When you’re required to go on the offensive to ensure you beat another competitor in the final race, it helps to be aware of the rules of engagement. Rules from our September 2011 issue.
Some of my all-time favorite races were the final race of a series in which my boat and one other were the only two that could still mathematically win the series. In those races, in addition to the usual concerns with boatspeed, wind, current, and fleet tactics, I had to devise additional match-racing tactics to ensure that, at the finish, we’d have the points necessary to win.
My goal this month is to give you a guide to all the rule interpretations dealing with the situations that come up in what I call the “end game”—a race, usually the last race of a series, in which two boats match race each other within a fleet race. Of course, this is no normal match race. There may be 10, 50, or even 100 other boats in the fleet, all with their normal rights and obligations, and the usual rules for match racing (Appendix C in the rulebook) do not apply.
(Above: At positions 2 and 5, B is the right-of-way boat and permitted to use her right of way to block A from jibing. Between positions 3 and 4 Rule 16.1 does not apply to B and, therefore, she may change course to block A from tacking. Illustration by Kim Downing.)
If you find yourself in such a close series with, say, Joe, you must know the series scores for you and Joe, and the scores for any throw outs for each of you. Make sure you have up-to-date scores and that you know all you can about any unresolved protests or requests for redress that might change your score or Joe’s. Work out your winning combinations—i.e., the various positions in which you and Joe could finish that would result in your winning the series. And don’t forget to account for how any tiebreakers might fall.
The most important rule in such a race is Rule 2, Fair Sailing, which states, “A boat . . . shall compete in compliance with recognized principles of sportsmanship and fair play.” The reason that this rule is important is that those so-called “recognized principles” are not widely recognized and agreed upon within the sailing community. As an example, quite a few people think it’s not fair play for you to closely cover an opponent and drive him back in the fleet in a way that allows several boats to pass you both. Given how diverse the views are on Rule 2, it is important to understand the authoritative ISAF interpretations of Rule 2 found in ISAF Cases 34, 52, and 78. Of these, Case 78 is the most important.
You must also keep Rule 23.2 in mind. It states, “Except when sailing her proper course, a boat shall not interfere with a boat . . . sailing on another leg.”