May 2013 - Rules Changes IV

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May 2013 - Rules Changes IV

Last week I started to talk about exoneration in rule 21.  I will continue this month.  Rule 21 is a new rule combining rule 18.5 and 20.2.  Up until 2008, the preamble to Section C used to state that, “To the extent that a Section C rule conflicts with a rule in Section A or B, the Section C rule takes precedence.”  When the mark and obstruction rules were rewritten (again) in 2009, the wording of the Section C rule “taking precedence” was replaced with the concept of a boat “being exonerated” if she is entitled to room and in taking it, breaks one of the other rules.  There were two separate rules, one covering the Mark-Room rule (rule 18) and one covering the Room to Tack at an Obstruction rule (rule 20). 

In the new book, these two rules are combined into a single new rule 21, which covers Mark-Room (rule 18), Room to Pass an Obstruction (rule 19) and Room to Tack at an Obstruction (rule 20).

18.5 Exoneration
When a boat is taking mark-room to which she is entitled, she shall be exonerated
(a) if, as a result of the other boat failing to give her mark-room, she breaks a rule of Section A, or
(b) if, by rounding the mark on her proper course, she breaks a rule of Section A or rule 15 or 16.

20.2 Exoneration
When a boat is taking room to which she is entitled under rule 20.1(b), she shall be exonerated if she breaks a rule of Section A or rule 15 or 16.

When a boat is sailing within the room or mark-room to which she is entitled under a rule of Section C, she shall be exonerated if, in an incident with a boat required to give her that room or mark-room,
(a) she breaks a rule of Section A, rule 15 or rule 16, or
(b) she is compelled to break rule 31.

Let me show some examples.

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

In the diagram, when Blue and Yellow get to the three-length zone they are overlapped.  Blue is entitled to mark-room.  Blue is on port tack and Yellow is on starboard, so when Blue takes the mark-room to which she is entitled, she is breaking rule 10 by not keeping clear of Yellow.  At position 4, Blue hits the mark.  She therefore breaks rule 31.  Blue is exonerated for breaking a rule of Section A (rule 10) since she was sailing within the room to which she was entitled under a rule of Section C (rule 18) and she is exonerated for hitting the mark since she was compelled to by Yellow not giving her room.

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

In the second diagram, Red and Green are sailing out the Eastern Gap near the seawall.  Red is on port tack, right against the seawall.  Green, on starboard tack, sails towards her and then has to alter course to avoid her.  Red has broken rule 10, just as Blue did in the first diagram. Green is required by rule 19 to give Red room between her and the obstruction.  Rule 19 is in Section C, so Red is exonerated for breaking rule 10.

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

In the third diagram, Purple and White are approaching a seawall on starboard tack.   At position 1
purple hails for room to tack.  White hails back “you tack”.  Purple tacks.  White has to avoid Purple while Purple is tacking so Purple breaks rule 13, which is another rule of Section A.  Purple is entitled under rule 20 to room to tack, so Purple is exonerated for breaking rule 13.

© Copyright 2013 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 5/1/2013 2:19:08 PM by Andrew Alberti

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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
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


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
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