December 2015 - It Is Legal – But Is It Right… And Should It Be Legal?

placeholder image

December 2015 - It Is Legal – But Is It Right… And Should It Be Legal?

I ran into several situations during the past season where the questions above were asked. All of these scenarios are based on situations that took place on Lake Ontario this summer. I have adjusted them to change the fleet and event and sometimes to simplify the explanation. I would be interested in feedback and what people think of these scenarios. I can be reached at

Strategic Retiring After Finishing

In a multi-race series, two boats are in close contention for the season championship. In the last race, Atlantic has to beat Baltic and put another boat between them to win the series. On the water she does this. She finishes ahead of Caspian, who finishes ahead of Baltic. Soon after the finish Caspian goes to the race committee and says that she broke a rule during the race, so she is retiring. This puts Atlantic only one place ahead of Baltic, so Baltic wins the series. 

Is it fair that Caspian decides to retire after she has finished? It is certainly legal. There is a scoring code specifically for it, “RAF” or “Retired After Finishing”. You are encouraged to use it if you discover that you broke a rule, unless there is some alternative penalty available. What if it is clear, however, that Baltic and Caspian are close friends? Does it make it different if Atlantic had actually hailed “protest” in an incident that Caspian later cited as a reason to withdraw?

Not Trying Hard Enough

In a youth championships that will qualify the top two boats to advance to the next level, Darien has won the series before the final race. Euphrates and Fraser are in contention for second place. Fraser needs to beat Euphrates by two places to finish second. Fraser is ahead of Darien and Darien is significantly ahead of Euphrates when they round the last mark. If the fleet stays in this order, Fraser will finish second in the series. Fraser and Darien go to opposite sides of the course. Euphrates follows Fraser. After Fraser finishes, she looks back and Darien still seems to be ahead, but she sailing slowly. Euphrates passes her, finishing second. Did Darien try hard enough? Is there a way to be sure? Is it right to not try hard enough? How could we ever judge or enforce it?

Covering hard

In another class in the same youth championships, Great Bear is leading going into the final race. There is only one boat that can catch her for first place. Hudson has to finish in first with Great Bear in last in order to win. Great Bear covers Hudson very aggressively from the start of the race. The two of them end up in last and second last. Great Bear wins the series. Ionian wins the race and since Hudson is in last, Ionian ends up in second place in the series. Is it fair that Great Bear covered Hudson so aggressively that lonian beat Hudson in the series? If Hudson had been one point worse in the previous races, then Great Bear wouldn’t have covered her and she could have finished second in the series. 

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about some cases similar to this last one. How much can Great Bear do to cover Hudson? There is a situation described in ISAF Case 34. In that case, boat A with a scoring situation similar to Great Bear was OCS. She was hailed and deliberately didn’t come back. Instead she hindered B, a boat who was in Hudson’s position. A eventually retired from the race but by that time B was back far enough in the fleet that A would still win the championships. The race committee protested A for breaking rule 2, the fair sailing rule. The protest committee (and eventually the appeals committee) agreed that A’s actions had broken rule 2. The appeals committee went further and suggested that rule 69 (Gross Misconduct) might apply as well. A disqualification under rule 2 cannot be dropped and this was enough for B to win the championships. ISAF Case 65 discusses a similar situation with a similar conclusion. ISAF Case 75 digs further into this question through a series of questions and answers. It says that as long a boat does not deliberately break another rule and her actions are aimed at helping her own position in the race, the series or other related series, she is allowed to hinder another boat. If she does it just to assist another boat, for reasons unconnected with sport or breaks a rule deliberately, then she breaks the fair sailing rule (rule 2) and possible rule 69.1 (Gross Misconduct).

If we look back at our case, Great Bear was hindering Hudson to assure Great Bear’s own final result, so this is legal. 
A boat and her owner shall compete in compliance with recognized principles of sportsmanship and fair play. A boat may be penalized under this rule only if it is clearly established that these principles have been violated. A disqualification under this rule shall not be excluded from the boat’s series score.


