Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

"Closed" Line on a Course

John Allan
Nationality: Australia
Certifications:
  • Regional Race Officer
  • National Judge

Sailing instructions prescribe:

  • a Start/Finish Line between two marks,
  • a mark W to be laid to windward of the Start/Finish Liine,
  • a mark L to be laid to leeward of the Start Finish Line,
  • a Course: Start/Finish Line – W – L – Start Finish Line; and
  • “The Start/Finish Line is closed to boats sailing on the downwind leg, boats violating this SI will be scored DSQ by the race committee without a hearing. This changes rules 63.1 and A5”.

A boat sailing on the leg W – L sails through the Start/Finish Line and is scored DSQ by the race committee.

The boat requests redress for an improper action by the race committee, asserting that it was not possible to understand what was meant by the term ‘closed’ in the SI.

Do you think the meaning of the last quoted SI is clear?

Created: 18-Apr-08 23:26

Comments

Clark Chapin
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Club Race Officer
0
Dick Rose wrote an excellent article about the difficulties with sailing instructions such as these in 2010. He noted several problems with "common" language such as used here. The wording he suggested was:

After completing the first leg of the course, a boat shall not cross the starting line. A boat shall not cross the finishing line until she is completing the last leg of the course and finishes. A boat that breaks this rule shall not correct her error. However, she will be exonerated if she takes a Two-Turns Penalty (see rule 44.2). This changes rule 28.1. On a leg of the course from W to L or from L to W, boats may leave the line between S and F either to port or to starboard.

For reasons of safety, on legs of the course from W to L or from L to W, the starting and finishing lines and the buoys S and F are, taken together, one obstruction, and therefore rules 19 and 20 may apply between boats while they are approaching and passing it.

Created: 18-Apr-09 00:17
Paul Hanly
Nationality: Australia
-1
RRS 86.1 b permits the sailing instruction to change rule 63.1 and A5.

When were the sailing instructions available and were they available in writing at the venue on the official noticeboard or other advertised location?
As to whether the meaning was clear
Was there a skippers briefing, was it compulsory according to the notice of race, was this sailing instruction discussed at that briefing, had it been used before by the class/club in other regattas and did the competitor ever sail in any of those races?
Did the competitor read the sailing instructions prior to racing and if they didn't understand them before racing why they did not approach the PRO or a race committee member prior to the first race?
Were they the lead boat or well back in the fleet and therefore able to see where the boats in front of them going, which would have alerted them to the likely meaning of "closed".
Then comes what is the ordinary meaning of closed and what other rational interpretations were available to a competitor, other than that they were prohibited from sailing through the line on the downwind leg?
On balance I would expect that the answers would preclude a protest committee from giving any redress as I think the meaning would be either clear on the terms in the context, or clear to a reasonable competitor before the race or clear if the competitor abided by other sailing instructions and the terms of the notice of race.

I would agree that best practice may be to use a more precise formulation, although complex grammar presents its own problems in relation to clarity to an ordinary layman (see Gunning Fog index https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunning_fog_index)
Created: 18-Apr-09 00:24
Lloyd Causey
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • Regional Race Officer
0
I recently judged a very similar race and the PRO finally ended with the following instructions:

8 COURSE

8.1 Windward/leeward Windward (Courses 1 and 2):

8.1.1 The course will be windward/leeward/windward, once around, start/finish between the windward and leeward marks, turning marks left to port, as shown in Attachment A. The race committee may set an offset mark to port of the windward mark.

8.1.2 Before the warning signal, if the race committee hails “line closed,” after starting, a boat shall not cross the start/finish line until she is completing the last leg of the course and finishes. A boat that breaks this rule shall not correct her error. However, she will be exonerated if she takes a Two-Turns Penalty (see rule 44.2). This changes rule 28.1. If the line is close, on a leg of the course from 1 to 2 or from 1A to 2, boats may leave the line between the starting buoy and the signal boat either to port or to starboard.





