- The Rules don't specify exactly where the starting line is. It's up to the whim of the Race Committee. And often they don't tell you what they've decided.
- The Rules allow a boat you are following closely to force you into committing a foul by quickly slowing down so that you hit its transom.
1. The Rules don't specify exactly where the starting line is. It's up to the whim of the Race Committee. And often they don't tell you what they've decided.
What's that you say? The starting line is always defined in the Sailing Instructions.
You are right. But often the SI's say something like "the starting line will be between a staff with an orange flag on the committee boat and an orange pin buoy". But what if the pin buoy is a 5-foot wide tetrahedron? Does the start line run through the back, the center, or the front of that buoy? Because if you think it's the front and the race committee are sighting the back, then every time you "win the pin" you are going to be called OCS.
Think it can't happen at a serious, major championship?
Think again. It did happen. At the US collegiate single-handed national championships no less. Check out Andrew Campbell's account at The Starting Line - Can you show me where it is? Is it even there? And read the comments which pretty well beat the subject to death. But I'm sure the creative commenters of this blog will find something new to say...
2. The Rules allow a boat you are following closely to force you into committing a foul by quickly slowing down so that you hit its transom.
Most of us have some vague idea that the Racing Rules help prevent collisions by not allowing a boat to take a sudden action which causes a collision, or that if a boat does take such an action then it will be the one penalized.
There is Rule 15 which says that if a boat takes some action to acquire right of way she shall initially give the other boat room to keep clear.
And there is Rule 16 which says if a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to clear.
But if you think about it, neither of these Rules apply to a situation where two boats on the same tack are sailing along with the trailing boat's bow a few inches behind the leading boat's transom. When the leading boat eases sheets and slows down she is not changing course so Rule 16 doesn't apply. And the action of slowing down does not make the lead boat acquire right of way (she already had it.) So Rule 15 doesn't apply. So when you plow into the back of the sneaky guy that eased his sheets, it's you, the boat that's clear astern, that has broken Rule 12.
Ahah, you say. What about Rule 14: A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible? Surely the boat clear ahead that slowed down thereby causing contact has infringed Rule 14?
Well, yes. But Rule 14 also says that a right-of-way boat shall not be penalized under this rule unless there is damage or injury. And, in most cases, a little bow to transom bump between two boats sailing at almost the same speed is not going to cause any damage. So our sneaky sheet-easer gets off scot-free and you in the following boat have to do penalty turns!
It doesn't seem fair to me but that's how the Rules work according to International Judge Jos Spijkerman. The issue first came up in a question I posed in the comments to a very similar situation Rapid Response Match Race Call 2009-10. Jos answered my question and discussed this example and some similar ones in Non-Actions?
What do you think? Would you pull this trick in a race if another boat was following close to your transom? Would you feel good about it? How about if someone did it to you?
I suspect your reaction to this post will depend on whether you are a SNOP or an RRF. Which are you?