December 2012 - Almost Laying The Windward Mark

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December 2012 - Almost Laying The Windward Mark

This is the last article of the year.  In January we will start using a new rule book.  I will cover the changes in my first few articles next year.  In this article I will cover a situation that has not changed but I will use the new words since I don’t expect many of you to running into the situation before the new book comes into effect.

We have all run into the situation where we are not quite laying the weather mark.  If you are sailing a slightly heavier boat, you might use your momentum to shoot the mark.   Sometimes you succeed, sometimes the wind catches the other side of the jib and you end up tacking.  I heard two protest situations this summer where this happened. 

In the diagram, Yellow and Blue are both approaching the weather mark on Starboard tack with Blue just below the layline.  They are overlapped when they enter the three-boat-length zone.  Close to the mark at position 4, Blue heads up fairly suddenly in an attempt shoot the mark and ends up hitting yellow.  

Since the boats are overlapped when they enter the zone, rule 18.2(b) applies and Blue is entitled to Mark-Room.  When Blue suddenly alters course, she would normally have to give Yellow room to keep clear according to rule 16.  It appears that she may have broken a rule, but as this course alteration is required for her to round the mark, she is “within the room to which she is entitled” so according to rule 21 she is exonerated for breaking rule 16.  When the boats make contact, Yellow would be disqualified for not giving mark-room.  A boat in Yellow’s position has to anticipate that Blue might make a sudden luff and be prepared to  give Blue room.
18.2 Giving Mark-Room
(b) If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone, the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside boat mark-room. If a boat is clear ahead when she reaches the zone, the boat clear astern at that moment shall thereafter give her mark-room.
(c) When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b),

(1) she shall continue to do so even if later an overlap is broken or a new overlap begins;
(2) if she becomes overlapped inside the boat entitled to mark-room, she shall also give that boat room to sail her proper course while they remain overlapped.

However, if the boat entitled to mark-room passes head to wind or leaves the zone, rule 18.2(b) ceases to apply. 


16.1 When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

When a boat is sailing within the room or mark-room to which she is entitled under a rule of Section C, she shall be exonerated if, in an incident with a boat required to give her that room or mark-room,
(a) she breaks a rule of Section A, rule 15 or rule 16, or
(b) she is compelled to break rule 31.

Room for a boat to leave a mark on the required side. Also,
(a) room to sail to the mark when her proper course is to sail close to it, and
(b) room to round the mark as necessary to sail the course.

However, mark-room for a boat does not include room to tack unless she is overlapped inside and to windward of the boat required to give mark-room

The second diagram appears very similar.  Red is below the layline and as they enter the zone, she is overlapped with Green. At position 2 and 3, she is entitled to mark-room.  At position 4, she luffs up quickly in attempt to round the mark.  This time, her bow crosses head to wind. According to the last sentence of rule 18.2 “if the boat entitled to mark-room passes head to wind or leaves the zone, rule 18.2(b) ceases to apply.”  Since 18.2(b) doesn’t apply, Red is no longer exonerated for breaking rule 16.  When Red crosses head to wind, she becomes a tacking boat and is subject to rule 13.  In this case Red would be disqualified.

Boats trying to pinch up to lay the mark need to be very careful not to cross head to wind.  They probably want to release their jib sheets to avoid a backing jib pushing them past head to wind.

Boats sailing above other boats who are pinching to make the mark need to be aware that the boat below may suddenly luff up and the windward boat is required to avoid the luffing leeward boat immediately

© Copyright 2012 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 12/1/2012 1:52:13 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
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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