Rules Question

I saw this one yesterday… 2 boat raciing for serious points approaching the finish line on Port/Starboard. The Port tack has just a nose advantage and they will meet (impact) less than half boat length after crossing the finish line. If Port holds to it, he will beat starboard to the line, but the colision would be unavoidable after they both crossed the line.

Goodsportsmanship says, Port tacks

Trophy hunter says, I want the points

Rules say… ??? [B)]

Starboard tack always has right of way regardless of finish line. At least I think.

Does that sound right?



Not completely sure, but I believe to be penalty free, a boat has to clear the line, not just cross it. If that’s true, the port tacker would be at fault. Not that it’s a reasonable possibility, but a tack on the line might be a possible out for the port tacker in this situation.


Correct me, but “crossing the line” is achieved as soon as any part of the boat on it’s normal possition crosses the line… At least that was the way it was when I used to race big boats…


The more I practice, the luckier I get.

Rules apply “while racing” that would include an incident that occurred when a boat was still partially crossing the finishing line. So, if a collision occurred port tack boat would in all liklihood have to do a circle and recross the line to properly finish. What makes this an interesting question is whether or not the starboard tack boat was obligated to avoid the collision and if there was room at the finish line for the starboard boat to bear/tack away.

Appendix to RRoS, Definitions: “A boat is racing… until she finishes and clears the finishing line and marks…”

“Finishing” in the situation described above takes place as soon as any part of boat/equipment touches the line - see the definitions for the full and correct description.

If I were starboard tack boat in this situation, and the port tack boat did not give way, AND I believed that she could not have done so unless she had altered course before she finished, then I would certainly be putting a case that the port tack boat had not cleared the finish line.


Both boats were in the middle of the line… there was more than adequate room for either boat to maneuver any way they needed. The line was perfectly square to the wind and both were beating hard on the wind.

It was obvious as they closed on the line that if Port held to his course, he would cross the line first, but it was also obvious that if he went head to wind at the last possible moment Starboard would most likely eek out a win, and there would be at least a broadside to broadside banging. If Port held on then Starboard would have T-boned him halfway between the bow and the mast… assuming that he held his course as well.

The question to me was when was the race over? and when did the rules… affecting the outcome of the race specifically end? Muzza’s quote of the rules says:

<blockquote id=“quote”><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica” id=“quote”>quote:<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”> “A boat is racing… until she finishes and clears the finishing line and marks…”
<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”></blockquote id=“quote”></font id=“quote”> so… that says you are still racing until you have cleared the line <u>as well as the marks</u>… SO now it gets deeper…

Starboard crosses the finish line just after port (line square to the wind, both boats beating) and just inches before the transom clears the line, her bow makes contact with Ports transom. Port has already finished…

  1. Does Starboard have rights over a boat that has “finished” ???
    2 Has Port actually finished??? Her course is well clear of any marks… but when is she deemed “clear” of all marks?
    3(I like this one) Port is just under a boat length ahead of starboard, and breaks the line with her bow and spins around on the line without completely crossing it to avoid Starboard. Although, almost all of the boat has been across the line at one point or another during the pivot, at no point has 100% the boat been completely across the line at once. Has she finished?

4 Saved the best for last…

Port is closing on the line, (line is squared to the wind, boat beating) and just as she crosses the line… is severely headed. The boat come across the line, but as she falls off, hoping for inirtia to carry her across the line and clear… she is now on course for the mark… she doesn’t have enough boat speed to tack, and must fall off further and re-crosses the line.
4a] Has she finished? Does clearing the marks on the race course side count as clearing period?
4b] Does she have rights if she HAS finished?
or does she have to avoid boats that have not finished?

This should be interesting

My reading of the rules is that a boat can be “finished” per the definition, but still be “racing”. The later is important because it has an impact on her rights and the rights of other boats. What do I mean?

I’ll start with Larry’s example 3 above. The port tack boat has gone head-to-wind on the line, and her transom remains on the course-side. The question is “has she finished”. I believe the answer is yes. A part of the boat or equipment (the bow) touched the line while the boat was sailing from course-side to finish side. It doesn’t matter that the transom is not over the line - she’s finished anyway. BUT - she hasn’t cleared the line or the marks, therefore although she has finished, she is still racing, and must still honor the rules, claim her rights and grant rights to others under those rules. (Larry - in order to focus on the issue you’ve raised, I’ll ignore the other twist, i.e. that the boat had not completed her tack onto starboard before the presumed contact with the other boat).

