Forum: Rules 2 and 69

Traditional W/L (Rule 11) or does the OD fleet racing style matter?

Dan Bowman
Nationality: United States of America
  • Club Race Officer
Two Laser's (let's call them W & L) are sailing downwind on starboard tack (booms are over their port sides), 2-5 boat lengths apart as they progress downwind, W is to starboard of L, overlapped and neither has broken overlap in many minutes.  Wind on this leg wind has decreased to 2-4kts, sea state is minimal (6" or 30cm).  There are no surfing opportunities for either boat.  As Laser's do, both are sailing by the lee to improve flow over the sail and thus boat speed.

The competitors on W & L engage in a brief conversation about what constitutes windward versus leeward.  They decide that since the wind is flowing over both of their port sides that boom position is irrelevant and that L is now the windward boat and must give way to W.  W announces their intention to come "up" (turn to port), and takes about 30 seconds to come into contact with L via a main-sheet touching the hull of L.  W informs L that they have made contact and L promptly does turns.  I witnessed this from astern, about 100yards/meters behind, while sailing in a different fleet, I am not a Laser.

On shore I am asked if I saw what happened and what rules I believed applied.  I inform them that even though what they observed as traditional Laser sailing tactics, they do not change the rules and that W had no rights on L because both boats were on starboard with their booms over their port side of the hull, thus this was a windward/leeward situation and Rule 11 was in force at the time of contact.  I explain that while Laser's do traditionally sail by the lee, that is an irrelevant fact to the rule and thus the PC and that in this case the ruling would be against W.  I've sailed in major Laser events (read very crowded course) and this was never questioned before and I'm sure about rule 11.  A PC can not be expected to be able to discern the fact that a boat is sailing by the lee and the position of the boom is what determines what tack a boat is on, even if both boats agree and present to the PC that they were indeed both sailing by the lee.

But this forum has more experienced race officials than I and I wanted to know if the method of how to sail a boat is ever considered in a protest that would effect Rule 11?  This concept would become even messier if this were a case of a port tack boat sailing hard on the wind met a boat on port tack boat sailing downwind but by the lee.  Port/leeward cannot be expected to understand that port/windward is actually sailing by the lee and thus on starboard.  The rules would fall apart if this was permitted.

I promised both competitors a researched answer.  Thoughts?
Created: 19-Jul-14 14:35


Graham Louth
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • International Judge
  • Umpire In Training
  • National Race Officer
Your answer is in the RRS Definition of Leeward and Windward:
"A boat's leeward side is the side that is or, when she is head to wind, was away from the wind. However, when sailing by the lee or directly downwind, her leeward side is the side on which her mainsail lies. The other side is her windward side. When two boats on the same tack overlap, the one on the leeward side of the other is the leeward boat. The other is the windward boat." (emphasis added)
Created: 19-Jul-14 15:49
Lance Ryley
Nationality: United States of America
Rule 11 and the definition of leeward and windward were written specifically to handle situations like this, as pointed out by Graham above. The W laser was the keep-clear vessel. I agree with your assessment that the PC would find against W. I also agree with your statement regarding the close-hauled vs downwind lasers - again, this is clearly why the rules were written the way they were.
Created: 19-Jul-14 15:57
Tim Hohmann
Nationality: United States of America
  • Club Judge
I agree, the definition and rules cover this situation and competitors are not at liberty to negotiate a different definition on the course. So in this instance I think Leeward did turns she did not have to do (but is not entitled to redress) and Windward got away with an 11\16.1\14 violation that was not protested. 
Created: 19-Jul-15 02:20
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