March 2015 - Three Boats At The Weather Mark

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March 2015 - Three Boats At The Weather Mark

This month, I am going to discuss a situation slightly more complicated than I usually address. This situation involves three boats at the windward mark.

I will start with a two boat situation. Green is approaching the windward mark on starboard. Blue is approaching on port. At position 4, Green starts to tack and by position 5, she has completed her tack inside the three-boat length zone. Blue then luffs to get around the mark, forcing Green to luff above close-hauled. Blue clearly breaks rule 18.3a, since she has passed head to wind within the zone and then caused the other boat to sail above close-hauled.
18.3 Tacking in the Zone
If a boat in the zone passes head to wind and is then on the same tack as a boat that is fetching the mark, rule 18.2 does not thereafter apply between them. The boat that changed tack
(a) shall not cause the other boat to sail above close-hauled to avoid contact or prevent the other boat from passing the mark on the required side, and(b) shall give mark-room if the other boat becomes overlapped inside her.

In the second diagram, there is a very similar situation, but with three boats. Blue and Yellow are both approaching on port tack. Both boats pass head to wind within the zone. Both boats complete their tack, then both boats luff. Yellow luffs to clear the mark, and because Yellow is the leeward boat and has right-of-way according to rule 11, Blue is forced to luff to avoid her. Green has to luff to avoid Blue for the same reason. Now because Green has luffed above close-hauled both Blue and Yellow break rule 18.3a. According to rule 64.1 (a), however, Blue is exonerated since she broke rule 18.3(a) as a consequence of Yellow breaking the same rule. Therefore, Blue would not be penalized while Yellow would be. Yellow‘s proper course of action would be to have gone below the mark, or back at position 1 asked Blue for room to go behind Green.
When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

64.1 Penalties and Exoneration
(a) when as a consequence of breaking a rule a boat has compelled another boat to break a rule, the other boat shall be exonerated.
Copies of these rules articles along with animated diagrams can be found at > sailing > Know Your Rules.

© Copyright 2015 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 2/1/2018 11:25:56 AM 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
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