Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

Pre-Start Protest Case

Jan Winkler
Nationality: Croatia
Certifications:
  • National Umpire
  • National Judge
Hey guys,
Here's a brain teaser.
What are your conclusions & decision?
.......................................................................................................................................
On a hearing of a valid protest, the protest committee established the following facts.
 
 Facts found:
- 30 seconds after preparatory signal of J70 fleet race nr.1, two J70 (yellow and blue) were approaching pin end of the starting line,
- wind speed was 10 knots, sea state was consistent with wind speed,
- yellow was on port close-hauled course when she entered the zone around pin end starting mark,
- inside the zone yellow tacked on starboard, then luffed above her close-hauled course and passed close to the pin-end starting mark leaving it on port,
- blue was on starboard tack since entering the zone and was sailing close-hauled course on the starboard lay-line of the pin-end starting mark,
- when yellow finished her tack to starboard (position 3), blue was clear astern at a distance of 1 meter and was holding her course,
- shortly after position 3 blue established windward overlap at a gap of 0.5 meters from yellow,
- as yellow luffed and passed close to the mark, blue luffed, sailed above her close-hauled course and kept clear of yellow,
- after boats cleared the starting mark there was 3 minutes to the starting signal.
Drawing endorsed by the protest committee

.......................................................................................................................................
Applicable rules and conclusions:
  • Rule 10 (position 1); yellow on port kept clear of row boat blue on starboard as blue could continue sailing her course without taking avoiding action,
  • Rule 13 (position 2); yellow kept clear while tacking of row boat blue as blue could continue sailing her course without taking avoiding action,
  • Rule 15 (position 3); yellow acquired row as a boat clear ahead and initially gave blue room to keep clear as blue could keep clear while maneuvering promptly and in a seamanlike way,
  • Rule 12 (position 3); blue clear astern kept clear of row boat yellow clear ahead as yellow could continue sailing her course without taking avoiding action,
  • Rule 16.1 (positions 3-4); when row boat yellow changed course she gave blue room to keep clear as blue could keep clear while maneuvering promptly and in a seamanlike way,
  • Rule 11 (position 4), windward boat blue kept clear of row boat yellow as yellow could continue sailing her course without taking avoiding action and also change course in both directions without immediately making contact,
  • Section C rules applied as at the time of the incident boats were not approaching starting mark to start (preamble of Section C),
  • Rule 18 did not apply as at the time of the incident boats were not required to leave mark on the same side (preamble of rule 18.1),
  • Rule 19 applied as at the time of the incident boats were not required to leave mark on the same side; condition as per rule 19.2 (a) was not met,
  • Rule 19.2 (b) (position 4), outside boat blue gave inside boat yellow room between her and the obstruction,
  • Mark with a ground tackle is an obstruction as per Definition as it is an object a boat could not pass without changing course substantially if she were sailing directly towards it and one of her hull lengths from it
 
Decision:
-       no rules broken, protest dismissed

Created: 20-Mar-26 10:27

Comments

Thorsten Doebbeler
Nationality: Germany
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • International Umpire
6
As an umpire: green and white flag.
As a judge: no rule broken - get out of my hearing room! 
;-)
Created: 20-Mar-26 10:35
Arto Kiiski
Nationality: Finland
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Umpire In Training
1
Agreed.
Created: 20-Mar-26 10:45
P
Michael Butterfield
Nationality: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • International Umpire
  • International Race Officer
3
Rule 19 does not apply as this is a mark they are required to pass on the same side.
I suppose it depends on when you call the boats as approaching the marks to start.
If they are Section C does not apply so there can be no breach of 18.3.
If not approaching to start then the section applies but at this time the Buoy has no required side,
Both boats appeared to comply with the rules, not luffing too hard and Keeping clear.
No penalties.

Created: 20-Mar-26 10:53
Andrus Poksi
Nationality: Estonia
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • National Umpire
  • National Race Officer
5
There is no Zone at the starting marks! :-)))))

But nevertheless, the Yellow as the leeward ROW boat has right to luff until head to wind (no proper course limitations before the Starting signal and in this particular case it is not an issue anyway) and by giving room to Blue to keep clear (RRS 16.1) - No rule broken!
Created: 20-Mar-26 10:53
P
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Judge In Training
  • Fleet Measurer
1
Thanks Jan for the scenario. It touches on the questions raised in “The Holiday Puzzler”

I like Mike’s approach. 

  1. If you determine that they are not approaching the mark to start, then the boats do not have to pass it on the same side, therefore 18.1 turns off 18.
  2. If you determine that the boats are approaching the mark to start, then the preamble to Section C turns off 18 [& 19 .. nice add Murray].


Created: 20-Mar-26 12:13
Jan Winkler
Nationality: Croatia
Certifications:
  • National Umpire
  • National Judge
0
Andrus Poksi
There is no Zone at the starting marks! :-)))))
Are you claiming that a starting mark is not a mark as per Definition?


Michael Butterfield
I suppose it depends on when you call the boats as approaching the marks to start
Can we agree that 3 min. prior to the starting signal, the boats in that position are not approaching the line to start? 

