July 2017 - The 2017-2020 Racing Rules of Sailing VI

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July 2017 - The 2017-2020 Racing Rules of Sailing VI

This month, we will finish our review of the changes in the latest rule book, 2017-2020. There are many minor changes but they are not worth covering.

Before I start on the last changes, I need to mention an important correction required in the Sail Canada rule book. In the definition of “Clear astern and Clear ahead; Overlap” on page 8, the last sentence reads (my underlining), “They do not apply to boats on opposite tacks only when rule 18 applies between them or when both boats are sailing more than ninety degrees from the true wind.” The words “do not” should be deleted. This error only appears in the Sail Canada version; the versions available online from World Sailing, from US Sailing and the various rules apps are correct. If you have a Sail Canada book, please delete those two words.
Our main topic this month is collisions with damage. In January, I noted that a change in the preamble to part two enables penalties to boats involved in a collision with damage, in or near the racing area, even if they were not racing.

The second change with collisions lies in the requirements to inform the protestee. In most protests about an incident in the racing area, a protestor is required to hail “Protest” and if the boat is more than 6m long, the protestor is required to display a red flag. Failure to observe these requirements is the most common reason for invalidating a protest. There is, however, an exception for collisions resulting in damage.
(4) if the incident results in damage or injury that is obvious to the boats involved and one of them intends to protest, the requirements of this rule do not apply to her, but she shall attempt to inform the other boat within the time limit of rule 61.3.
(4) if as a result of the incident a member of either crew is in danger, or there is injury or serious damage that is obvious to the boat intending to protest, the requirements of this rule do not apply to her, but she shall attempt to inform the other boat within the time limit of rule 61.3.

First, the rule makes it clear that if there is danger to the crew, the requirements for the hail and flag do not apply. I believe that this was already the case with the previous rule, as the hail and flag should be made at the first “reasonable opportunity”. If the crew is in danger, I believe no “reasonable opportunity” exists. The rule however now makes this explicit.
Second, the word “serious” now appears ahead of “damage”. There is no clear definition of serious damage in the rule book or in appeal cases from Sail Canada or World Sailing.
Ultimately, we must rely our own interpretation, but we now have some thoughts from the US Sailing Appeals book. These appeals are not authoritative in Canada, but they do provide us with some ideas. In Question 115, the appeals committee suggests factors such as safety, integrity of the hull, impact on performance and cost of repair, but for now, it remains up to the protest committee to determine what is “serious damage”. If you are able to hail and fly your flag, you had better do so, just in case.
The final change is that damage now needs only to be obvious to the boat intending to protest. Previously, the damage had to be obvious to both boats.
These changes may make it easier to seek a remedy in a serious incident, but I think you’ll agree with me that
an ounce of prevention (eyes open, thinking ahead, etc.) will still get you to the finish line faster than a pound of cure.


Excerpt from US Sailing Question 115
One authoritative English dictionary suggests that, when “serious” is used in the phrase “serious damage,” the term means:
important because of possible danger or risk; having potentially undesired consequences; giving cause for concern; of significant degree or amount.
This suggests that when a protest committee has concluded from the facts found that damage occurred in an incident, it must then consider whether any of the four criteria implied by the definition above apply, and if so it should conclude that the damage is “serious.”
Questions to consider may include:
  1. Did the damage put the safety of the crew at risk?
  2. Did the damage include a hole in the boat which compromised the integrity of the hull?
  3. Did the damage adversely impact the boat’s sailing performance in a significant way?
  4. Will the cost of repairing the damage be a significant amount relative to the market value of the boat?
  5. Will the value of the boat after repairing the damage be significantly diminished?
© Copyright 2017 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 4/29/2019 9:13:54 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 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 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 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 kyrules@alberti.ca.


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
June 2020 - An Unusual Start
May 2020 - A Big Collision
March/April 2020 - A Three-Boat Finish
January/February 2020 - An Overview of the Right-of-Way Rules V
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