I found not easily understood but no one had an issue.
Created: 18-Apr-09 00:29
Eric Johnson
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • National Umpire
  • Fleet Measurer
  • Club Race Officer
0

We go through this a lot with Team Racing. We used to describe the S/F line as an obstruction to the boats sailing downwind using various schemes. Dave Perry came up with language similar the following for a Port Box course: "On the leg from Mark 2 to Mark 3, the Race Committee Signal Boat and the port end starting/finishing mark are marks of the course. The Signal Boat shall be passed to starboard or the starting/finishing mark shall be passed to port, and those are the required sides, respectively, once a boat enters the zone and rule 18 applies for that mark"

What this allows the RC to do is to effectively close the line by forcing boats to round the ends.
Eric
Created: 18-Apr-09 00:34
Beau Vrolyk
Nationality: United States of America
0
Having run numerous races which face this problem, I have a suggestion. The PRO can solve this with a simple administrative action aboard the Finish Boat. I'd suggest advising competitors about this, but not making it a Sailing Instruction.

Wording like this seems to do the trick:
"All boats crossing the Finish Line from the direction of the last mark of the course shall be recorded each time they cross the line. A boat's score shall be the last time they cross the Finish line from the direction of the last mark."
One might ask why? Well, the only good reason I've ever heard for restricting the Finish Line is to make it easier on the Race Committee. I don't find that logic compelling. I certainly do not find the lack of an ability to write down every boat passing through the Finish Line from the direction of the last mark of the course a good reason to radically reduce the race course and restrict the tactical and strategic options available to the competitors. Here is my logic.
First, when yachts are sailing downwind they are clearly not finishing, thus there is no reason to score them. My experience is that the Racing Rule of Sailing do an acceptable job of keeping boats sailing downwind and upwind sorted out, thus there is no reason to artificially keep boats sailing downwind from crossing the line.
Second, when yachts are sailing upwind they may be finishing, or they maybe on another lap. In all cases, recording all yachts which cross the line and then scoring the last time a particular yacht crosses from the direction of the last mark will solve numerous potential problems including yachts attempting to correct an error or clear a penalty.
For these reasons, if possible, I would recommend not ever trying to restrict the Finish Line in the way discussed in the original post. Further, if I were the Chairman of the Protest Committee and had the opportunity to advise the PRO, I would suggest that they leave the racing rules alone and modify the administrative activity aboard the Finish Boat to solve the problem.
Created: 18-Apr-09 02:01
Stephen Ouellette
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • Regional Race Officer
0
As a competitor, it is very self explanatory. If a start line remains set, I expect it to be closed to me, unless I am starting. If the SIs say it is closed, it is closed.
Created: 18-Apr-09 02:11
Bill Handley
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Certifications:
  • National Judge
0
Obviously the SIs could have been written more clearly but they weren't so we have to address to issue of were the SIs as written clear ?

As "closed" is not a defined terms it means it has to be interpreted "in the sense ordinarily understood in nautical or general use" see RRS introduction. It seems to me that this means pretty clearly that boats may not sail through the line on the down wind leg particularly when read in conjunction with the penalty for doing so.
Created: 18-Apr-09 02:52
John Allan
Nationality: Australia
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Regional Race Officer
0
Folks,

The purpose of the OP was to canvass opinions as to the clarity of the words used, not to discuss other aspects of good race management, or entitlements to redress.

The obvious solution to the problem, if problem there is, is to write SI in plain English, not slang, using the models provided in Appendix L.

Thanks to Paul Hanley for his test about 'what other rational interpretations were available to a competitor'.

It's also struck me that a closed door is clearly a door that you can't go through, so a closed line is clearly one that you can't go through.

But I'd appreciate any further discussion on the clarity of the words.
Created: 18-Apr-09 03:22
Michael Butterfield
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • International Umpire
  • International Race Officer
0
To me we close a starting line when you can no longer start though it. it does not mean YOU cannot sail through it. it is similar for a finishing line.