Michael Butterfield
If not approaching to start then the section applies but at this time the Buoy has no required side
Interesting...and why the mark wouldn't have the required side prior to the starting signal assuming that the Sailing instructions clearly define the starting line?

Angelo Guarino
1. If you determine that they are not approaching the mark to start, then the boats do not have to pass it on the same side, therefore 18.1 turns off 18.
This argument makes sense...  :)
Created: 20-Mar-26 12:22
Louis Mayo
Nationality: New Zealand
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
  • National Umpire
  • National Judge
1
I  agree with Angelo's analysis. RRS 18 is turned off either by the Section C preamble or 18.1. RRS 11 has not been broken. If determined that the boats are approaching to start then RRS 19 would apply. Blue has given room to Yellow under 19.2(b) so there is no infringement. 


Created: 20-Mar-26 12:23
Andrus Poksi
Nationality: Estonia
Certifications:
  • International Judge
  • National Umpire
  • National Race Officer
0
To Jan: I am definitely not claiming that the starting mark is not a mark! That's not the point. The issue is that the Zone around the Starting marks is irrelevant in this situation because RRS 18 (incl 18.3) does not apply at the starting marks.
Created: 20-Mar-26 12:46
Tim Hohmann
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Judge
0
If the pin is a mark then by the definition it has a zone. However whether the boats are in or out of the zone makes no difference if rule 18 is not on, as it isn't in this case.

I'd say that the pin doesn't have a required side until the boats are approaching it to start. Prior to the starting signal boats may pass on either side of the pin. So rule 18 isn't on in this incident since at the time of the incident the boats are not required to leave the pin on the same side.

From the time she completed her tack from port to stbd Yellow was ROW boat. Y gave B room to keep clear and B kept clear. No rule was broken.
Created: 20-Mar-26 14:34
P
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Judge In Training
  • Fleet Measurer
0
... and just to underline the point, it's the side of the boat, not the side of the mark.

Below are a few images borrowed from the Holiday Puzzler thread, showing boats passing the mark on opposite sides at different times before approaching the line to start.

image.png 42 KB


For below, the gun goes off at 5 under P-flag.
image.png 50.9 KB

image.png 54.2 KB


Created: 20-Mar-26 14:57
Murray Cummings
Nationality: New Zealand
0
 Louis Mayo wrote:
 I  agree with Angelo's analysis. RRS 18 is turned off either by the Section C preamble or 18.1. RRS 11 has not been broken. If determined that the boats are approaching to start then RRS 19 would apply. Blue has given room to Yellow under 19.2(b) so there is no infringement.  

I, too, agree with Angelo's analysis, but I would add that, when the boats are approaching the mark to start, the preamble to Section C turns off the whole of Section C, not just rule 18,   Therefore, when boats are approaching the mark to start, rule 19 does not apply.

Both rules 18 and 19 determine the time frame in which they apply or do not apply. When they are required to leave the mark on it's specified side is laid out in rule 28.2.
As the incident occurred 3 minutes before the start signal, the boats are clearly not approaching the mark to start.  Therefore, they are not required to leave the mark on the same side at that time (rule 28.2). Rule 19 does apply, rule 18 does not.  No rules were infringed.
Created: 20-Mar-26 14:57
Tim Hohmann
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Judge
0
Murray, I agree with you, except that 19 is only on if the pin is large enough to rank as an obstruction. 
Created: 20-Mar-26 15:28
J. Conal Lancaster
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Race Officer In Training
  • Judge In Training
0
Should it matter about size of the pin? What if it is a fixed day mark or other solid marker? What about concern for it's anchor rode. If it is an obstruction rule 19.2 (a) allows yellow to pass on either side. 
Created: 20-Mar-26 18:23
Philip Hubbell
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
  • Judge In Training
0
...large enough to rank as an obstruction AND not surrounded by navigable water. [Preamble]
Created: 20-Mar-26 18:26
Tim Hohmann
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Club Judge
0
Seems like a typical pin (small buoy or a flag on a whip) is not generally large enough to meet the definition of obstruction. If the pin is a RC vessel or maybe a large tet in a small boat fleet it might be both a mark and an obstruction.

And I think Phil is right, even if the pin is an obstruction rule 19 would turn off when the boats are approaching to start. But in pre-start maneuvering I think 19 would still be on.
Created: 20-Mar-26 18:46
Steve Schupak
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • National Umpire
1
I believe Thorsten summed the answer(s) up pretty succinctly, however, I may have softened my admonishment to leave my room just a tad :) 
Created: 20-Mar-26 19:35
Murray Cummings
Nationality: New Zealand
0
Hi J. Conal,
Yes, the size of the pin would determine whether a boat would have to alter course substantially to avoid it, if she were sailing directly toward it and one boat length from it. (see definition of obstruction). 
The diagram shows Yellow's change of course from position 3 to to be 20-30 degrees.  Would that be considered a substantial change?  If so, then the mark is an obstruction.  If it were a minor course change, the mark would not be an obstruction.  


