November 2011 - Errors At The Finish

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November 2011 - Errors At The Finish

I was recently asked a question about finishing and what to do if you make a mistake at the finish.

In the diagram two boats are approaching a leeward mark that they expect to leave to port. All previous marks had been left to port. As the boats approach the mark there is a race committee boat sitting on the port side of the mark flying Code Flag S. Code Flag S is a shorten course flag. 
32.2     If the race committee signals a shortened course (displays flag S with two sounds), the finishing line shall be,
(a)        at a rounding mark, between the mark and a staff displaying flag S;
(b)        at a line boats are required to cross at the end of each lap, that line;
(c)        at a gate, between the gate marks.

The shortened course shall be signalled before the first boat crosses the finishing line.
Finish   A boat finishes when any part of her hull, or crew or equipment in nor­­mal position, crosses the finishing line in the direction of the course from the last mark, either for the first time or after taking a penalty under rule 44.2 or, after correcting an error made at the finishing line, under rule 28.1.


28.1     A boat shall start, leave each mark on the required side in the correct order, and finish, so that a string representing her track after starting and until finishing would when drawn taut
(a)        pass each mark on the required side,
(b)        touch each rounding mark, and
(c)        pass between the marks of a gate from the direction of the previous mark.
She may correct any errors to comply with this rule. After finishing she need not cross the finishing line completely.

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.

44.1     Taking a Penalty
A boat may take a Two-Turns Penalty when she may have broken a rule of Part 2 while racing or a One-Turn Penalty when she may have broken rule 31. ….

44.2     One-Turn and Two-Turns Penalties
After getting well clear of other boats as soon after the incident as possible, a boat takes a One-Turn or Two-Turns Penalty by promptly making the required number of turns in the same direction, each turn including one tack and one gybe. When a boat takes the penalty at or near the finishing line, she shall sail completely to the course side of the line before finishing.

According to rule 32.2 the finish line is between the mark and the staff displaying the flag.   According to the definition of finish the boat finishes when she “crosses the finishing line in the direction of the course from the last mark”. The blue boat doesn’t see the shorten course flag or doesn’t realize which direction she should finish. She passes the mark to port and then crosses the line in the wrong direction at position 6. At position eight she finishes since she crosses the line the direction from the last mark. At that point she has broken rule 28.1. If a string following her wake was drawn taut, it would lie outside of the finishing line. If she sailed away at this time she would have finished but she could be disqualified if she was protested for breaking rule 28.1. Instead she goes back around the mark and finishes at position 15. She has corrected an error made at the finishing line, under rule 28.1. Once she finishes at position 15, her crossing at position 8 is no longer a finish. 

The yellow boat spots the shorten course flag and cross the line in the correct direction and finishes at position 5. At position 6 before she has cleared the finishing boat she hits it. Since she hit a mark she breaks rule 31 and has to take a penalty. Her penalty for breaking rule 31 is a “One-Turn Penalty” which has to include a tack and a gybe. The yellow boat tacks between position 7 and 8 and gybes between position 10 and 11. She can then finish.   It is important that she completes her gybe before she crosses the line again.   Her cross after position 11 replaces her cross at position 5 as a finish.

It is obviously easier and quicker to finish correctly the first time, but if for some reason you cross the wrong way or hit a finish mark it is important to know how to correct your error.

© Copyright 2011 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 11/1/2011 1:34:38 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
Sailing Rules: Mark Room - When Can You Gybe?
Mark Room at a Gybe Mark
Penalties – When and How to Take Them
New Rule Changes III
Mark Room at a Gybe Mark
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