February 2012 - Outside Help

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February 2012 - Outside Help

Happy New Year. This is the first article I have written in 2012 (January’s article was originally written in 2011 for the December Kwasind, which doesn’t exist). With it, I am celebrating fifteen years of writing these articles, which began with the major changes to the rulebook in 1997. The articles primarily consider the right-of-way portion of the rule book (Part 2 When Boats Meet). That section of the book is seven pages and has fourteen rules. If I also include the definitions (four pages) and the fundamental rules (two pages), I am pretty sure that I have covered most of them by now at least a few times.

Regular readers should expect the same subjects to come up again and again, as they seem to be the subjects that either cause the most confusion (e.g. marks and mark-room) or the most collisions (e.g. port – starboard).

This month I will cover a rule that I don’t think I have covered before, rule 41, Outside Help. 

Part 4 rules apply only to boats racing.

A boat shall not receive help from any outside source, except
(a) help for an ill or injured crew member;
(b) after a collision, help from the crew of the other boat to get clear;
(c) help in the form of information freely available to all boats;
(d) unsolicited information from a disinterested source, which may be another boat in the same race.

Racing 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.

There have been several references to this rule in the on-line discussions recently. The line honours winner in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race was protested (though the protest was eventually dismissed) for allegedly breaking this rule.

The rule is designed to make sure that sailors are racing on their own and not using help from their shore team. Some breaches of this rule would be hard to detect, but we have to rely on sailors follow the basic principle that they are expected to follow the rules and retire if they break a rule.

Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.

The first thing to notice about the rule is that, as with all rules of part 4, it applies only to boats that are racing. Boats are racing from the preparatory signal (usually 4 minutes before their start, 3 minutes on an RCYC Midweek Race). You can get help from your friends, other boats or a coach up until the preparatory signal. If you damage some equipment, you can get replacements up until the prep signal. If you want weather observations from your coach boat at the weather mark, you can get them up to the same point. If there is more than one race in the day, you are allowed help between races. At one of the recent America’s Cup competitions some of the teams had extra crew who would be on board until just before the prep signal. They would then jump over the side with the extra radio and weather gear. Some classes put more severe restrictions on what is allowed and don’t allow coach-boat support before or between races.

During the race you are allowed to see what everyone can see. You can look at the windmill at the CNE to figure out the wind (though I find it pretty unreliable). You can look at the clouds and the flag on the Club flagpole. You are also allowed to receive freely available radio signals. 

The subject of radio information has led to several appeals and requests for interpretation over the past few years.  ISAF Case 100 makes it clear that asking another boat for information and then receiving it breaks this rule. CYA Appeal 76 says in summary “Radio communications do not necessarily constitute outside help, but a boat which engages in them does so at some peril.” The Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, noted above, came close to disqualification for a radio discussion of a competitor’s sails. You can have a conversation about your dinner plans for tonight, but it is probably not a good idea to ask the wind speed by the dinner tent if that might provide a benefit in the race. US Sailing Appeal 93 (US Appeals are not authoritative in Canada) discusses the meaning of “freely available”. Even though you have to pay to own a VHF radio, the public weather forecasts it receives are still “freely available”. This is true of Internet signals even if you have to pay for the laptop or smartphone and their connectivity. If you have to subscribe to a special weather service then that is not freely available. If the connectivity and/or device is sold to you by the weather-service provider then that is also not freely available. Nothing specifically bans cell phone calls during races but you should not discuss anything which might improve your position in the race.

If you have a coach on the water, he or she can take video and write down observations, but can’t share them with you until after the race. They are not allowed to signal to you which side of the course you should go to or which sail you should be flying. Some regattas put restrictions on where coach boats can be during the race (or ban them altogether). I believe that the Optimist Green Fleet (the youngest and least experienced sailors) are allowed coaching during the race.

Another subject of confusion is coaching from competitors in your own race.   Generally, unsolicited information is acceptable. If the race committee uses the radio to hail boats that are over early on the start, then that is freely available information. Responding to it is not receiving outside help. Calling the race committee and asking them if you were over early would be receiving outside help (if they answered). Having a competitor yell at you that you were over early is also not outside help. Asking them if you were and getting an answer probably would be.

Finally there is the subject of help when you are in trouble. If a crew is injured or ill, you can receive outside help (see 41(a)). If two boats have a collision, then the crew of the other boat can help get the boats clear of each other. If a boat or its crew are in danger, then other boats are required to give all possible help, but it is possible that the boat receiving the help may have to retire after having received it. I know that when I was judging a Europe National Qualifying regatta on a very windy day, we would stand by a capsized Europe dinghy but we wouldn’t do anything unless it was clear that they wanted help.

© Copyright 2012 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 2/1/2012 12:54:32 PM by Andrew Alberti

Trackback URL: https://rcyc.ca/trackback/66796af0-21b5-4287-8cd9-d785797a5149/February_2012_-_Outside_Help.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 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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