Case 91
Definitions, Clear Astern and Clear Ahead; Overlap
Definitions, Keep Clear
Rule 12, On the Same Tack, Not Overlapped
Rule 14, Avoiding Contact
Rule 43.1(c), Exoneration
A boat required to keep clear must keep clear of another boat's equipment out of its normal position when the equipment has been out of its normal position long enough for the equipment to have been seen and avoided.
Boats A and B were reaching on port tack and approaching a leeward mark to be left to port. B was clear astern of A. A's spinnaker had been flying out of control from the top of her mast for the entire leg. Both boats tacked around the mark. After both had tacked, B sailed a short distance close-hauled. She then bore away, and her rigging made contact with A's spinnaker, which was still flying from the top of A's mast. The contact did not result in damage. A protested.

The protest committee disqualified B for breaking rule 12 when her rigging made contact with A's spinnaker. B appealed.

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The contact was caused by B bearing away. At the time of contact, A's spinnaker was not in its normal position, and B's bow was astern of A's hull and all of her equipment that was in normal position. Therefore, there was no overlap (see the definition Clear Astern and Clear Ahead; Overlap), and rule 12 applied. It required B to keep clear of A's hull, equipment and crew, including her spinnaker.

B broke rule 12 by failing to keep clear, because by sailing towards A's spinnaker she created a need for A to take avoiding action (see the definition Keep Clear). B's crew had been able to see A's spinnaker streaming from the top of her mast for quite some time before the contact, so B's failure to keep clear could not be blamed on the fact that A's spinnaker was not in its normal position.

Case 77 addresses an incident that appears to be similar but is significantly different. There, B passed the mark close astern of A with no knowledge that A would lose control of her spinnaker. B could not have been expected to foresee that A's spinnaker would suddenly trail astern by 20 feet (6 m).

In this case, B also broke rule 14 by causing contact she could have avoided. However, A did not break that rule because, after it became clear that B was not keeping clear, it was not reasonably possible for her to avoid the contact. Even if it had been possible, as a right-of-way boat she would have been exonerated by rule 43.1(c).

B was properly disqualified for breaking rule 12. She also broke rule 14. Her appeal is dismissed.

USA 1987/271
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