How the Rules Work at the Start
How the Rules Work at the Start
A clean start is a good start, and fortunately there are only a few essential rules that apply when you’re most likely to put them to use. "Rules" from our April 2011 issue.
Now, let’s assume the starboard end of the line is favored and examine how the rules apply to boats vying for the best start at that end. Take a look at the second diagram, where Larry and Wilma are overlapped on starboard tack approaching the stern of the committee boat at the starboard end of the line. Larry has right of way under Rule 11. At Position 1, he can luff Wilma without breaking Rule 16.1 because there is plenty of room for Wilma to keep clear. However, at Position 2 Larry may no longer luff Wilma, because doing so would force her to hit the committee boat. Rule 16.1 requires Larry to give Wilma the “space [she] needs . . . while maneuvering [to keep clear] promptly in a seamanlike way.” Touching a mark (even if there is no damage) is not considered “seamanlike” (see new ISAF Case 114). so a leeward boat intending to “shut the door” on a barging windward boat must do so while there is still room for the windward boat to pass to starboard of the committee boat.
Finally, look at the third diagram. There, the port end of the line is favored. Gambler is trying to port-tack the fleet, while Conrad is cautiously setting up for a start on starboard tack at the pin. Gambler has positioned his boat and timed his run at the line perfectly. The starting gun is fired while the boats are at Position 2, just before Gambler’s bow crosses the line. If Conrad holds his course, Gambler will cross ahead with no need for Conrad to take avoiding action. Conrad was reaching below the line on starboard tack, intending to head up at the start. However, if Conrad were to luff immediately after Position 2, there would be no way that Gambler could keep clear without hitting the mark. Therefore, such a luff by Conrad would break Rule 16.1. Conrad’s cautious approach has backfired. Now, to avoid breaking Rule 16.1, he is forced to hold his course until Gambler has crossed ahead. At that point, Conrad will probably have to jibe around below the line and make a late and risky approach to the line on port tack. The lesson here is clear. If you are trying for the pin-end start on starboard tack and you see a boat setting up for a port-tack start, you should slow up so that, at the gun, you are far enough from the pin to enable you to luff without depriving the port-tack starter of room to keep clear.
Contact and its implications
Rule 14 requires all boats, at all times, to “avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible.” A boat includes all her equipment and her crew (see Terminology in the Introduction to the rulebook). Therefore, if a windward boat’s mainsheet brushes the shoulder of the leeward boat’s crew, it’s contact. Also, if your crew thinks contact is about to occur and fends off to avoid damage, then, when your crew touches the other boat’s hull, it’s contact. There
is an understandable impulse to push an offending boat backward and to push your own boat forward when fending off. Resist it! In addition to raising the hackles of the other boat’s crew, fending off in such a manner breaks Rule 42.1, Propulsion, and probably Rule 2, Fair Sailing, as well.