November 2013 - Rules Changes VIII

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November 2013 - Rules Changes VIII

Two months ago, we talked about not sailing the course properly; last month we talked about correcting errors when you finish. This month, we combine the two.

In the situation shown in the diagram, the two boats are racing a course that is buoys to port. When they are approaching the end of the first lap, the race committee is still in the position they were in for the start and is flying a code flag “S”. The Blue boat continues around the course, rounding the mark to port. The Yellow boat, which was a little behind, crosses the line between the mark and the committee boat. Which one is right?

When the committee is showing code flag “S”, the course is shortened. According to rule 32.2(a) the finishing line is between the rounding mark and the staff displaying flag “S”, so this is a finishing line. According the definition of finish, the boats finished when they crossed the finishing line from the course side. For Yellow, this is at position 4. Blue crosses the line at position 5, but this is not from the course side. She crosses again at position 7 and this is from the course side, so this when she finishes. So the short answer is that Yellow was right. Unfortunately, Blue still has a problem. She has finished and the race committee will score him as finishing, but the race committee or another boat may protest her for breaking rule 28.2. She has not properly sailed the course. The string representing her path drawn taut will pass the wrong side of the mark.

If Blue wants to fix this, she must unwind herself from the mark and cross the line again. Part (b) of the definition of finish, though, says that while correcting her error under rule 28.2, she has not finished. Only when she crosses again at position 15, from the course side, is she finishing.

The lesson here is to keep an eye out for committee boats flying “S” flags. The line is between the “S”. flag and the mark no matter which side of the mark the committee is sitting.

A boat finishes when any part of her hull, or crew or equipment in normal position, crosses the finishing line from the course side 
However, she has not finished if after crossing the finishing line she
(a) takes a penalty under rule 44.2,
(b) corrects an error under rule 28.2 made at the line, or
(c) continues to sail the course.

A boat is racing from her preparatory signal until she finishes and clears the finishing line and marks or retires, or until the race committee signals a general recall, postponement or abandonment.


28.1 A boat shall start, sail the course described in the sailing instructions and finish. While doing so, she may leave on either side a mark that does not begin, bound or end the leg she is sailing. After finishing she need not cross the finishing line completely.

28.2 A string representing a boat’s track from the time she begins to approach the starting line from its pre-start side to start until she finishes shall, when drawn taut,
(a) pass each mark on the required side and in the correct order,
(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, provided she has not finished.

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.

© Copyright 2013 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 11/1/2013 4:17:15 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


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