Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

"Air sculling" to clear seaweed - legal or not?

Al Sargent
Nationality: United States
In the Laser, a common practice when there's seaweed or kelp is to "air scull" to clear weeds from the rudder. This takes two forms:

1) Straightine: heel boat way over so that rudder comes out of water, then quickly scull rudder back and forth a few times so that seaweed shakes off, then flatten boat.

2) Mid-tack: in light air, heel the boat a little more than usual, and a little longer than usual, while shaking tiller to get seaweed off rudder.

Is this legal?

By my reading of rule 42.2.d, it seems likely to be acceptable:

sculling: repeated movement of the helm that is either forceful or  that  propels  the  boat  forward  or  prevents  her  from  moving astern;

The sculling isn't forceful, since the rudder blade is moving through the air. It's literally just a couple of pounds of force to move the tiller. Also, the sculling doesn't propel the boat forward, since the rudder is out of the water. So it doesn't meet either of the criteria of 42.2.d.

Straightline air sculling, done once every few minutes, also doesn't seem to meet the definition of rocking, since it's not repeated. It's only done once.

The World Sailing guide for Laser Rule 42 common breaches doesn't address air sculling specifically. Obviously, you can't come out of a tack faster than you went in, but a sailor can air scull and still comply with this requirement.

What are your thoughts? 

Created: 21-Sep-15 22:38

Comments

Ewan McEwan
Nationality: United Kingdom
Certifications:
  • Regional Race Officer
  • International Judge
  • International Umpire
2
There is an argument that the seaweed is an ‘object’. If so the exception under rule 42.3 (h) could be used to allow such action.

I’ve not seen the action you describe. As an occasional Laser sailor the effective action I would take is simply clean the seaweed with my hand.

Created: 21-Sep-15 23:48
Al Sargent
Nationality: United States
0
Thanks Ewan. Good point about 42.3.h. Leaning back to clear seaweed by hand would lead to a loss of a few boatlengths each time checked, and we typically check every few minutes roughly 5x/upwind leg. So you could see how that might add up to significant losses versus air sculling. 
Created: 21-Sep-15 23:59
P
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • Fleet Measurer
2
Rule 42 is one of few times in the rules that the RRS lays-out a “basic rule” (principle) understanding that the rule encompasses such a variety of potential actions, that it would be impractical to be complete. 

RRS 42.1. Basic Rule
   
Except when permitted in rule 42.3 or 45, a boat shall compete by using only the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease her speed. 

It sounds like you and your fleet are completing this action with a mind and result of staying within 42.1. 
Created: 21-Sep-16 12:02
Ed Alcock
Nationality: Ireland
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
  • National Umpire
  • National Judge
1
The judges on the water are more likely to switch on the Yellow Light for your action to 'flatten' the boat as the movement can be seen from quite far away. Repetition could collect a penalty. 
Created: 21-Sep-16 16:24
Barbara A ONeal
Nationality: United States
0
I also have not witnessed this action that you speak of  it may be that I have not yet umpired in kelp or seaweed infested waters. In my experience, a repeated action without just cause will bring attention to your boat. Be sure to not make any movement with your air sculling that could be interpreted differently. Rules are instructions are usually written for flagrant abuses but I have seen my fair share of subtle motions being blended into boat movement to look like it was part of the action. When you are looking at a fleet of boats that are essentially the same on a horizon, unusual motion or action often tells on itself. 
Created: 21-Sep-25 22:05
P
John Porter
Nationality: United States
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • Club Race Officer
1
I've used this technique to clear weeds. That act doesn't propel the boat forward. Flattening the boat after this maneuver could violate Basic 4 if the flattening is done aggressively. 
Created: 21-Nov-07 14:48
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