Forum: Rule 18 and Room at the Mark

World Sailing New Q&A 2017-002

Paul Zupan
Nationality: United States of America
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  • International Judge
  • Regional Umpire
World Sailing recently published a new Q&A 2017-002.
Created: 17-Jul-26 17:04

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David Pelling
Nationality: Canada
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I disagree with WS's interpretation of 'cause' in a) and c).  Yellow chose to go to windward.  Blue did not 'cause' her to take that option.

Was not the intent of the rule writers to give Blue an avenue round the mark, whilst allowing Yellow a right to the inside lane? 
Created: 17-Jul-26 19:00
Bill Handley
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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David - I agree completely with your analysis. I have a vague recollection that a few years ago there was a call on this very topic and the decision (for all the reasons you say) was that if yellow was given room to pass to leeward of blue and still had room to pass the mark then if she instead chose to pass to windward of blue she had not been "caused" to pass to windward and therefore sail above close haul.

 
Created: 17-Jul-26 20:09
Francisco Vidal
Nationality: Spain
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Oh well, i am a bit more surprised how the Q&A panel interpreted 'taking avoiding action' in case a). From my understanding, a boat takes an avoiding action when she modifies her course to sail away from something, or she increases or decreases her speed to avoid hiting something (but this does not apply to this Q&A).
When a boat tacks just in front of you, bearing away can be a proper avoiding action because in doing so you sail away from this boat. Luffing can also be a proper avoiding action, because again, in doing so you sail away from the boat.
But when you initially bore off to sail away from the boat, and then you change your mind and luff, you are not any more taking an avoiding action. In fact you are sailing a colision course, since you are now sailing to the boat and not away from it.

In my opinion, 'shall not cause a boat that has been on starboard tack since entering the zone to sail above close-hauled to avoid contact' means that the boat that has been on starboard tack since entering the zone, will not need to sail above close-hauled to sail away from the boat that tacked in the zone.

In the example a), when yellow started to bear away, she could easily avoid blue, therefore she didn`t need to sail above close-hauled to avoid contact. In fact is her luff that increases the chances of contact when she sails towards blue.
Created: 17-Jul-26 21:56
John Grace
Nationality: New Zealand
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I also have difficulty with the Q & A Panel's conclusions regarding scenarios (a) and (c), although I don't think interpretations should be based on what the rule maker's intended unless those intentions is manifest in the rule itself. Sailors have enough to think about rounding marks without having speculating what people on World Sailing committees intended, even assuming that the committee members all intended the same thing. 

The use of the word "cause" in the Rule is unfortunate, given that it can mean many different things. However, for rule 18.3 to make sense one would expect there would have to be some element of compulsion, whereby blue's actions have forced yellow to sail above close hauled, rather than yellow simply making a choice to sail above close hauled by her own free will. That is particularly so when it appears, from the diagrams, that sailing inside blue would normally be yellow's preferrable course. 

The Q & A Panel's interpretation has effectively made yellow a right of way boat, even though she is clear astern. Under their interpretation, blue cannot put herself in a position whereby yellow has to take avoiding action from astern, because it is open to yellow (but not necessary) to avoid by sailing above close hauled. That isn't what rule 18.3 provides.
Created: 17-Jul-27 01:32
Willii Gohl
Nationality: Germany
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In example a Yellow had enough space to pass between the mark and Blue (scenario description) It was her first choice to go there. Then she changed her decision and therefore was caused by her own decision(!) to sail above clause hauled. Blue followed her obligation under RRS 15.  No contact, no rule broken!!!

Example b is without discussion, but if you look carefully it is in principle the same as example a.

Example c is a little bit difficult. Following the description, there was enough space for Yellow between Blue and the mark. But unlike in example a Yellow may not have reailized this. It was half  a hull length between Blue and Yellow when Blue finished her tack. Not much time to decide for Yellow, the faster boat.  (It is not very good to present always principles from other cases, however here I´d like to draw your attention to WS Case 50 –“reasonable doubt”) In other words, we need more information in a hearing to decide this case.

In my humble opinion: This Q&A is not a highlight in the history of the Q&A panel, should be changed or deleted! The good thing is, we are not bound by recommendation of the panel.

Created: 17-Jul-27 07:54
Heiko Falch
Nationality: Germany
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I don't see any conflict between the rule and the Q&A and I very much agree with it.
In scenario a) it's pretty clear that Yellow needs to take action to avoid contact with Blue, whichever way she goes. Yellow is not bound by any obligation to not bear away. When she later luffs above close hauled to avoid contact, Blue breaks RRS 18.3.
Imagine scenario d) which is quite common:
Blue tacks in the zone from port to starboard and remains stationary to windward of the mark on a close-hauled course with no speed.
At that time yellow is 10 boatlengths from the mark on starboard tack, slightly above the layline on a collision course with blue.
Yellow could luff 5 degrees to a close hauled course and thereby avoid Blue. However, she choses to continue straight ahead. When she is 1 lenghth from blue she takes avoiding action and keeps clear, sailing above close hauled. So what?

What Yellow does before she takes avoiding action does't matter at all, provided it's clear that she could not have continued with her original course without hitting blue.