 
Created: 20-Mar-26 19:36
J. Conal Lancaster
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Race Officer In Training
  • Judge In Training
0
 I am not sure if I am reading the Preamble to Section C correctly. Do rules 18, 19 and 20 not apply at the starting mark if the marks are surrounded by navigable water at all times or just from the time boats are approaching them to start? When do boats approach them to start? I am a J.I.T. so this is good training for me. 
Created: 20-Mar-26 19:52
Louis Mayo
Nationality: New Zealand
Certifications:
  • Club Race Officer
  • National Umpire
  • National Judge
0
  I am not sure if I am reading the Preamble to Section C correctly. Do rules 18, 19 and 20 not apply at the starting mark if the marks are surrounded by navigable water at all times or just from the time boats are approaching them to start? When do boats approach them to start? I am a J.I.T. so this is good training for me. 

They do not apply when boats are approaching them to start. The grey area is that there's not universal consensus as to when boats are 'approaching them to start'. 
My submission is that RRS 18 effectively never applies at starting marks because if you accept that the boats are not 'approaching them to start' then the boats are not required to leave the mark on a particular side, so RRS 18.1 turns RRS 18 off. 

Created: 20-Mar-26 21:06
P
Angelo Guarino
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Judge In Training
  • Fleet Measurer
0
Hey Con .. this is how I think about it.

  1. Marks are Objects ... Def of Mark starts right off and says that first thing .. "An object the sailing instructions require a boat to leave on a specified side ...."
    1. It can be a big object like a boat .. such that it qualifies as an obstruction
    2. It can be a small object like a 1 gal milk jug on a string and a brick .. such that it doesn't qualify as an obstruction
  2. A mark is always a mark .. BUT in name only sometimes .. as the RRS strips away a mark's features and penalties under certain conditions.
    1. RRS 28.1 states, " .. she may leave on either side a mark that does not begin, bound or end the leg she is sailing."
    2. Preamble of Section C .. as we have been discussing
    3. RRS 31 states, "While Racing, a boat shall not touch a starting mark before starting, a mark that begins, bounds or ends the leg of the course on which she is sailing, or a finishing mark after finishing.
    4. so if you are not racing or the mark does not bound the leg ... you can touch a mark without penalty .. BUT .. 
  3. Even when there is no rule that says you can't touch a mark, there are Cases which state that it is unseamanlike to run into objects (marks are objects) as it might cause damage to the boat or the object .. even if they are small .. or inflated cloth .. but have ground tackle.
    1. A boat is entitled to maneuver in a seamanlike way when they are entitled to Room .. and you can get to room lots of ways.
    2. So, even if a mark-object is too small to be an obstruction and it doesn't bound a leg, one boat can't force another boat into it if that boat is entitled to room.

So, the rules and consequences around the object the SI's define as a mark changes depending on ...
  1. where you are in time (racing/not-racing relative to the prep-signal)
  2. where you are on the course (what leg your are on, if you are starting, finishing or after finishing and still racing)
  3. how large the mark-object is

That's all probably clear as mud .. but that's how it sitting in my noggin  :-)
Created: 20-Mar-26 22:22
J. Conal Lancaster
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • Race Officer In Training
  • Judge In Training
0
Thank you. Still not black or white (grey) but clearer and good info if I am faced with the situation.
Created: 20-Mar-27 04:06
Arto Kiiski
Nationality: Finland
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • Umpire In Training
0
We have a rule that states: "Rule 19 applies between two boats at an obstruction except
(a) when the obstruction is a mark the boats are required to leave on the same side..."
That is one thing.
Another thing is (or how I see it): when a mark is ranked as a mark as defined? From that moment on when a boat (boats) has to leave it
to required side. 
Created: 20-Mar-27 05:41
Jan Winkler
Nationality: Croatia
Certifications:
  • National Umpire
  • National Judge
0
Thank you all for participating and for your comments.
I believe its been a good and insightful discussion.

As a summery of what's been discussed I updated my initial thread with Applicable rules, conclusions and decision.

Hope you agree with it and find it useful.
In case you feel something else needs to be discussed, clarified or corrected on this topic please feel free to reply.

Cheers.
Created: 20-Mar-27 07:28
P
Kim Kymlicka
Nationality: United States of America
Certifications:
  • National Judge
  • National Umpire
0
Jan,

Here is my take on the originally submitted brain teaser.
image.png 106 KB


First, take away the Starting Mark and think of the rules that apply.
image.png 21.6 KB

Question: Can Yellow sail this course without breaking any rules?

Answer: Yes. She has to be mindful of 16 and Blue of Definition of Keeping clear.

It seems that both satisfied the PC in those respects.

So now introduce the staring Mark into this and what other rules will apply.

image.png 117 KB


Yellow has to be mindful of R 31.  It does not matter how small or large the starting Mark is. A boat, (while racing), cannot touch, without a penalty, a staring Mark. Everything else is still the same. 

Conclusion: Protest dismissed

Kim

 

Created: 20-Mar-27 18:28
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