I think the wording is inappropriate.

do we really need to do this?

we do it either to keep the line clear for multiple starts, or we used it so you could not finish on an earlier lap. the rules have been changed to cover this in that you have not now finished if you continue to sail the course.
Created: 18-Apr-09 04:01
Phil Mostyn
Nationality: Australia
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • International Umpire
0
Hey Michael,

I agree that the wording is imperfect. However, to me it’s the meaning that counts and having perused the various submissions above, wording such as “the start/finishing line is closed” seems clear.
I often come across wording such as: “boats shall not pass through the start/finishing line unless starting or finishing”, and I like the clarity of Dave Perry’s wording quoted above. I also like the idea of having rule 44 penalty turns available for these infractions.
A quick comment on “Briefings”: the spoken words in a briefing, regardless of whether the briefing is compulsory or not, have no significance unless they are posted in writing on the notice board. In my experience, the less said at briefings, the better.
Created: 18-Apr-09 07:04
John Mooney
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Regional Umpire
  • Regional Race Officer
0
I don't love this SI, but agree that "closed" is adequately clear that the RC has done nothing improper and the competitor shares at least some of the fault for her misunderstanding - the common usage of closed (as in doors, gates, or roads) means impassable, so if the SI means anything at all, it must mean that competitors may not cross on a downwind leg (and competitors should assume that all SIs mean *something*, so redress should be denied). That said, clarifying how boats are to deal with each other and the marks at the ends of the line does make the tactical situation more orderly (particularly in a team race, where bare knuckle tactical opportunities are always being sought), and is therefore more helpful.
Created: 18-Apr-09 09:07
David Clinnin
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
0
The reason OA's often give for this "poison line" instruction is to prevent a conflict between boats finishing in classes that started ahead and boats sailing to the leeward mark and still racing.

Redress should only be available if the competitor does not contribute to the worsening of his finish position. In this case, he will have to explain and satisfy the PC that his evident failure to understand the meaning of "closed" was through no fault of his own. One could speculate that maybe he asked the RC and was given a confusing reply, but the burden is on the competitor to satisfy this element of a redress claim. As to whether one could say that the use of "closed" was an "error" on the part of the RC is pretty subjective. The OA/RC has the obligation to prepare SI's which are reasonably clear and not ambiguous. Per RYA Case RYA1984-02 (involving a "confusing, ambiguous, and inadequate" definition of "finishing line.") a reasonable doubt as to the meaning of a sailing instruction is to be resolved in favor of the competitor. Is the word "closed" ambiguous or capable of multiple meanings in the context of a sailboat race, one of which would rationally permit a competitor to go through the line sailing/racing downwind while the line remained closed for other activities?
Created: 18-Apr-09 14:56
John Siegel
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • National Race Officer
0
As a race officer and a judge, I have some thoughts about this:
  1. I agree with Beau, that I really don't like the notion of a "closed line".
  2. If restricting is necessary, I recommend the following language (courtesy of Jeff Johnson): After starting and before finishing, a boat shall not cross the starting/finishing line, which shall be an obstruction during this period.
  3. On Lake Tahoe, Laser competitors prefer the restricted line as it adds downwind strategy to the course.
  4. Most important, A5 makes it very clear that a boat may not be scored DSQ by the RC. If that's the intention, the RC must protest the boat and let the PC make that determination.
Created: 18-Apr-09 16:41
Clark Chapin
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Club Race Officer
0
Having read the comments above, this is the sort of thing that makes judges say, "Screw it, I'm not doing this any more!"
We are often called upon to rule on hideously flawed sailing instructions.
What is the purpose of judges at an event?
a. Conduct protest hearings;
b. Make certain that the rules of the event are followed;
c. Serve as a resource for rules questions; or
d. Insure the fairness of the event.
I suggest that any answer other than "d" means that the incumbent has confused their importance with their function.
IMHO, the sailing instruction is hopelessly flawed.
Everybody knows what "closed' means, but everybody knows something different.
Created: 18-Apr-09 22:04
Stephen Ouellette
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Regional Judge
  • Regional Race Officer
0
I disagree. When I am sailing and know that another fleet may be starting or finishing while i am sailing back down the course, I would not sail through a line that had both start/finish mark and either an orange starting flag or a blue finishing flag, unless I was starting or finishing. I think the instruction was sufficiently clear and barring some other evidence, I would be inclined to find it valid. As a PRO, with multiple fleets racing, the start/finish line needs to be closed to anyone not starting or finishing.
Created: 18-Apr-09 22:37
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