Case 117
Definitions, Obstruction
Rule 15, Acquiring Right of Way
Rule 19.2(b), Room to Pass an Obstruction: Giving Room at an Obstruction
When three boats are on the same tack and two of them are overlapped and overtaking the third from clear astern, if the leeward boat astern becomes overlapped with the boat ahead, the boat ahead is no longer an obstruction, and rule 19.2(b) does not apply. There are no situations in which a row of boats sailing close to one another is a continuing obstruction.

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Approximately 15 seconds before the starting signal. Boats A, B, C, D, E, F and G are holding their positions on starboard tack a short distance below the starting line. Boats L and W are approaching the line of boats from astern. There is insufficient space for both L and W to pass through any of the gaps between adjacent boats ahead of them.

Question 1
If L becomes overlapped to leeward of D while W is clear astern of D, is L required to give W room to pass to leeward of D?

Answer 1
No. When L becomes overlapped to leeward of D, she obtains right of way over D, and therefore D is no longer an obstruction to L and W. For that reason, rule 19.2(b) does not apply between L and W. Instead, rule 11 begins to apply between L and D, but L is initially required by rule 15 to give D room to keep clear. W continues to be required by rule 12 to keep clear of D and by rule 11 to keep clear of L.

After L becomes overlapped to leeward of D, L has right of way over both D and W. Therefore, at that time L becomes an obstruction to D and W and, if W becomes overlapped with D, rule 19.2(b) begins to apply between D and W. Rule 19.2(b) requires D to give W room to pass between herself and L unless D has been unable to so from the time that W's overlap with D began.

Question 2
If there is not space for both L and W to pass through the gap between C and D, does that mean that L has to allow W into the gap and not pass through the gap herself?

Answer 2

Question 3
According to the definition Obstruction, a boat racing is never a continuing obstruction. Nevertheless, are there any situations, such as the one in the diagram, where a row of racing boats sailing close to one another becomes a continuing obstruction?

Answer 3

World Sailing 2011
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