Seems like an odd concept - that a boat can be finished and still racing. Nonetheless, I believe the definitions deliberately allow this concept so that it is clear a boat in the process of crossing and clearing the line is still covered by the rules. Thus, a boat on starboard tack, finished but still racing, has rights over a boat on port tack, not finished and racing.

The distinction is also important because of rule 22.1 - “If reasonably possible, a boat not racing shall not interfere with a boat racing”. As soon as the finished boat has cleared the line and the marks, she is no longer racing. She must then avoid interfering with a boat still racing - or face a protest.

Therefore, until such time as a finished boat has cleared the line and marks, I believe that a starboard boat still racing has rights over a port boat. (Of course in big boats, a starboard boat has rights over port anyway, under the ColRegs - which apply when a racing boat meets a cruising boat). The key thing being that IMHO, if port boat did not seek to avoid contact, thus forcing starboard boat to take evasive action (with or without success), and starboard boat is disadvantaged as a result, then I consider starboard boat has a valid reason to bring a protest, notwithstanding the fact that port boat has finished. If port boat took no evasive action, then the general rule on avoiding contact can still be applied (as well as port-starboard rights) because the port boat is still racing under the rules. If the boat was considered to be no longer racing - just have a go under rule 22.1.

This also answers points 1 and 2 (at least per my interpretation).

As for point 4, this actually happens quite often in big boats, especially in light winds where a tide is running. A boat gets headed on the line, the breeze dies, and tide carries her back to the course-side.

So long as a part of the boat or equipment (no crew on our models) touched the line on a course from the last mark to the finish, she’s finished - notwithstanding that she finds herself back on course side. If she can clear the line (even on course side after “finishing” and clear the marks, she is no longer racing and must avoid interferance under rule 22.1. However until such time as she has cleared the line and the marks, although she has finished, she is racing, and, if now on starboard tack, still has rights over a port tack boat.

What I have to look up is what the remedies would be if a boat finished but still racing infringes another on the course side of the line. Penalty turns must be taken course-side - which would void the finish. Sorry - I need to go back to the rules to check. If I get some time later, I’ll see if I can find any decisions which have addressed these examples.

This is just my interpretation. Anyone should fee free to challange my reading of the rules and put a different case.



Check out this link:

Be aware - this guide is NOT up to date! But the definition in question is unchanged in the 2005 - 2008 rules.

Scroll down to the explanation of "racing’. Of interest is the idea that a boat still racing CAN interfere with another boat still racing so long as she doesn’t break any of the other rules. A boat that is no longer racing cannot (under rule 22.1). Thus the transition from racing to not racing is important, and the link above gives a view on when this transition takes place.



You know of any guide “rules for noobies” with pictures?



_/ if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! _

The Karma Sutra comes to mind - but I presume you mean sailing.

Actually the site I linked to above isn’t bad, but it’s incomplete, and must be read in conjunction with the current rules as it is only up to date for the 1997 - 2000 rules. It’s also linked from the AMYA website.

There a books available - but I don’t know of a good website. I always used to use the late Eric Twiname’s book - which was updated with every new set of rules. Even though he died several years ago - I think the publisher has kept the series going.

I’m terrible and trying to describe the rules in a simple way. As someone who works with the law every day in his “real” job - I’m always going into way too much detail because my mind seems to want to avoid ambiguity.

Maybe we should build a new website. We could agree on a format, and all the regulars on this forum could write one section each - with pictures.


By the way, US Sailing, via it’s hearing of protest appeals, has found that a boat is no longer racing the moment the transom clears the finishing line and finishing marks (US SAILING Appeals 16 and 26 and rule 28.1, Sailing the Course).

Note too the final sentence of Rule 28.1 “After finishing she need not cross the finish line completely.”

I conclude that if a boat finishes, but then falls back onto the course-side, she ceases to be “racing” once the hull is clear of the finish line and is in no danger of colliding with the finish marks. This differs slightly from my conlcusion above, which did not specify what was required to meet the deifinition of a boat “not racing”.

Further, I’ve looked again at the definition of “finished”. The definition provides for a boat taking a penalty in order to correct an error made while finishing. In such a case, the boat can take the penalty, and must then finish again. Obviously throughout this time the boat is still racing until she has finished (again) and cleared the finish line and marks.

