USA Appeal US51
Rule 10, On Opposite Tacks
Rule 16.1, Changing Course
Rule 64.1(a), Decisions: Penalties and Exoneration
Scimitar vs. Audacious

When she cannot see behind other boats, an obligated boat must anticipate what might appear from the other side of the other boats.

Facts and Decision of the Protest Committee
In 18 to 22 knots of wind and prior to the start, Audacious (S) was on starboard tack near the committee boat and behind other starboard-tack boats. Scimitar (P) was on port tack and reaching below the fleet from the opposite end of the line at more than seven knots. Neither saw the other at this stage.

S bore away sharply about 30 degrees to pass to leeward of Brigand (A), which she was overtaking. S had no one stationed on her bow, whereas P did. At approximately four hull lengths separation, P’s lookout saw S and yelled to his helmsman to “fall off,” which he did slowly. P was 15–25 feet to leeward of the nearest starboard-tack boat. S reacted by luffing hard, with the result that her port quarter struck P’s hull amidships without causing damage or injury.

The protest committee held that P had no reason to anticipate the action of an unseen starboard-tack boat, and S had ample time to adjust her speed to avoid the dilemma of overtaking A. It then disqualified S for breaking rule 16.1 at position 1. S appealed.

Decision of the Association Appeals Committee
The association appeals committee held that, as P and S approached each other with several boats between them that prevented them from seeing each other, P had adequate time and space to meet her newly discovered obligation under rule 10. Her action in slowly bearing away was insufficient to avoid collision, thereby requiring S to luff sharply to avoid possible serious damage. It found that the protest committee’s decision was not supported by the facts or the diagram, reinstated S in the race, and disqualified P under rules 10 and 14 (Avoiding Contact). P appealed.

Decision of the Appeals Committee
When S bore away sharply at position 1, prior to which neither boat could see the other, there were more than six hull lengths of open water between her and P. Under those circumstances, the maneuver by S was proper and appropriate and P had the room to keep clear that she was entitled to under rule 16.1. There is no indication in the facts or diagram that, after her initial and abrupt maneuver, S made any other change of course that might have left insufficient room for P to keep clear under rule 10 prior to P breaking rule 10 just before position 2. When it became clear to S that P was not keeping clear, it was not reasonably possible for her to avoid contact with P; therefore S did not break rule 14. Although S’s last-minute course change at position 2 to avoid a collision as required by rule 14 resulted in S breaking rule 16.1, she was compelled to do so by P’s breach of rule 10.

The fact that P was unable to see S until they were on a collision course cannot be used to relieve her of her obligation to the right-of-way boat. The situation is not unlike one in which a port-tack boat barely clears a starboard-tack boat only to find another starboard-tack boat to windward of the one she has just cleared.

When she cannot see behind other boats, the obligated boat must anticipate what might appear from the other side of those boats. S’s maneuver was not a dangerous one but, in fact, normal under the circumstances. A keep-clear boat, when keeping clear of a group of boats holding right of way, is responsible for anticipating what obligations she is incurring, even though she cannot see all the boats.

P’s appeal is denied, and the decision of the association appeals committee is upheld. P remains disqualified and S is exonerated from her breach of rule 16.1 under rule 64.1(a).

October 1984
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