RYA Case RYA2011-01
Rule 19, Room to Pass an Obstruction
An inside boat that reasonably believes that she is at an obstruction and acts accordingly is entitled to room from an outside boat. The inside boat is not required to endanger herself in order to claim her entitlement to room. If the outside boat disputes the inside boat’s entitlement to room, she must nevertheless give room, and then, if she wishes, protest.
During the Round the Island Race 2010, both boats were reaching on port tack and were in the process of rounding the southernmost tip of the Isle of Wight, which was to windward. Profile was ahead and to windward. Tilt approached from clear astern and was sailing on a higher course than Profile. When the boats became overlapped, there were more than 2 boat lengths between them. Profile believed that there was insufficient depth of water to windward to allow her to sail any higher. Profile held her course and Tilt continued sailing a higher course. As the boats converged, there was contact causing damage. Profile protested Tilt.
The protest committee decided that Profile was not ‘at an obstruction’ and was therefore not entitled to room under rule 19.2(b). It disqualified Profile under rule 11. The protest committee also stated there was nothing Tilt could have been expected to do to avoid contact and therefore she did not break rule 14 as a result. Profile appealed.
The appeal is upheld. Profile is to be reinstated to her finishing position and Tilt is to be disqualified.
When there is a dispute over an entitlement to room due to differing views on whether a boat is at an obstruction or not, the proper course of action is for the outside boat to give room and then to protest. The inside boat is not required to endanger herself in order to claim her entitlement to room. The principles applicable are similar to those in WS Case 50.
At a protest hearing, it is for the right-of-way boat to establish that contact would have occurred if she had held her course and therefore that she needed to take avoiding action. It is then for the inside boat to present sufficient evidence to establish that she was at an obstruction and that she was entitled to room. If, after considering all the evidence, a protest committee finds that the inside boat had a reasonable belief that she was at an obstruction and required room, it should dismiss the protest. If the protest committee is satisfied that the inside boat’s belief was not reasonable in all the circumstances, it should uphold the protest and disqualify her.
The RYA accepts that Profile genuinely believed she could not sail any higher and that, given the depth of water, the size of boats and the wind strength at the time of the incident, that belief was a reasonable one to have. Profile was accordingly entitled to room under rule 19.2(b) and although she broke rule 11 she did so while sailing within that room. Profile is therefore exonerated from her breach of rule 11 under rule 21(a) and Tilt is to be disqualified for breaking rule 19.2(b). Profile did not avoid contact with Tilt, but under rule 14(a) was not required to act to do so until it was clear that Tilt was not giving room, at which point there was no safe possibility for Profile to avoid the contact. Tilt, however, could have avoided contact and is, therefore, also disqualified under rule 14 because the contact resulted in damage.
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