I’m available for protest defense work. USD$390/hour Euro 300/hour plus expenses and perks. No pro bono engagements accepted.


arghh I love pro bono!! [;)] thanks for the input


_/ if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! _

Just copied some links from my “Favorites”
I don’t know if they still work.`?

The discussion is very interesting, but a question comes to mind on where’s the fun of a sport where a “simple” matter as finishing a race, almost requires a Law degree to be settled. The time must come when a simplified, more user-friendly set of rules is stablished.

On the same line, I think we must re-think what do we race for… and if it is worth all the pain of haveing to read and understand all those rules.

I think I read somewhere that rules are based on the old days, when sailing fishing vessels “raced” back to their homeports (to get better prices); rules were stablished to level the ground and avoid “incidents” If it is true, I truly think we should go back there.

My 2 cts.


The more I practice, the luckier I get.

<blockquote id=“quote”><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica” id=“quote”>quote:<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”>Originally posted by JohnB

Just copied some links from my “Favorites”
I don’t know if they still work.`?
<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”></blockquote id=“quote”></font id=“quote”>

Thanks, they all work except this one



_/ if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! _


Your comments are echoed by many others. I recall some suggested simplified rules being posted a few months ago.

There are two realities to be balanced - and a balance is usually acheived.

  1. No matter how much we would like to simplify the rules, situations arise which the best simplified rules just do not cover. To remove ambiguity, the rules become complicated through necessity.

  2. For most of us, sailing at club level, we already apply a simplified set of rules, generally limited to port-starboard, windward-leeward, and the various rules about room at marks etc. Most of the complicated stuff doesn’t arise unless we are sailing in a championship event or happen to sail against a very agressive bunch of guys. A bit of common sense and avoidance of tricky situations keeps us out of trouble 80% of the time. 10% of the time we get fouled up but both parties take a civil view towards it, - it’s often resolved by one party taking a penalty. 10% of the time (maybe) some tempers flare a bit. I don’t know about you - but at club level I’m not into the shouting matches. In my experience, it’s often those with the least knowledge of the rules that make the most noise (rash generalisation of course).

Of course for championship events it is, and should be, different (IMHO). Those that wish to play the game need to know the rules - or live with the consequences if they don’t.

But at club level, a bit of common sense, and the right attitude, should allow anyone and every one to have fun without recourse to their lakeside racing rules lawyer.

To change the subject slightly, I often think the many people have the wrong attitude to protests. So long as they are not frivalous, I think protests are a good thing at club level. If nothing else, they are a learning exercise for everybody involved. Again the key has to be a sportsmanlike and gentlemanly (a non-discriminatory multi-gender inclusive term) attitude. Over the years (in big boats) I’ve been in many protests, on both ends, and have won some and lost some. I’ve lost a few I think I should have won. But I’ve never lost a friend in the protest room, and I’ve made a few too. As you say - it’s sport after all, not war.

Hmmm - protest experiences could be a good sobject for another thread.


Well Muzza has worked his tail off on this… I like to explore possibilities, but didn’t mean for him to have to go through all this… but… he is typing much faster now than he was a week ago due to the practice no doubt.[:D]

Thanks for all the input, it does present some interesting scenarios.

Marino, sorry that it seems so much… but as far as “having fun” worry not… for myself and quite a few others… exploring the rules IS fun and finding holes in them (and plugging them) can be quite satisfactory. Not unlike debugging code, when you can find a better way to handle something with fewer steps and faster operation it’s very rewarding.

This happened at the local race last weekend, and it was resolved in about 30 seconds. The “Fun” factor was never in jeopardy… but we did have an unrelated event involving temper and a thrown transmitter as a result, also one possible lawsuit when someone stepped through a board in the dock and almost broke a leg and dropped another Tx in the drink… all in a days racing.[:-censored]

Muzza, thanks again this will be fun to watch for sometime to come.

also how far away is the boat from the finishing mark. A starboard boat has to allow the port boat room/oppertunity to finish (no “hunting”).

But if there is plenty of room for the port boat finish it should play out like it did. The port boat should take the starboards stern or tack onto starboard.

Similar to a downwind finish where the inside boat can only push the outside boat so far up but can not take the outer boat past its proper course.

just to add another rule into the fray rule 22.1 says “If reasonably possible, a boat not racing shall not interfere with a boat that is racing” so using this rule as well as all the other rules the port tack boat should have manouvered to avoid any collision before it happened.