Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

Definition of Room and Case 103

Steve Shepstone
Nationality: United States of America
  • Regional Judge
  • National Umpire

Case 103 says, "... the interpretation of 'seamanlike way' must be based on the boat-handling that can reasonably be expected from a competent, but not expert, crew of the appropriate number for the boat."  That works well for cruising boats, but not so well for one-designs.

One-design sailing isn't really a one-design competition unless you have one-design humans.  Large skippers can have a boat-handling advantage in keel boats, while smaller sailors will have an advantage in most dinghies.  You can also consider events where disabled sailors a racing against able bodied sailors.  Competence may have little to do with the boat-handling.  Examples of problems are an inside boat at a mark not being able to turn as quickly as expected by the outside R-O-W boat, or a boat tacking to starboard and a port tack boat responding slowly, due to physical differences.

How might Case 103 be reworded to allow sailors with physical differences to race against each other?

Created: 19-Jan-15 00:11


Michael Butterfield
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • International Judge
  • International Umpire
  • International Race Officer

I would not like to see the wording changed.

as a boat giving room, you for safety have a right looking at the boat to expect a certain response. See also 18.4 and it's counterpart on a beat in match racing.

if you cannot comply with the rule keep away and do not enforce the rights.

when collregs apply there is no 18 or 19 you just do not have to put yourself in there. 



Created: 19-Jan-15 08:24
John Allan
Nationality: Australia
  • National Judge
  • Regional Race Officer

I don't agree that the standard prescribed in Case 103 works any differently for one design or any other types of boats.

The concept of one design relates only to the design of the boat.  Physique, skill, number, and ability/disabiliies of crew are legitimately within the domain of fair competition at least as far as the RRS are concerned.

Unlike, for example, boxing or wrestling, sailing is not usually segmented into physique-groups, although, of course some boat designs 'type-form' the physiques of competitors, for examaple, Finns attract large heavy sailors, Lasers attract tall skinny sailors, and some classes, Tasers, for example use corrector weights to 'equalise' crew weights.  Provisions to 'band' or 'equalise' crew attributes belong, in my opinion in Class Rules or special Event Rules or Sailing Instructions, not in the RRS.

Boat handling which may be constrained by the characteristics of the boat, rather than the competence of the crew is a different issue (and Case 21 refers to this).

Created: 19-Jan-15 13:01
Steve Comen
Nationality: United States of America
  • Club Judge
  • Club Race Officer

I don't agree that a change in wording is required or appropriate. I have been sailing as a Unified Partner and Coach for Special Olympics for 20 years, and am currently head sailing coach for Special Olympics USA. We constantly deal with athletes with widely varying capability.

From a rules perspective, I think it is critical that we maintain the concept of 'seamanlike way'. As a Unified Partner, I need to understand what the athlete I am sailing with is capable of and avoid putting us into a situation where the athlete will not be able to respond appropriately. At the same time, I have to be able to assume that the boats we are competing against will do the same. If we are the outside boat at a mark rounding, there is no way to look at the other boat and decide that they require more or less room to round the mark than any other boat. The same thing applies from a judge's perspective. It is already hard enough to agree on what is 'seamanlike.' I think making this a moving target based on the abilities (physical or mental) of the sailors involved would make it next to impossible to have any consistency in what is considered 'seamanlike' and would result in inconsistent and arbitrary protest decisions.

Created: 19-Jan-15 16:27
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
  • Judge In Training
  • Fleet Measurer

Steve S (OP)..  I think your question is a good and important one to consider.  IMO, both Mike and John make very good and important points which I'd like to associate myself with.

That said, I do think it is important to challenge our thinking often and on many fronts (not just sailing).  In this case, challenging our current disposition in an effort to make sure we aren't missing ideas, avenues and approaches which would provide greater opportunities to those with disabilities.

In the Chesapeake Bay for instance, we have an organization named Chesapeake Bay Accessable Boating (appropriately for the Chesapeake "C.R.A.B").  Here, they have a series of OD boats specifically modified people with disabilities and race in a OD-type setting as they are all Bene First 22's. CRAB Website.  The CRAB regatta includes those boats with other fleets in a pursuit style event .. where the CRAB boats are easily ID'd and are given a big head-start from the other boats.

In an attempt to not repeat what Mike and John offered, I'd like to work backwards from your proposition .. so in this case let's implement the idea underlying your notion and imagine what it would look like and the challenges it would entail.  When I do that I come to several challenges:

  1. How would we determine, catagorize and grade-along-a-scale the different character and level of disability? How would we draw a line in determining something wasn't a disability?  If I just had knee-surgery, does that count?  I have herniated disks and my back goes into spasm (slowing my ability to move), does that count?
  2. How would we determine and define the proper 'accomodation' that #1 requires?  Would that accomadation be a variety or are we looking for one-size fits all?
  3. Once we get past #1 and #2 above, how would that be communicated to other competitors?  Different flags each representing a different accomodation?
  4. Last, but certainly not least, if we are talking about providing "more room" or "more time to react", how does that change the RRS rules and definitions?  What impact does it have on the definitions of "Keep Clear", "Room", "Mark-Room" ?

In particular, pausing on #4 and the impact these accomodations might have (in the RRS or in the SI's as John suggests) we had a discussion a while back that might be worth reading through here: RRS 86.1 Changes to the RRS

In that we discussed an SI that stated that boats can't get within 5 boat-lengths of each other after sunset .. .and the impact that has as it permutated through the RRS.  My point being here (and the one we reached in that old thread) is that it is not a simple challenge to make some of these changes.


Created: 19-Jan-15 16:53
Steve Shepstone
Nationality: United States of America
  • Regional Judge
  • National Umpire

I don't think my original question provided enough detail.  I've spent a lot of time racing, judging, and umpiring in the Sunfish and Sonar classes.  In both classes, the room required to manuever is very much dictated by the size of the skipper, not by skill level.  It's a question of what is physically possible for a skipper to do.

In the Sunfish Class, the boat handling issue is getting under the boom when tacking or jybing.  Smaller skippers can dive under the boom with no problem.  The boom gets stuck on the back of the larger skippers, who then have to use an arm to bend the boom upward far enough to break free, hopefully in time to get across the boat before capsizing.

In Sonars, the size effect is the opposite.  The larger skippers can hook a foot under the traveller, use their size and height, and lever the boat into a quick roll tack or roll jybe.  The smaller skippers can't reach the traveller bar, and cannot get their weight outside the boat.  The extra muscle mass also allows the larger skipper to rig the mainsheet 4:1.  The smaller skippers have to use a 5:1 mainsheet, taking 25% more time to trim the main.

Picture 11 expert skippers.  The smallest is 100# and 5' tall.  The largest is 200# and 6.5' tall.  The rest are distributed evenly by size between the smallest and the largest.  Now lets say that in the Sunfish the largest skipper requires 50% room to round a mark or respond to another boat acquiring R-O-W.  In the Sonar, it's reversed, and the smallest skipper requires 50% more room than the largest skipper.  If the performance difference is linear by size, you get a table of room required that looks like this:

Skipper by Weight                    Required Room Factor

                                         Sunfish                    Sonar

100                                       1.00                      1.50

110                                       1.05                      1.45

120                                       1.10                      1.40

130                                       1.15                      1.35

140                                       1.20                      1.30

150                                       1.25                      1.25

160                                       1.30                      1.20

170                                       1.35                      1.15

180                                       1.40                      1.10

190                                       1.45                      1.05

200                                       1.50                      1.00

In this situation, how do you decide how much room is allowed?

Created: 19-Jan-19 03:13
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