Greetings all,

Yesterday was an interesting experience of sailing in a larger than normal fleet, 26 boats, and surviving the mass starts. Starting procedures is definitely not my strong point so my focus was to stay out of trouble, easier said than done. Regarding those starts, there was one rule that was breached continually so I will attend to that later in this email.

The weather was lovely, the breeze was lovely, the course was lovely, but I must change terminology for describing the race committee, lest offence is taken. How about ‘efficient. Is that acceptable Paul and Glen? Congratulations to our podium placegetters, Graham Parratt, Ron Bedyn and Cliff Bishop, also to new member Brian Treleaven whose wealth of big boat sailing experience is coming to the fore with a fourth.

Graham Mander 12 8 23


Racing Rules of Sailing

The aforementioned rules breach is one that I have mentioned previously, but to no avail, so maybe another nagging session will help. You may well say “Why don’t you protest the offending boats?” my answer is, I will protest if I am involved in an incident, but yesterday I was nearly always last across the line and free from trouble, otherwise to protest all the incidents I saw, I would be spending time after every heat in arbitration. Here is the breach I am talking about. During the preparatory period many boats prefer to mill around behind the start line, also several  prefer to sail around on the course area above the start mark closest to the shore, I am one of the latter. There is no problem with any of these preferences until we get close to the starting signal.

When we get close to the start signal, say from 20 seconds prior, (it depends on wind strength), the boats that prefer starting from behind the start line area are positioning themselves to sail close hauled or a bit eased, through the start line as close as possible to the closest mark to the shore. At the same time, the boats who prefer to sail around on the course side of the line, start sailing downwind to round this same mark inside the boats sailing in from below.

The following is what happens unerringly when these two groups meet. The boats sailing up to the start line give way to the boats sailing downwind and allow them access around the mark inside them. I am presuming that the boats sailing up to the mark think they have to give mark room. And I presume that the boats sailing downwind must think they are inside overlapped and therefore have mark room. Generally not a word of complaint is uttered. Now in most mark roundings no rules breaches would have occurred in this situation……….but at start time things are different. Let us read  what the Racing Rules of Sailing says.


Section C rules do not apply at a starting mark surrounded by navigable water or at its anchor line from the time boats are approaching them to start until they have passed them.  

This text is the preamble to all the rules in Section C, regarding marks and obstructions, so what do we learn from this preamble.

  1. All the rules in Section C do not apply during the small time period when boats are approaching the line to start. If it is a very calm day this period may stretch out to 30 seconds, on a brisk day it may be 10 seconds or maybe less. No time period is given in the RRS.
  2. The start signal does not have any bearing on closing off this rule. It remains in force until your boat has crossed the start line.
  3. During the time period from the warning signal to this short ‘approaching the line to start’ period, normal Section C rules still apply.
  4. During this ‘approaching the line to start’ period, the rules in Section A come back into force.

So what are the Section A rules that apply during this short period.

  1. The boats approaching the start line from below the approaching downwind boats, are leeward boats and on starboard tack. Therefore they are protected from the descending windward boats if those boats are on port tack by Rule 10.On opposite tacks. (We will call the leeward boats group A and the descending windward boats we will call group B).
  2. The boats in group A are protected from group B boats if the group B boats are on starboard tack by Rule 11On the same tack, overlapped.

So we can see that group A boats have the right of way at the starboard end of the line. What about boats sailing in from the port end in a similar scenario. This is a rare occurrence.

  1. A Group A boat must give way to a group B boat if the group B boat is on starboard tack. Rule 10On opposite tacks.
  2. If the group B boat is on port tack, again the group A boat has right of way because again they are under rule 11on the same tack overlapped.

 Cheers, Tom Arthur