May 2020 - A Big Collision

placeholder image

May 2020 - A Big Collision

Last issue, I drew your attention to a new International Race Officer, who grew up at the club. This month I would like to draw your attention to an experienced International Judge, who joined the club almost 20 years ago. Lynne Beal is one of only eight World Sailing International Judges in Canada. She was the Jury Secretary for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and a member of the Jury for the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She was scheduled to be a member of the Jury for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and I assume will still be, when they take place in 2021. If you see Lynne around the club, please thank her for her ongoing dedication to the sport.

As I write this, I am social distancing by staying at home. These stratagems, social distancing and possibly even staying at home, might profitably have been adopted by two J Class boats that attended this year’s Antigua regatta. The J Class was the class used for the America’s Cup before the 12 metres. They are about 130 feet long, they displace 130-160 tons and they turn gracefully rather than smartly. The situation is fairly straightforward, but a collision between such large yachts is dramatic. Search Google or Youtube for “J Class Collision” to see clips of the collision. Also see . The situation is fairly straightforward, as shown in the diagram.

Yellow (Topaz) is on starboard tack before the start. Blue (Svea) is on port tack. Green, who is the source of all of the video I have seen, is purely an onlooker.  

Blue either doesn’t see Yellow in time or doesn’t release her mainsheet in time – or both. At the last minute, Blue does bear off a little and just before the collision, Yellow heads up a bit. Some comments on the web suggest that Yellow was about to tack but I don’t see it that way. According to a posted protest result, there was no disagreement between the two boats on what happened. The decision indicates that Yellow luffed up, to avoid the collision, when it was clear that Blue was not keeping clear. I would have thought that bearing away would have helped more, but I don’t think either one would avoid the collision.

What are the rules that apply here? First we have rule 10. Port-tack Blue has to keep clear of the starboard-tack Yellow. Next, rule 14 – both boats have to avoid a collision, but the right-of-way boat, Yellow, does not have to act to avoid contact until it is clear that Blue is not keeping clear. I am sure that Yellow thought that Blue was going to bear away and avoid the collision. Finally, Blue could not take a two-turns penalty; the collision resulted in injury and serious damage, so according to rule 44.1b, Blue had to retire. As it turns out, both boats withdrew due to the damage. Yellow was awarded redress for this race, but to little avail as both boats were incapable of continuing in the regatta.


When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.

A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room
(a)    need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and
(b)    shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury 

44.1    Taking a Penalty
A boat may take a Two-Turns Penalty when she may have broken one or more rules of Part 2 in an incident while racing. She may take a One-Turn Penalty when she may have broken rule 31. Alternatively, sailing instructions may specify the use of the Scoring Penalty or some other penalty, in which case the specified penalty shall replace the One-Turn and the Two-Turns Penalty. However,
(a)    when a boat may have broken a rule of Part 2 and rule 31 in the same incident she need not take the penalty for breaking rule 31;
(b)    if the boat caused injury or serious damage or, despite taking a penalty, gained a significant advantage in the race or series by her breach her penalty shall be to retire.

Posted: 5/19/2020 1:19:10 PM by Andrew Alberti | with 0 comments

Trackback URL:

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
November/December 2019 - An Overview of the Right-of-Way Rules IV
Post Archive
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)