Keeping the Weasel at Bay

The wind died, but the tide kept going, and as the finish line faded ever further, SW's Michael Lovett began listening to his inner weasel.

At the end of our Jamestown YC PHRF race on Tuesday, the wind died. The outgoing tide began pushing the fleet backwards, into the nearby mooring field. Several competitors had to fend off, and as I was doing so, I said to myself, "Gee, we'd be a lot better off if we just held on." (Actually, I didn't say, "Gee." I must have picked that up from Scooby Doo or something.)

I didn't hold on—the wind came up a few minutes later, and we ghosted across the finish line, capping off another wacky, wayward, weeknight wander on Narragansett Bay—but the incident left me wondering if there's any rule prohibiting a racer from holding on to a moored boat?

Referencing my trusty copy of Dave Perry's "Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing Through 2012," I found that Rule 45 allows for anchoring or even standing on the bottom and holding on to the boat. But I didn't see anything explicitly about moorings or moored boats, so I did what a lot of racers do: I emailed rules guru Dick Rose. Here's what he said:

"The rule to read is Rule 45. It applies while you are racing—from the prep signal until you finish and clear the line and finish marks. You may not hold on to a mooring buoy, or another object which effectively moors you (including a moored boat, a dock, a lobster pot, or a government buoy). You may however have your crew stand on the bottom, and so you could 'anchor' to a rock by asking a crew to go overboard and stand on the rock while holding the boat."

Funny, as we were regressing through the mooring field with the finish line fading ever farther away, even though I could never have told you that Rule 45 prohibited snagging a nearby mooring, I had that distinct feeling that doing so would be a weasel move. And as far as I can tell, that seems to be one of the basic tenets of the Racing Rules of Sailing—keeping the weasel at bay.