May 2020 - A Big Collision

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May 2020 - A Big Collision

Last issue, I drew your attention to a new International Race Officer, who grew up at the club. This month I would like to draw your attention to an experienced International Judge, who joined the club almost 20 years ago. Lynne Beal is one of only eight World Sailing International Judges in Canada. She was the Jury Secretary for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and a member of the Jury for the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She was scheduled to be a member of the Jury for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and I assume will still be, when they take place in 2021. If you see Lynne around the club, please thank her for her ongoing dedication to the sport.

As I write this, I am social distancing by staying at home. These stratagems, social distancing and possibly even staying at home, might profitably have been adopted by two J Class boats that attended this year’s Antigua regatta. The J Class was the class used for the America’s Cup before the 12 metres. They are about 130 feet long, they displace 130-160 tons and they turn gracefully rather than smartly. The situation is fairly straightforward, but a collision between such large yachts is dramatic. Search Google or Youtube for “J Class Collision” to see clips of the collision. Also see . The situation is fairly straightforward, as shown in the diagram.

Yellow (Topaz) is on starboard tack before the start. Blue (Svea) is on port tack. Green, who is the source of all of the video I have seen, is purely an onlooker.  

Blue either doesn’t see Yellow in time or doesn’t release her mainsheet in time – or both. At the last minute, Blue does bear off a little and just before the collision, Yellow heads up a bit. Some comments on the web suggest that Yellow was about to tack but I don’t see it that way. According to a posted protest result, there was no disagreement between the two boats on what happened. The decision indicates that Yellow luffed up, to avoid the collision, when it was clear that Blue was not keeping clear. I would have thought that bearing away would have helped more, but I don’t think either one would avoid the collision.

What are the rules that apply here? First we have rule 10. Port-tack Blue has to keep clear of the starboard-tack Yellow. Next, rule 14 – both boats have to avoid a collision, but the right-of-way boat, Yellow, does not have to act to avoid contact until it is clear that Blue is not keeping clear. I am sure that Yellow thought that Blue was going to bear away and avoid the collision. Finally, Blue could not take a two-turns penalty; the collision resulted in injury and serious damage, so according to rule 44.1b, Blue had to retire. As it turns out, both boats withdrew due to the damage. Yellow was awarded redress for this race, but to little avail as both boats were incapable of continuing in the regatta.


When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.

A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room
(a)    need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and
(b)    shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury 

44.1    Taking a Penalty
A boat may take a Two-Turns Penalty when she may have broken one or more rules of Part 2 in an incident while racing. She may take a One-Turn Penalty when she may have broken rule 31. Alternatively, sailing instructions may specify the use of the Scoring Penalty or some other penalty, in which case the specified penalty shall replace the One-Turn and the Two-Turns Penalty. However,
(a)    when a boat may have broken a rule of Part 2 and rule 31 in the same incident she need not take the penalty for breaking rule 31;
(b)    if the boat caused injury or serious damage or, despite taking a penalty, gained a significant advantage in the race or series by her breach her penalty shall be to retire.

Posted: 5/19/2020 1:19:10 PM 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
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].


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
After You Cross The Finishing Line I
Tacking III
Tacking II
Publication Changes and Tacking
How to Finish
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