In light air, it is common for boats to get close together at starts and mark roundings, particularly on short courses, as we had last night. Happily in these conditions, there is usually no damage to the boats, rigs, or participants.
Race 1 (start)
Here we are dealing with Rule 18, Rounding and passing marks and Obstructions, in particular Rule 18.1 (a), which states that Rule 18 does not apply "at a starting mark surrounded my navigable water or at its anchor line from the time the boats are approaching them to start until they have passed them."
This is the "anti-barging rule." It's almost impossible to defend yourself, as the Race Committee is right on top of the situation. In the spirit of avoiding collisions, the best rule is "don't go in there!"
If the line is square or pin-end favored, it might be possible to reach along the extension of the line outside the Committee Boat and get a clean start at the boat. When the boat end is favored as it was last night when the tide swung us towards the pin from our anchor position, Everybody wants that position!
Just as clearly, only one boat will claim it, and that is the boat positioned close hauled along the layline, about 45 degrees below the starting line. When others try to come inside that triangle, as happened last night, there is a member of the Race Committee designated with the task of calling out "Oh, my God!"
Equally, there is usually one member of the leeward boat designated with the task of calling to boats to weather, "Don't go in there! Don't even think about it!" (This Corinthian group didn't warn boats off to weather.) The Race Committee was tempted to usurp this vocal chore itself, but bit its tongue instead, hoping light air would be merciful.
From this observation, I have determined that boat 1 was unable to respond to a luff from boat 12, because boats 5 and 10 were barging. Therefore, boats 5 and 10 are disqualified and boat 1 is exonerated.
Bottom line of all this discussion is to recognize that the Protest Committee will lean in the direction of protecting the boats. Barging will not be tolerated, and the view from the Committee Boat is unobstructed. (See also Rule 60.2). This is not the first time we have seen people attempt a barging start. (Team Z, are you listening?), So please review all the rules again before our next race, July 9th.
Race 1 (windward mark)
Later in the same Race boat 1 was unable to luff around the mark without tacking, thereby fouling boat 5, and she withdrew from the race during the protest hearings. [Remember, that a boat is still racing and entitled to usual protection under the rules, even if you believe she deserved to be disqualified for an earlier action in the race.]
On approaching the starboard layline, Boat 1 noticed that all other boats were well above (3 or 4 boat lengths) the layline reaching off for the mark. Boat 1 thought that it would be clever and tack right on the layline. Which it did well before the 2 boat length circle. However, Boat 1 missed the starboard layline by about a boat width and had to luff to pass the mark. When we converged at the Windward Mark, Boat 1 forced Boat 5 up and Boat 5 believes that Boat 1 forced him beyond head to wind. This is where contact was made.
If other boats above you have overstood and are reaching down on the mark, they carry a lot more speed than you have right after a tack. And if they get on your wind before you get to the mark, they will make it harder for you to accelerate quickly enough to lay the mark, or shoot up, if you have to.
That doesn't remove any of your rights, but it makes it harder for you to execute your turn without hitting the mark.
What you can do in a situation like that is hail the oncoming boat early on that you have rights and you intend to shoot the mark and you will need room to do so. The other boat should be smart enough to see the situation developing and prepare to give you room, but taking away the surprise factor by hailing early can often make things happen more smoothly.
You aren't entitled to any extra room, to execute your turn, but you are within your rights to squeeze around if you can do so without hitting the mark and the other boat(s) must give you room to do so.
It was Boat 5's contention that Boat 1 had gone past head to wind (i.e. tacked) to get around the mark, which would have gone beyond your rights for room.
In such light and fluky conditions as we had that night, the wind can play tricks on you, too. If the wind shifted left, even a little, as you shot the mark, your sails might have filled on the other tack, and Boat 5 would have been right.
A boat luffing another boat must give her room to keep clear. (No tag-team matches here!) This occurred in Race2 between boats 1 and 15. When a leeward boat luffs a windward boat, the stern will swing towards the leeward boat. Remember, the Soling pivots around a point near the mast, so when the helm is put down in response to a luff, the bow will go up, but the stern will go down, and the leeward boat must give room for this to take place. Boat 15 is Disqualified for luffing without giving Boat 1 room to keep clear.
The primary rule 14 Avoiding Contact still applies. As our sailing instructions indicate,
9. Collisions - All collisions must be reported to the race committee even if the alternative penalties are performed. Failure to report a collision will result in a DSQ.
In the Third race last night, there was contact between boats 12 and 15 shortly after the start observed (and heard) by the Race Committee. There was no protest, or report to the committee; hence both boats are disqualified from that race. (See also Rule 60.2)
It is important to recognize also your obligations under Rule 15 and 16. If you are right of way boat you must give a burdened boat room to keep clear.
In another incident near the finish of the last race, Boat 1 had the misfortune to be approaching the finish on port tack and had to go astern of two starboard tack boats. The starboard tack boat, under Rule 16.1, may not tack while the port tack boat is passing her, if her stern would then swing into the port tack boat. This might happen before the right of way boat reached head to wind, when Rule13 (while tacking) would apply.
[There was a foul here by the port tack boat, for which she did her circle. When she went to leeward of two other boats, she lost her wind and the boat came upright, making contact with the rigs. I bring up the other situation, as I thought that was the issue viewed from the RC boat was that of the previous paragraph.]
Race 1. Boats 10, 5 - DSQ Barging
Boat 1. Boat 1 - RAF mark rounding violation
Race 2. Boat 15 - DSQ luffing too close.
Race 3. Boats 12, 15 - DSQ for contact - no protest or penalty circle.
Race 4. No finding, as Boat 1 did her penalty circle.
Captain Herb Motley, BHSC