As S and P, close-hauled, approached the port end of the starting line, a strong tide was setting them towards the line and the starting line mark. When S was two hull lengths from the mark, she hailed P to keep clear. There was no response, and S was forced to bear away to avoid a collision. Immediately after the starting signal, P sailed over the mark. As S luffed back to close-hauled, on a course to the wrong side of the mark, it jumped out from under P's hull and bounced against S. P did not take a penalty, and S did not return to start between the starting marks.
S protested P under rules 10
, and also requested redress, asking that the race be abandoned, citing rule 32.1
(c). The protest committee disqualified P for breaking rules 10
, refused S's request for redress, and scored S DNS. The latter decision was referred to the national authority for confirmation or correction, along with a question: If S had returned to start as required by rule 28.1
, could the race have been abandoned under rule 32.1
(c) because of the mark having moved?
Although S touched the mark, she could not be expected to anticipate how it would move when another boat touched it. Therefore, as provided in rule 43.1
(a), S is exonerated for breaking rule 31
because it was P's two breaches that caused the mark to touch S. However, S could have returned and started as required by rule 28.1
. The fact that the starting mark moved does not relieve her of her obligation to start.
Because S did not start, the race committee was correct in scoring her DNS (see rule A5
(d) makes it clear that the most important criterion for abandoning a race is that, for some reason, the safety or fairness of the competition has been adversely affected. Rules 32.1
(a), (b) and (c) give examples of reasons that may justify abandoning a race; rule 32.1
(d) implies that there may be other reasons. In this case, the unexpected movement of the starting mark as a result of P sailing over it did not justify abandoning the race. Indeed, the exact position of a mark frequently and routinely changes as a result of wind, current, waves or it having been touched by a boat, even though its anchor does not move. Such movement is a risk that competitors must accept and does not justify abandoning a race.