Case 46
Definitions, Proper Course
Rule 11, On the Same Tack, Overlapped
Rule 16.1, Changing Course
Rule 17, On the Same Tack; Proper Course
A leeward boat is entitled to luff to her proper course, even when she has established a leeward overlap from clear astern and within two of her hull lengths of the windward boat.

For some time, W had been sailing almost dead downwind on a straight course towards the starboard end of the finishing line when L, a boat that had been clear astern, became overlapped within two of her hull lengths to leeward of W. In the absence of W, L would have sailed a higher course directly towards the line. In order to do so, she hailed W to come up. There was no response. L hailed again and luffed to a position very close to W, but W still did not respond. L stopped luffing and bore away just before contact would have occurred. L protested under rule 11.

The protest committee held that there was insufficient evidence to show that W would have finished sooner by sailing a higher course. It said that even though there might be conflict between the courses of a windward and a leeward boat, a boat overtaking another from clear astern did not have the right to force a windward boat to sail above her proper course. The protest was dismissed and L appealed, claiming the right to luff up to her proper course under rule 17.

Rule 11 says that when two boats on the same tack are overlapped the windward boat shall keep clear. A leeward boat's actions, however, are limited by rules 16.1 and 17. There was room for W to keep clear when L luffed, and so L did not break rule 16.1. The protest committee, although it did not say so explicitly, recognized that L's proper course was directly towards the finishing line. A direct course to the line was not only closer but would also have put both boats on a faster point of sailing. While L was not entitled to sail above her proper course, she was entitled to luff to her proper course, even though she had established the overlap from clear astern while within two of her hull lengths of W. Accordingly, L did not break rule 17.

W's proper course is not relevant to the application of the rules to this incident. She was required to keep clear of L. When L luffed, she gave W room to keep clear as required by rule 16.1. At the moment L needed to stop luffing and bear away to avoid contact, W broke rule 11. Therefore, L's appeal is upheld and W is disqualified for breaking rule 11.
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