Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

Can a series of "obstructions" change into a "continuing obstruction" based on conditions?

Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
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I've been mulling this over in my head and thought I'd toss it out to the forum.

A highlight of the Annapolis sailboat racing scene for both specators and racers alike, is the Wed Night Series, hosted by AYC. The finish is barely more than 200' short of a low draw bridge (often lined with spectators) and the final leg runs along the Annapolis downtown waterfront and along a municipal mooring field. In the attached pics you'll find an aerial view of the field populated by boats and a chart showing it's location in green outline.

It is often said that there are really 2 races each night .. the race to 1SC and then the race to the finish once in the confines of the harbour, the moored specator boats and the squirrely winds.

Depending on the direction of the wind, sometimes these moored boats "line-up", closing-off but not eliminating the spaces between them. It is very common for the wind to funnel down this last stretch as well, requiring a beat to the finish .. and common for boats to weave through the alleys of moored boats making our way to the finish.

My question is this .. could there be a time where conditions are such that though there may be physical space for boats to pass between the moored boats .. that wind speed and thus boat speed reders that space which would normally be "navigatible" to be not .. and thus this field of individual obstructions becomes one continuing obstruction?

PS .. also keep in mind when looking at the photo of the boats bow to stern, that off the bow of each is a mooring ball and a pennant .. as well as the mooring's tackle under water.



Created: 17-Nov-02 19:21

Comments

Paul Hanly
Nationality: Australia
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Wouldn't sailng/yacht clubs have a change to the rules in their sailing instructions that makes the line of moored boats a continuing iobstruction and have a rule in the sailing instructions that make sailing inside the line of moored boats a disqualification offence? This is common if not universal among clubs sailing in the Parramatta River leading into Sydney Harbour. My recollection is that our local maritime authority which regulates both organised and casual use of the waterways insist that the clubs require this of their members as a condition of the aquatic licence which is needed to conduct sailboat races anywhere in teh Harbour and its tributaries. (eg Greenwich Flying Squadron Sailing Instructions )
"All areas enclosed by private mooringsare prohibited areas for all Club courses.
Yachts racing in GFS events are not permitted to sail between moorings and between moorings and the adjoining
shore.
Each area is considered to be an obstruction, not surrounded by navigable water, and not a mark of the course.
RRS Rule 19 applies.
Blue Police buoys are considered to be private moorings."
Created: 17-Nov-02 21:23
Bill Handley
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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We have exactly the same situation when racing the Falmouth Working Boat twice a week up to the finish in Falmouth Harbour. I'm surprised that you are allowed to race inside the moorings as we certainly are not. The following sailing instruction puts matter beyond doubt -

Mooring areas. Straight lines between mooring buoys (whether a vessel is attached or not) of the outer line on both sides of the fairway (excluding Frigate & Caldy buoys) are designated as continuing obstructions. 

Looking at your charts I don't think that the question of whether the obstruction is continuing or not would come into play much. If you are beating as you say is normally the case to the finish then the rule that would apply when the boats approached the moorings would be rule 20. As far as rule 20 goes the only question is whether or not a boat has to make a substantial altertion of course to avoid the obstruction. It is irrelevant whether or not the obstruction is continuing.

The only way whether or not the obstruction was continuing would be relevant would be if 19.2(c) were to apply. That could only occur if the the boats were running or reaching and the boat astern wanted to establish and overlap betwen the boat in front and the moorings which given the course configuration seems very unlikely. It sems more than probable to me that if boats were reaching past some very close moorings these would probably be a continuous obstructions but it is hard to see why a boat would be seeking to establish and overlap between the boat in front and them when sailing straight to the finish is the obvious thing to do.
Created: 17-Nov-02 22:25
Graham Kelly
Nationality: United States of America
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The issue of whether a number of boats moored in close proximity to each other would rank as a continuing obstruction would likely depend on whether or not an affected boat could pass between the two moored boats. So IMO two moored boats might be a continuing obstruction for an IOR maxi, but not for an Etchells.
I note that the definition of "obstruction" in the RRS allows the SIs to designate a "no-go" area. In that case, I think the entire area would rank as a continuing obstruction.

I think that Paul and Bill are spot-on on the policy of designating no-go areas for races that pass close to mooring fields. I am surprised that the AYC Weds Night races do not prohibit competitors from sailing through the nooring field. However, here in San Diego, the SI's do not prohibit boats from sailing into the nearby mooring field, perhaps b/c it is almost never an issue.
In addition, I don't believe that any gov't permit is required for Weds. night races.
Created: 17-Nov-02 23:27
Angelo Guarino
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Thanks for the comments. To be clear, my intention of providing the example was not to question the SI's and their treatment of the mooring field. We all race without incident week after week and the spectators on the boats are there for the "in the midst" and up-close experience. We aren't playing bumper-boats with the moored boats.

Rather, I was trying to project what the arguement of a racer might be .. if they thought that the spaces between the boats was insufficient .. and how that all might get sorted out. As Graham said, obviously the size of boat matters .. but maybe the conditions, the boat speeds, etc. Also the question on who's determination would it depend upon. There are places in the rules, like calling for room to tack at an obstruction, that the determination of the boat calling for room takes precidence at that moment .. even if the boat being called-upon disagrees that the obstruction exists or that it needs to be delt with at that moment. I'd wonder if that same deference would apply here.

Anyway .. I thought it was an interesting question to consider....
Created: 17-Nov-03 03:11
Ant Davey
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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There is always an expectation that manoeuveres should be carried out in a seaman like fashion. So size of gap, size of boat and conditions at the time all come into play. So, in determining whether one boat could insist that a moored boat is or isn't an obstruction 'will depend'...
Add that to the definition of an obstruction, and if the next boats also constiute an obstruction that could not be avoided in a seamanlike manner, I'd definitely debate that they could form a continuing obstruction under certain conditions.
Created: 17-Nov-03 08:02
Bill Handley
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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I think that not only would the size of the boats and the the size of the gaps be a consideration but also the angle at which the boats were approaching the moorings. For example if we assume that the boats are moored bow to stern with about a boat length in between (and assume all boats are about the same length) then they may or may not be a continuming obstruction.

If boats are beating and approaching these moorings at 90 degrees then as long as a boats course is taking her between two moored boats then there is no need for her to alter her course. She may not hail for room to tack (although if she does other boats must respond and protest) and her correct action is to sail between the two moored boats if she is unable to tack - there is no obstruction.

On the other hand if a boat is reaching parallel to boats moored in this way she will always have her course limited by them. As her stern clears the bow of one moored boat her bow will be affected by the stern of the next boat. In these circumstances the same line of moored boats become a continuing obstruction.

I think each case would have to be decided on it's merits.
Created: 17-Nov-03 08:41
John Thorne
Nationality: United States of America
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The sailing instructions may define an area as an obstruction (see definition) and/or define a restricted area that boats may not enter. For example, such an area could be described as "the area bounded by marks A, B, and C." My preference would be to define a restricted area which would make it an obstruction. The SIs could include a statement to the effect that this restriction is in effect only if a given code flag is displayed at the start, or at mark SC before the first boat reaches it on the return leg.
Created: 17-Nov-03 22:19
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