October 2015 - Proper Course At A Reaching Start

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October 2015 - Proper Course At A Reaching Start

This month, I am going to answer a question I received by email. Any of my readers can send questions to [email protected]. I have a few restrictions. I am on the Sail Canada appeals committee and I don’t want to get involved in cases that would then preclude my being able to be involved in the appeal. Therefore, I will not answer questions about protest hearings that have not happened yet and I will not answer questions about protests that have been appealed or are still within 15 days of the result having been released so that they could be appealed. 

This question came from Perth, Australia, which is I think about as far from Toronto as I could ever expect to receive a question. The question is related to rule 17, which I discussed last month. 

In the diagram, we see a reaching start. Reaching starts are not very common on course races, but happen fairly frequently on fixed point-to-point races. Our own TGIF races are good example, though I hope that nobody would be this aggressive in one of them. Two boats, Red and Green, are approaching the start with Green clear astern of Red at position 1. At position 2, Green, who is sailing quicker, establishes an overlap to leeward, from clear astern,and within two hull lengths of Red. This exactly meets the criteria for rule 17 so Green cannot sail above her proper course. If we look at the definition of proper course, though, we see that a boat has no proper course before her starting signal. As the leeward boat, Green can sail as high as she wants; her only restraint is that she must not pass head to wind and stop being a leeward boat). But… when the starting signal goes at position 6, Green gets a proper course. In this case, her proper course is a beam reach and she must bear away to it. At position 7, she is breaking rule 17 since she is sailing above that proper course.

The second diagram is much closer to the one accompanying the question from Perth. Here, when the Yellow boat establishes her overlap at position 2, she is more than two hull lengths to leeward of Blue. Rule 17 applies to boats that establish overlaps from clear astern within, but since Yellow is further to leeward than two hull lengths, rule 17 does not apply. Like Green, Yellow gets a proper course at position 6 when the starting gun goes, but Yellow has no obligation to sail it. She can continue to luff Blue even to the point of not letting Blue start. 

It is important on all starts, but particularly on reaching starts (and when match racing), to note where and how the overlap was established, even if it has no immediate impact. Red has recognized her rights and if Green is sensible, Red will get a decent start. Blue is in a bad spot and the sooner she realizes Yellow’s power over her, the more options she will have to save her start. 
If a boat clear astern becomes overlapped within two of her hull lengths to leeward of a boat on the same tack, she shall not sail above her proper course while they remain on the same tack and overlapped within that distance, unless in doing so she promptly sails astern of the other boat. This rule does not apply if the overlap begins while the windward boat is required by rule 13 to keep clear.

Proper Course A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term. A boat has no proper course before her starting signal.

© Copyright 2015 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 10/1/2015 12:40:10 PM by Andrew Alberti

Trackback URL: https://rcyc.ca/trackback/01815e27-2791-427c-a0c9-9941b6935328/October_2015_-_Proper_Course_At_A_Reaching_Start.aspx?culture=en-US

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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