Case 83
Rule 49.2, Crew Position; Lifelines
Repeated sail trimming with a competitor's torso outside the lifelines is not permitted
In a race for 24-foot (7 meter) boats whose class rules require lifelines the wind is about 15 knots with gusts lasting about three seconds; a choppy sea is striking the boats on the beam. A's spinnaker trimmer is standing on the windward side of the deck holding the sheet, which he is barely able to pull in. His posture changes to compensate for changes in the boat's trim and the load on the sheet. During some of the gusts he is seen to be leaning back with part of his torso outboard of the lifelines.

  1. Is it correct to equate the words "position any part" in rule 49.2 with a stationary position?
  2. Is leaning against the load on a sheet "to perform a necessary task", for example trimming the sheet?
  3. Is the duration of a gust "brief" in these circumstances?

It is clear from diagram 6 of Case 36 that the position adopted by A's crew member is capable of breaking rule 49.2. To "position the torso" does not mean that the torso is stationary; it implies a deliberate act with some duration.

The phrase "to perform a necessary task" contained within rule 49.2 means that the torso may be positioned outside the lifelines only to perform a task that could not reasonably be carried out from within the lifelines. The use of "briefly" in the rule makes it clear that the torso must be moved inboard as soon as the task is completed.

The rule is clearly aimed at permitting an otherwise illegal action. Permission does not extend to normal sail trimming even when this would be more effectively achieved by positioning the torso outside the lifelines. Rule 49.2 is for the safety of the crew, and it is unavoidable that it inhibits the gains that might be obtained from optimizing weight distribution of the crew. The actions of A's crew member in leaning outboard of the lifelines break rule 49.2.

GBR 1992/10
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