July/August 2018 - My Mark, Not Your Mark, Who Has Room?

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July/August 2018 - My Mark, Not Your Mark, Who Has Room?

Sometimes when we race with multiple fleets on a course, we run into confusing situations. When two boats are approaching a mark, we usually expect the mark-room rule to come into effect. What if the mark is a mark for one boat, but not the other?

In the diagram, Blue and Yellow are sailing downwind on starboard tack. Yellow is sailing towards the finishing line. Blue is sailing towards a leeward gate mark to be rounded to starboard. There are no restrictions for Yellow about which side of the gate mark she sails. When they get to the three-length zone Blue, who is the windward boat, hails for room. Yellow hails back either, “Not my mark” or “What mark?” Who is right?


Rule 18 is the mark-room rule. Rule 18.1, the first part of the rule and the part that specifies when rule 18 applies, says that it applies between boats when they are required to leave a mark on the same side. Since Yellow can sail either side of this mark, rule 18 does not apply between Yellow and Blue. Yellow is the leeward boat so, according to rule 11, Blue must keep clear of her. In the absence of rule 18 for her, Yellow does not have to give Blue room to pass between her and the mark. Blue’s sensible (and probably only) move is to slow down and head up to get behind Yellow and get around the mark. When she does this, she sees Yellow hit the mark and she threatens to protest.


The rule about hitting marks is rule 31, which talks about hitting a mark that begins, bounds or ends a leg that the boat is sailing on. The mark that Yellow hits does none of these things for her, so Yellow does not break a rule when she hits that mark. For all practical purposes, that mark does not exist for Yellow; she does not have to give mark-room at it and she can hit it.


I wrote this article because someone asked me about a similar situation that shows up in RCYC Tuesday night races. In those races, there are usually two gybe marks, one green one for the first two starts, the other an orange one for everyone else. The Club has written a rule that is specific to these marks, so the situation on Tuesdays is different. The sailing instructions for those races say that the orange gybe mark is still a mark of the course for the first two fleets and that it must be left to port. This places a boundary on those boats on the leg going to the green gybe mark and the leg leaving the green gybe mark. It still has a required side. Rule 18 and rule 31 both apply at that mark to all fleets. On the other hand, if a boat in one of the later fleets got near the green gybe mark (which they usually don’t), that boat would not have to give mark-room and would not be penalized if she hit it.


18.1    When Rule 18 Applies

Rule 18 applies between boats when they are required to leave a mark on the same side and at least one of them is in the zone.



When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.



While racing, a boat shall not touch a starting mark before starting, a mark that begins, bounds or ends the leg of the course on which she is sailing, or a finishing mark after finishing.


RCYC Midweek Sailing Instructions 10.2

For J105’s, 8 meters, Div. 1A and PHRF I there may be a separate gybe mark and windward mark which will be green in color. If either green mark is not in place the fleet will use the appropriate orange mark. The orange gybe mark is still a mark of the course and must be left to port. If the green windward mark is in place, the orange windward mark is not a mark of the course for those fleets and they may pass it on either side.

© Copyright 2017 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 5/1/2019 8:39:31 AM by Andrew Alberti | with 0 comments

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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 2020 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 or 2017-2020 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2021 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2021-24. 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 an International 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 [email protected].


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