June 2010 - Proper Course I

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June 2010 - Proper Course I

As I taught a couple of rules seminars this spring, I realized that there is still confusion over the term “Proper Course”. I will start with a discussion of what proper course is. Later I will talk about how the rules use it.   Proper Course is a term defined in the rule book and then used in several other rules.
Proper Course   
A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term. A boat has no proper course before her starting signal.

“A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of other boats” can often be paraphrased as “the course you would have sailed if the other boats weren’t there”. It is certainly a convenient way to think about it. I am going to work around the course and discuss a number of common situations.  

(click on the diagram to see a larger cleaner version)

In the first diagram the starting signal goes at position 1. The yellow boat was sitting luffing waiting for the signal. Her proper course now is to bear off, fill her sails and start up the course. The blue boat was just below the layline for the mark at the leeward end of the line. She is going to pinch up to “shoot the mark” using her momentum, then bear off and sail up the course. For both of these boats these are their proper courses.

For most boats, most of the way up a windward leg, their proper course is close hauled. We have to keep in mind that some boats point higher than others and therefore will have higher proper courses.

(click on the diagram to see a larger cleaner version)

In the second diagram the boats are at the windward mark. The green boat has approached on Starboard a little below the layline. He will head up and shoot the mark. The red boat has overstood the mark. He will tack. For both boats these are their proper courses. 

(click on the diagram to see a larger cleaner version)

The next leg is a tight reach. The white boat goes up and over the much slower black boat and the sails directly to the mark. The purple boat goes high early on the leg so that she can the sail lower and hoist a spinnaker. After rounding the mark the white boat heads directly downwind or even slightly by the lee. This is a good course for a white sail boat sailing winging out its jib or on some single sailed boats such as lasers which sail very well by the lee. The purple boat with its spinnaker up continues on a higher course to maintain optimum VMG. She will probably gybe further down the leg. Each of these boats is sailing her proper course.

(click on the diagram to see a larger cleaner version)

Finally approaching the finish, the orange boat sails past the gybe line to the finishing mark. She ends up having to drop her spinnaker and reach back. At position 3 she is above her proper course. The grey boat is sailing down towards the committee boat at position 1. At position 2 she heads up towards the other end of the line. Either of these may be her proper course assuming the speed gained on her course at position 2 makes up for the extra distance sailed.

It is not uncommon that a boat may have to choose between two quite reasonable choices of course. These may both be the boats proper course. If other are sailing that course or if the boat has been or continues to sail that course when other boats are not as close it is probably defendable as a proper course.
© Copyright 2010 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 6/1/2010 2:52:45 PM by Andrew Alberti

Trackback URL: https://rcyc.ca/trackback/5484f1bc-d1c9-4a65-a259-bce5adaadd95/June_2010_-_Proper_Course_I.aspx?culture=en-US

This page provides links to a set of articles original published in Kwasind magazine. The versions here include animated diagrams. The original articles can be found within the original magazines which are available online back to January 2007. 

Articles before December 2016 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2017 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-20. A copy of the new rules can be found on sailing.org.
Andrew Alberti has been writing these monthly articles in the Kwasind since early 1997.  They explain the Racing Rules of Sailing. Andrew is a National Judge and National Umpire. He is a member of the Sail Canada Rules and Appeals Committees. The interpretation of the rules contained in the articles is Andrew's and not that of the RCYC or any of the committees he sits on. 

Send your questions to Andrew at kyrules@alberti.ca.


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