Another question: If Yellow decides to hold her course and there is contact, did Blue break 18.3?
Created: 17-Jul-27 13:35
Willii Gohl
Nationality: Germany
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Heiko, your scenario d is quite clear, Blue became r-o-w, has to follow RRS 15, (which by 10 length she does) Yellow is give-way from the time Blue became r-o-w, and has to luff as you described (5 degrees) No rule broken. If she continues, she is not "caused" by Blue. If Yellow chooses your scenario, its her obligation to keep clear (RRS 12), which she may have done. No rule broken.
Your other question: if there is contact in your scenario, Yellow would not have been above clause hauled, Yellow broke 12 and 14.
Created: 17-Jul-27 16:10
Heiko Falch
Nationality: Germany
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Well Willii, I disagree with your opinion about scenario a) and d), but that's part of the job isn't it?
With respect to my other question, I fullly agree Y broke 12 (or 11) and 14. However, if a boat needs to go above close to avoid a collision, does it make any difference if she does so? To be more precise, wouldn't she be "caused" already to do so, no matter what she does?
Created: 17-Jul-27 17:35
David Pelling
Nationality: Canada
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Now imagine example c) but with Blue having had to work her way through a number of starboard boats and eventually tacking to starboard a full two boat lengths above the mark, directly in the path of an over-standing starboard boat.  Per the Q&A Blue would still be condisdered to have broken 18.3 even though there are two boat lengths of clear water between her and the mark!   Doesn't make sense to me.
Created: 17-Jul-27 18:49
Willii Gohl
Nationality: Germany
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Heiko, you are right disagreeing is part of the game, but an opinion is nothing, until reasons are given. Let me repeat my reasons in other words:  The rule says "she shall not cause..." In this phrase "she" means the boat that has (in short) tacked, ergo Blue.
What does "cause" mean? Acc. to the Oxford dictionary " Make (something, especially something bad) happen."  You can read it like "Blue makes happen"
Therefore it must be Blue (and only Blue and nothing else), that makes Yellow to sail above clause hauled, and in scenario a, it was the decision of Yellow that caused her to sail above close hauled, after she decided to bear away - it was not Blue that "caused" her!
And again your scenario d is not relevant, as 18.3 only applies only to boats in the zone: "...that has been on starboard-tack since entering the zone..." If Blue changes tack at the edge of the zone, and a boat on starboard-tack still outside the zone has to luff  above close hauled, 18.3 doesn´t come into play!
Created: 17-Jul-27 21:03
John Grace
Nationality: New Zealand
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The problem is the word “cause”, which is imprecise.

On one hand, it is permissible to say that Blue “caused” Yellow to sail above close hauled in the sense that if not for Blue’s tack, Yellow would not have sailed above close hauled. Blue’s tack was part of the chain of causation. This is the meaning favoured by Heiko and the Q & A Panel.

On the other hand, the word can have a stronger meaning, as Willii has identified, of making or compelling something to happen. We can say that Blue’s tack did not “cause” Yellow to sail above head to wind because Yellow did not have to do so. Yellow could have sailed below Blue but choose to sail above for tactical reasons.

We have to ask what meaning of “cause” applies to Rule 18.3? To me, it’s clear that the latter meaning applies. The Rule is all about what boats tacking within the zone are required to do. Such a boat is not required to second guess and facilitate the tactics of competitors, as the Q & A Panel’s decision requires. I note the following.

1.  Regarding the context of Rule 18.3, Pt 2 of the Rules only requires boats with obligations to only do the minimum necessary to comply with those obligations. As long as a keep clear boat avoids a right of way boat, she has done enough. She doesn’t have cater for the right of way boat’s tactics.

2.  The purpose of the Rules in Pt 2 is not to create a series of traps to allow boats to catch each other out to protest them out of the race. That is what has happened in scenarios (a) and (c) according to the Panel.

3.  When approaching marks, boats have enough to think about without having to second guess what their competitor’s tactics may be.

4.  If one interprets “cause” to be part of the chain of causation, that will substantially complicate inquiries into Rule 18.3 because that raises the issue how far down the chain does one go? What if Blue tacked to leeward of Yellow, but Yellow sailed above close hauled to slow down to pass astern of Blue to take the inside position? What about intervening causes?

5.  For the reasons given in my earlier post, the Q & A Panel’s interpretation effectively made yellow a right of way boat, even though she is clear astern. If that is what the drafters of the Rule intended they surely would have just written that.

Created: 17-Jul-28 05:35
John Christman
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While I agree we have to use the rules as written, the desired outcome this rule is that boats don't tack from port onto starboard in the zone.  Too bad we can't simplify the whole thing to say that a boat that performs any part of her tack inside the zone shall thereafter give room to all boats on starboard tack at the point in time when she passes head to wind.  Draconian perhaps, but will result in the desired behavior.
Created: 17-Jul-31 02:41
John Grace
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John Christman. You are getting yourself into trouble when you interpret rules as you have done in your post – ie making a broad speculation about what a rule is intended to do and then interpreting the rule in accordance with your speculation. A sailing rule is intended to do what it says. There is nothing in the Racing Rules of Sailing to say that the desired outcome of Rule 18.3 is that boats don't tack from port onto starboard in the zone.

The closest we can come to finding the intention is the submission from the Chairman of the Racing Rules Committee that preceded the drafting of the rule in its current form. In his submission, he described the purpose of the Rule as “to help an orderly rounding of port-hand windward marks by limiting the rights of boats that approach on port and tack onto starboard in the zone”. That is a completely different thing.

However, we don’t know the intentions of the people who actually voted on the change or whether they all had the same intention. We also don’t know the intentions of those who voted on the original version of rule 18.3. Even if we could find out these intentions, it is unreasonable to expect sailors to go behind what is written in the RRS.

Having said that, there are obviously accepted means of interpreting the RRS which are manifest in the Rules themselves and the casebook. However, if you intend to rely on a principle of interpretation on a contentious issue in a Jury, you need to be able to back it up.

Created: 17-Jul-31 03:27
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