Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing

Gybing inside the zone

Frank Albert
Nationality: United States of America
In a recent race 3 boats (1,2,and 3 and I was number 3) were reaching out towards a mark under spinnaker on a starboard tack. At the mark all three boats would pass it to starboard and then head up just a bit reaching somewhat higher than before while stil flying their spinnakers. The boats were in single file one behind the other and very close. As the three continued to sail towards the mark they were sailing at a high angle taking them above the mark. Just before the mark boat 1 decided instead of falling off to nearly dead down wind to pass the mark they would gybe over onto port then gybe back onto starboard to pass the mark. Boat one announced their intention to gybe to boat 2 who announced the intent to me (boat 3). I barely heard it when all at once both boats in front of me gybed over onto port. I was still on starboard but we did a crash gybe onto port to avoid them. All three boats were in the zone and there were no overlaps. Did I have to gybe? Did boat number 2 foul me when he became a port tack boat and required me to change course? I can't really find anything in the rules that talks to this. Any help anyone has would be GREAT!
Created: 17-Oct-25 01:49

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Craig Daniels
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From what I can tell from your description, you owed mark-room to both boats ahead of you. See if this gets you started on your thinking.

Mark-Room Room for a boat to leave a mark on the required side. Also,
(a) room to sail to the mark when her proper course is to sail close to it,
and ....

 
Created: 17-Oct-25 03:00
Phil Mostyn
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Good answer Craig. May I also suggest Frank take a look at rule 21 which talks about boats sailing within the room they are entitled to.
Created: 17-Oct-25 03:28
Bill Handley
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Frank - Craig quite rightly points out that you owed both boats mark room and provides the relevant part of the definition. Fhil reminds you that under rule 21, if a boat breaks a section A rule (in this case rule 10) while taking mark room to which she is entitled then she is exonerated. As the definition of Mark Room mentions the defined term "Room" then the part of the definition of that term which states that Room includes a boats right to "space to comply with her obligations under the rules of Part 2..." is also relevant.

Pulling all that together it can be seen that whilst 1 was entitled to mark room, the question is - was she taking mark room when she gybed or was she in fact taking more than mark room ? If after she gybed she sailed to a position close along side the mark and then gybed again to pass the mark she was only taking mark room to which she was entitled. If she could have passed the mark just by bearing away and after she had gybed she passed the mark at some distance away before gybing back then she was taking more than the mark room to which she was entitled and the difference is significant.

If 1 was only taking mark room to which she was entitled then she was exonerated for her breach of rule 10 when she gybed. Boat 2 had to give mark room to 1 which included room to gybe to pass the mark. Boat 3 was obliged to give room to 2 not only for 2 to pass the mark but for 2 to meet her obligations in respect of 1 and 2's breach of rule 10 in respect of 3 is exonerated under rule 21.

If 1 was taking more than the mark room to which she was entitled then she broke rule 10 in respect of 2 and exoneration under rule 21 would not be available - 1 should be penalised. Boat 2 had to gybe to avoid contact with 1 and meet her obligations under rule 14. Boat 2 breaks rule 10 in respect of 3 but is exonerated under rule 64.1(a) as her breach was compelled by 1's breach of rule 10. Boat 3 is obliged by rule 14 to avoid 2 and if that requires a crash gybe then that is what must happen.

At least that is my view - Hope this helps
Created: 17-Oct-25 07:56
Angelo Guarino
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I'm wondering if this question isn't as clear cut as it appears and would depend a lot on the positions and speeds of the boats. 

A boat is certainly entitled to room to round in a seaman-like way, but I think the cases establish that this room is not unlimited ... as such a boat is not entitled to sufficient room to execute a "tactical - rounding". 

If this inside, port, first-to-zone boat was being given sufficient room to round on port, it's not clear to me she has the right to gybe and "sweep" the other boats away from the mark. 
 
Created: 17-Oct-25 08:17
Ewan McEwan
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Hi Frank,

What might help you is to look at RRS Definition Mark-Room (b) - "...... room to round the mark as necessary to sail the course."

