Boston Harbor Sailing Club...More Time on the Water...

Protests et al. - August 11, 2004


Notes to all:

Finally a good breeze with only one ship passing through and no real difficulties keeping two racing fleets clear of each other.

Protest: #7 protested #1 for not keeping clear of leeward boat, resulting in contact at masthead/backstay. #1 withdrew as result of on dock discussion before the beer course.

At issue here was the responsibility of boats running down to a leeward mark to keep clear of boats coming back up to windward.    #7 was close hauled on starboard tack and hailed #1 (also on starboard tack) to keep clear. It appears that the crew on #1 saw #7 and heard the hail, the skipper did not and #1 continued on her course across the bow of #7.   #1 almost made it, but then a puff hit #7 and when she heeled over, her masthead caught the top of the backstay of #1 spinning both boats around until they came clear of each other.

The dangerous nature of this type of contact is easily understood by all. One or more masts could be lost in such a situation, not to mention possible injury to sailors involved. Happily neither occurred.

Lessons for all.

First lesson. Trailing boats on a running leg need careful lookout for boats coming back up the course. Even if you are on starboard tack on the run, a boat approaching on starboard tack close-hauled will likely be leeward boat and you need to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The proper course in most cases is to go astern of the boat coming up the wind at you.

Second lesson. Communication on the boat. Crew should be sure skipper is aware of an approaching situation. "Do you see #7 coming up at us? Did you hear the hail from #7 to leeward of us?" Are helpful ways of stressing an impending dangerous situation in a calm fashion.

Another seamanship issue to review is the wrapped spinnaker.

In blustery conditions like we had, it is not a bad idea to leave the jib up, as it can act as a "spinnaker net" preventing the spinnaker from wrapping around the headstay. But you still need to trim the jib loosely so it doesn't wrap itself around the headstay, compounding the problem.

If a wrap should develop, the skilled helmsman/woman can sometimes rock the boat back and forth with the helm to unwrap the sail. Pulling down on one edge of the sail (not both) can help unwrap the sail, but you have to be going down wind to make any of this work.

Since we frequently sail across the harbor, there isn't much extra space to leeward of the turning mark. That makes it doubly important to recognize that you have a wrap and begin to undo it at once. The alternative, as one team found out on Wednesday, may be intimate acquaintance with the tug boats moored on the East Boston Shore

Captain Herb Motley, BHSC

Mailing Address: 58 Batterymarch Street #211 Boston MA 02110-3207
Sailing operations: The Private Marina at Rowes Wharf
Telephone: 617-720-0049 | E-mail:

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