blue has to alter course. Before Yellow is on a close hauled course Blue has to take avoiding action and protests.
1. Some people think that Yellow should be penalised for infringing rule 13 as the definition says mark room does not include room to tack, unless she is overlapped inside and to windward of the boat required to give mark room (which she is not)
2. Others take the view that having passed head to wind, she is sailing within the mark room to which she is entitled and is therefore exonerated for her breech of 13 (and possibly other rules)  by rule 21.
The argument goes that once she is through head to wind she is not tacking, as she will not pass head to wind. The heading of Rule 13 - "While Tacking" is just a heading, it is not repeated within the rule itself so has no relevance. The definition of tacking was removed some time ago (certainly by 1997)
I am pretty certain that I have been instructed by chief umpires to call the situation differently on different weeks. I think that if the sailors get to hear of interpretation 2 then we are going to see a lot more of these situations, as Yellow will feel safer tacking.
Two other circumstances are going to make Umpires unpopular.
The first, and not a new situation, is that while Yellow is on starboard 16.2 applies to her and if she is late with her tack, and Blue is ducking her, the swing of her stern could easily cause Blue to have to make a further alteration of course. Yellow would be penalised if there is a protest and this is the case. Only problem is that if the Umpire is to windward of the mark he probably won't be able to judge the distance between the stern of Yellow and the bow of Blue. The call will be easier if the umpire is following the boats in but opinions are going to differ.
The new situation is that if Blue does duck and become inside boat from clear astern she will be entitled to room, only if the outside boat is able to give it. Much will depend on how far Yellow is from the mark when she tacks and exactly when the overlap is established - plenty of room for different opinions on this one.
And, I think, we also have the instantaneous overlap situation where if Blue is overlapped inside when Yellow passes head to wind she is entitled to room regardless.
As if the windward mark was not complicated enough already. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Welcome to 2017

New Year and a new set of rules.

Brushing my teeth, I was reflecting on how the modern sport is fractioning into different areas.

The Match Racers now have a totally different version of rule 18 to the rest of the sport, and increasingly want to be foiling. The Team Racers with their starboard roundings are going to have a lot of fun with the new rule 18.3 (see US Sailing interpretations) meanwhile the fleet racer will continue to pretty much as before.

The Mark Layers continue their ascent. Race Officers no longer run the show - they just start the races. Luckily, the Results People are more and more accustomed to dealing with scoring errors and the sailors are able to avoid the protest room. Dinghy sailors don't really want to protest anyway. How long will International Juries last?

On the Proficiency side there are increased prescriptions - you MUST turn the engine off when changing drivers in a powerboat. You MUST keep your hand on the throttle at all times. All good practise and no judgement required.

Club sailors do their thing while the international circuses continue to grab the headlines.

My guess is that it was always so, or maybe I am just getting old.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rules are all very well . . .

One of the new racing rules of sailing  coming in 2017 says that a boat moving to windward by backing a sail must keep clear of other boats.

Interestingly, a number of people at the Umpire Seminar, had to have it explained how a boat could go to windward by backing a sail. These were experienced people. So one can assume that the average protest committee member is going to find the concept equally challenging.

My advice is that, should you be caught on the start line by a boat that comes in under you, shoves the sail out (backing it) and then comes to windward and hits you, Don't protest! If he protests take your turns. You are not going to win this one in a protest room. OK if an umpire is present the rule can work but forget it for a normal protest.

You cam talk all you like about his action causing a change of rights - so no transitional arrangements - but protest committees will decide on the balance of probability. How are you going to persuade a committee that it was probable that a boat moved to windward as against moving to leeward. Itisn't natural, bow could it happen? You were windward boat and failed to keep clear - end of story.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

No more audio tape

I had an old smartphone lying around and my digital tape was a pain at the last regatta, as I could not easily locate the bit of audio I wanted. I thought "There must be an app for this" and indeed there was. I thought it was very clever that I could record the finish and then re-name the file to "Race 3" or whatever.

However it got me thinking - why not video the finish with my smartphone and as well as the audio I would have the video? Well I did - and it worked wonderfully - except that I could not easily re-name these files. What was remarkable was that I could play it back and it showed the time - so locating a specific section of was relatively easy and I could zoom in on the boat at the far end and generally get a sail number.

The problems - well no one else was interested in having the data - with a cable it could have been downloaded to a fast computer and the results team could have scoured through for missing boats. The quality was stunning, particularly on a good monitor - but the organisation was not set up to take it

It ate the phone battery - although, as I was only doing finishes it coped each day but I was getting low battery warnings as we came ashore. So a spare or booster battery is probably a good idea,

It also ate up data - I have a 32gb card in the phone and it would not have held all the video for the entire regatta. I tried uploading it to YouTube but a single 6 minute finish took 10hrs to upload! So forget that idea unless you are working directly on a fibre network.

So now it's going to be mobile phones from now on - and I'm ordering a 128gb card!