Any hearing that resulted from the incident described would have to deal with the question; was it necessary for boat 1 and boat 2 to gybe to round the mark?  If the answer is 'yes', and it seems that is was the case as you described it, then no infringment (after applying RRS 21).  If the answer is 'no' then at least boat 2 would be disqualified for breaking RRS10 (they would not be exonerated under RRS 21 as they wouldn't be "...... sailing withn the room or mark-room ....").

Of course all this assumes there was a valid protest and boat 2 didn't take any penalty turns.

Hope this helps.
Created: 17-Oct-25 08:49
Frank Albert
Nationality: United States of America
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Everyone,

Thank you so much for your answers to my post.  I hadn't considered the mark room rule but in retrospect considering we were all inside the zone that comes in to play.  

 
Created: 17-Oct-25 13:41
John Thorne
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I look at this a little differently:

Boat 1 is not overlapped with 2 and 3 when she reaches the zone, so she is thereafter entitled to mark room. By definition, mark room means “room to sail to the mark” and room to round the mark “as necessary to sail the course.”

Questions:

1. Did boat 1 sail to the mark as soon as she obtained mark room? If so, and she must jibe to pass the mark, is she entitled to do so?

2. If boat 1 could have sailed to the mark without a jibe from the position where she did so, was this “necessary to sail the course?” Was she entitled to make a double-jibe tactical maneuver without giving the other boats room to keep clear [16.1]?

My answer to #1 is yes and my answers to #2 are no.

Created: 17-Oct-25 22:47
Angelo Guarino
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John, Bill, Ewan

The more I think about this and in respect to your answers, I think it comes to this question. 

Is  there any rule which requires a first-to-zone, unoverlapped boat to sail directly to the mark once it crosses the zone?

i think the answer to that is "no". 

Also, above proper course concepts don't apply as this boat is not a leeward-boat overlapped to windward. 

So, I'm with Bills analysis as I don't think there is a way to say that the room she is entitled to is minimum room she could have taken at the moment she crossed the zone (in this case falling off the round) 
 
Created: 17-Oct-26 00:07
Bill Handley
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Ang

I think WS Case 75 gives you the information you need. That deals with boats that are overlapped but the relevant part is where it describes the mark room to which a boat is entitled (whether overlapped or clear ahead) as being a "direct corridor" from the point where the boat enters the zone to a position close alongside the mark. Of course a boat can sail outside of the corridor but if she does she is not taking mark room to which she is entitled (she is taking more) and therefore would not be able to claim exoneration under rule 21 if she broke a Section A rule.

In my post I hope I made it clear that if 1 when she gybed remained inside the corridor then the first situation I described applied but if she went outside of the corridor after she gybed then the second situation applied.
Created: 17-Oct-26 07:06
Angelo Guarino
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Thanks Bill

back to the OP description, the line on which these STB reachers were holding just above the rhumb-line was such they all could have made the mark by simply heading down, including 1 and by the OP appears 1 held their high line into the zone. 

Based on the case and the OP, 1 didn't have the right to delay heading down to the mark .. and gybing around a mark certainly takes more room than simply passing it without changing tacks.
Created: 17-Oct-26 11:11
Phil Mostyn
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In the diagram above I've tried to illustrate 2 of the courses available to a boat reaching the zone - one illustrated by Yellow who gybes twice to each the mark and Blue who bears away to reach the mark.
The abstract to WS Case 118 states:
"In the Definition Mark-Room, the phrase 'room to sail to the mark' means the space to sail promptly in a seamanlike way to a position close to and on the required side of the mark.".
So going back to the diagram, it seems obvious that the Blue course is seamanlike, but is it unseamanlike for Yellow to gybe twice as in the diagram and thus keep up her boat speed? This is the question umpires and judges have to answer when deliberating the sort of issue raised by Frank. Every incident has to be judged on its merits - there is no hard and fast answer.
.
 