69.1 Obligation not to Commit Gross Misconduct
(a) A competitor shall not commit gross misconduct, including a gross breach of a rule, good manners or sportsmanship, or conduct bringing the sport into disrepute. Throughout rule 69, ‘competitor’ means a member of the crew, or the owner, of a boat.
(b) An allegation of a breach of rule 69.1(a) shall be resolved in accordance with the provisions of rule 69.

ISAF Case Summaries
(ISAF Cases can be found on the web at

Case 34
Hindering another boat may be a breach of rule 2 and the basis for granting redress and for action under rule 69.2

Case 65
When a boat knows that she has broken the Black Flag rule, she is obliged to retire promptly. When she does not do so and then deliberately hinders another boat in the race, she commits a gross breach of sportsmanship and of rule 2, and her helmsman commits a gross breach of sportsmanship.

Case 78
In a fleet race either for one-design boats or for boats racing under a handicap or rating system, a boat may use tactics that clearly interfere with and hinder another boat’s progress in the race, provided that, if she is protested under rule 2 for doing so, the protest committee finds that there was a reasonable chance of her tactics benefiting either her final ranking in the event or her chances of gaining selection for another event or for her national team. However, she breaks rule 2, and possibly rule 69.1(a), if while using those tactics she intentionally breaks a rule.

© Copyright 2015 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 12/1/2015 12:47:13 PM by Andrew Alberti

Trackback URL:–_But_Is_It_Right…_And_Should_It_Be_Legal.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 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
September 2020 - Back to the Usual Start
July 2020 - An Unusual Start II
June 2020 - An Unusual Start
May 2020 - A Big Collision
March/April 2020 - A Three-Boat Finish
Post Archive
September 2020(1)
July 2020(1)
June 2020(1)
May 2020(1)
March/April 2020(1)
January/February 2020(1)
November/December 2019(1)
September/October 2019(1)
July/August 2019(1)
May/June 2019(1)
March/April 2019(1)
January/February 2019(1)
November/December 2018(1)
September/October 2018(1)
July/August 2018(1)
May/June 2018(1)
March/April 2018(1)
January/February 2018(1)
November/December 2017(1)
October 2017(1)
September 2017(1)
August 2017(1)
July 2017(1)
June 2017(1)
May 2017(1)
April 2017(1)
March 2017(1)
January/February 2017(1)
December 2016(1)
November 2016(1)
October 2016(1)
September 2016(1)
August 2016(1)
July 2016(1)
June 2016(1)
May 2016(1)
April 2016(1)
March 2016(1)
January/February 2016(1)
December 2015(1)
November 2015(1)
October 2015(1)
September 2015(1)
August 2015(1)
July 2015(1)
June 2015(1)
May 2015(1)
April 2015(1)
March 2015(1)
January 2015(1)
December 2014(1)
November 2014(1)
October 2014(1)
September 2014(1)
August 2014(1)
July 2014(1)
June 2014(1)
May 2014(1)
April 2014(1)
March 2014(1)
January 2014(1)
December 2013(1)
November 2013(1)
October 2013(1)
September 2013(1)
August 2013(1)
July 2013(1)
June 2013(1)
May 2013(1)
April 2013(1)
March 2013(1)
January 2013(1)
December 2012(1)
November 2012(1)
October 2012(1)
September 2012(1)
August 2012(1)
July 2012(1)
June 2012(1)
May 2012(1)
April 2012(1)
March 2012(1)
February 2012(1)
January 2012(1)
December 2011(1)
November 2011(1)
October 2011(1)
September 2011(1)
August 2011(1)
July 2011(1)
June 2011(1)
May 2011(1)
April 2011(1)
March 2011(1)
February 2011(1)
January 2011(1)
November 2010(1)
October 2010(1)
September 2010(1)
August 2010(1)
July 2010(1)
June 2010(1)
May 2010(1)
April 2010(1)
March 2010(1)
February 2010(1)
January 2010(1)