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Having just spent three hours  sewing Buoyancy Aid Straps I am confronted again by the paperwork dilemma - Paperwork says the BA's are checked every time they are used - so how come at the Quarterly check (also a paperwork requirement) do I have 21BA's needing straps sewing and another half dozen with pocket zips stuck!

We very interesting discussion at my last Regatta about the value of paperwork and how having things written down can make it much easier to persuade other organisations that you are acting responsibly and can be trusted. It can also promote discussion and help clarify what you are going to do.

My problem with it is that, all too often it could hang you. If something happens the lawyers will look at it and may be able to identify failings in the way you have conducted yourselves. You said you would do this and you have not. You failed to respond to this document - you were negligent!

Often the problem comes down to a failure to communicate what is written to the troops on the ground - the briefing is inadequate or does not explain to them the reasons for a decision.

The regatta had some excellent facilities to recover casualties both afloat and from the beach - but this had not been adequately explained to the Safety Crews who had to made their own assessment of what they would do. They would not have waited for the specialist on water recovery team - because all they had been told was that a First Aid team was afloat. They had not been told that they had a specialist in water spinal board with which to recover the casualty. They had not been told that the beach recovery team were trained and that it had been agreed that they would transport the casualty to hospital. At all other events the ambulance service has attended and they don't go in the water - so safety crew thinking is what is the best spot to transfer a casualty to the ambulance - and that is certainly not the beach. In the event of a real incident they would probably follow instructions on the radio but had the situation been explained to them they would have been much happier and much more likely to follow instructions.

Communication is the most difficult thing to achieve. At the end of the day people have to talk to one another.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Have you seen this?

Apparently, there is a move on the last beat that Umpires north of Watford might not have seen (It struck me as quite a sweeping statement). Anyway this is it:-

Coming up the last beat on starboard opposing boats are sufficiently separated that the leeward/ clear ahead boat thinks he has room to tack and duck the covering boat. The problem is that, as he luffs to begin his maneuver, the covering boat bears away and closes the gap.

The problem for the umpires is that until the leeward/clear ahead boat passes head to wind he is the right of way boat. This means that the other (covering) boat is not restricted by Rule 15. Immediately the leeward/clear ahead boat passes head to wind he becomes keep clear boat and at this point the covering boat is restricted and, since the tacking boat intends to pass astern 16.2 applies. Therefore the change of course to shut the door has to be timed perfectly and a steady course held as soon as the other boat passes head to wind.

The principals are pretty much the same as Call D4. The problems of judging it are also pretty similar In keelboats you might be able to have the umpire call "Tacking" call as the boat passes head to wind and "Holding" for the other boat - but in Fireflies and other dinghies it's probably too fast for such a conversation.

I would say it is a high risk move. The sailor may know what he is doing but the Umpires need to be sure. A call against the boat trying to close the door usually costs that team the race. They are probably in a tight situation anyway, to be trying to hold a boat out to the left. So the potential for upsetting the sailor is pretty high.

I don't think the Umpires get the call wrong - they simply have a very difficult judgement to make depending on split second timing and, while the sailor knows what he is trying to achieve, it may not be what the umpire sees.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

And then it happened!

Only last Wednesday I wrote about Room at a Mark while Team Racing. On Saturday it happened. Two incidents that illustrated the way that the culture operates and how it needs to change.

In one incident at mark 4 a boat with no right to room came inside another boat who protested. I penalised the inside boat and was told that it was a stupid decision, there was no contact and no way was he taking his turns. So he ended up black flagged, disqualified and docked an additional half a race win for dissent.

The problem was that he was correct, there had been no collision and the outside boat had not come up and hit him, and I will never know why the outside boat did not come up. However, there was no doubt in my mind that the outside boat could, and should,  have come up but there was not the space to do so because of the presence of the inside boat. Therefore, the inside boat had infringed 18.2(b) and that is the reason he was penalised. The outside boat acted quite properly in not coming up and forcing a collision but protesting.

In another incident at mark 3 a boat with no right to room tried gybing inside another boat. It wasn't a particularly good gybe but the outside boat came up anyway and the boats locked together with the inside boat practically capsized on the outside one which was pushed over over and filled with water. The inside boat received a penalty, but was able to complete that and then get ahead of the outside boat going up the final beat because the outside boat had filed with water during the incident and was still waterlogged on the last beat. The inside boat sought redress. Redress was refused because there was no physical damage.  It was also possible that had she avoided the contact she would not have filled with water, so there was little sympathy for her case - not that this has anything to do with the rules or the decision.

The problem is that boats will chance going inside, and they are entitled to do so "at their own risk" but just because there is no collision does not mean that they do not infringe by doing so. My interpretation is that if the other boat could have used the space they are occupying then they have infringed. It is only if the outside boat was unable to get to that space or use it, while sailing a proper course, that they are in the clear.

The outside boat has to be in a position to use the space that the inside boat is occupying, and there were incidents where protests were dismissed because the outside boat couldn't get anywhere near the boat risking the inside path but the idea that there has to be contact is what needs to change. Deprive the outside boat of Room and you should be penalised, if they were entitled to that Room.