Created: 17-Oct-27 10:09
Beau Vrolyk
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All,
I keep returning to this line in the original post: "Just before the mark boat 1 decided instead of falling off to nearly dead down wind to pass the mark they would gybe over onto port then gybe back onto starboard to pass the mark."  From what Frank says, I believe he means to have us understand that boat 1 had the opportunity to sail dead down wind and pass the mark. From the definition of "Room" and from Case 118 I just don't find a way to include Boat 1's two gybes in any definition of "Room". My understanding is that while sailing dead down wind may be slow, "room" does not include changes of course away from the direct course to the mark to improve boat speed.
What am I missing?
Created: 17-Oct-29 02:05
Angelo Guarino
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Beau, I think you've arrived at the consensus view here. 

For me, my first delay in seeing this conclusion was caused by the incorrect notion stuck in my head of a boat clear-ahead (i.e. boat 1) having more freedom inside the zone until such time that an overlap occurs.  If that was the case, one could see that Boat 1 could delay coming off her high course to the point a gybe would be required, and then be entitled to the room her delayed position required.

What's clear to me now, based upon the Cases sited here and Rule 18 is that even though Boat 1 is clear ahead, as soon as her bow crosses the zone, it provides rights but also imposes obligations on her and boats behind her.  Boat 1's obligation is to get to and around the mark in as direct and seamanlike manner as is possible from the position she enters the zone.  The boats behind is to provide Boat 1 that room which she was afforded at that moment.

If Boat 1 did her 2 gybes as described in Phil's drawing and Bill's description (i.e. in a sym spin boat, tossing the main over and free-flying the spin for instance), Boat 2 and 3 wouldn't have had to gybe away to avoid, so I would say that based on the OP .. she went outside of Phil's and Bill's corridor.

An interesting question would be to consider Boat 1 as an asym-boat .. would it be required to sail the asym wing-on-wing (which is the most direct an is certainly seamanlike, but a manuerver not all asym racers practice or perfect) as an asym can't go directly downwind .. or would then 2 gybes be OK as well.
Created: 17-Oct-29 11:15
Beau Vrolyk
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Angelo,

Thank you. I have been wondering about one other piece of information from the original poster. 

When boat 1 bore off to gybe, and based upon the original post this requires a nearly immediate response from boats 2 and 3, boat  1 might have established an overlap as they completed their gybe. If so, then boat 1 would most certainly be required to sail immediately to the mark and not be allowed the luxury of a tactical rounding. Of course we don’t know if such an overlap was established. It would most certainly be a question I would have asked in a hearing. 
 
Created: 17-Oct-29 19:48
Phil Mostyn
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Please forgive me making another comment, but I feel compelled to emphasize that it is the space an obliged boat is required to give a boat entitled to mark-room and the meaning of "seamanlike"that matters, not whether the boat with mark-room gybes or not.

The last paragraph in the Case 21 finding is really worth reading - "extraordinary" and "abnormal" manoeuvres are unseamanlike. And for those interested in match racing; General Principles for Umpiring Decisions 4 in the MR "Call Book"- Definition: Room, and the meaning of "in a seamanlike way", is essential reading.

Of course, neither the match or team race "Call Books" are "authoritive" interpretations as are the Cases, but they are nevertheless very significant and make excellent tools to help work out how the rules work in fleet racing.
Created: 17-Oct-30 07:08
Ant Davey
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Apologies for coming late to the party and throwing in other considerations...
If a boat has to crash gybe, to have to avoid a boat that, on its previous course, it was able to keep clear of, then surely 16 has to be considered. Particularly when the gybe may be argued to be beyond proper course. Forcing a boat into a position where it has to crash gybe to avoid contact with another boat changing course would generally in the offshore (reasonably sized keelboat) world be considered unseamanlike and draw some of us towards rule 2.

If a boat gybes twice within the zone 'to maintain boat speed' I'd be looking very closely at 42.

I'm off to study Cases 21, 75 , and 118...
Created: 17-Nov-04 10:44
Philip Hubbell
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There is nothing unseamanlike in making two prompt gybes to the mark (and to round in the manner ROW desires) thus room rights survive the gybes.
Boat 1 is still ROW clear ahead till she gybes to port, and she regains ROW when she gybes back.
Created: 17-Nov-09 07:39
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