Match Racing – Windward Mark – Opposite Tacks

Match racing has special rules for mark room, designed to make the rules simpler and more certain so both the sailors and umpires clearly know the rules, rights and obligations at a rounding.

World Sailing has revised a Rapid Response call and issued two new Rapid Response calls regarding when boats approach the windward mark on Opposite Tacks – it is has been unequivocally clarified that the answer is “It Depends”.

Let’s step through the calls, the differences and what your strategy as port tack boat should be to avoid the trap and manage risk.

Firstly, the principle rules that apply in these match racing scenarios:

Mark-room is changed to:
“Room for a boat to sail her proper course to round or pass the mark on the required side.” – So this includes tacking and gybing.

Rule 18.3 (b) is changed to:
“When an inside overlapped right-of-way boat must change tack at a mark to sail her proper course, until she changes tack she shall sail no farther from the mark than needed to sail that course. Rule 18.3(b) does not apply at a gate mark or a finishing mark and a boat shall not be penalized for breaking this rule unless the course of another boat was affected by the breach of this rule. ”

In each of these scenarios, Yellow (with mark-room) is usually penalised, in the first two blue is also penalised and the umpires need to consider an additional red flag penalty.

Rapid Response 2018.001  Yellow sails further than needed to sail her proper course and is penalised. Blue failed to keep clear under rule 10 (Port Starboard) and gets penalised because nothing compelled her to break the rule.

Then we get into deliberate breaches. If the umpires decide that Yellow either deliberately broke a rule and/or gained an advantage, the umpires will consider a red flag penalty.

Rapid Response 2017.002 Revision 2 In this scenario, both boats broke the rule as above, but Yellow is in strong contention for a second penalty and possibly a second penalty with a red flag, which means it must be done immediately.

Rapid Response 2018.002 In this scenario, Yellow is still breaking rule 18.3 but Blue tacks away and does not breach rule 10 (port/starboard). So Yellow gets a penalty and is at risk of getting a second penalty or a red flag penalty.

So there are only two rules in play here but the nuances are numerous – it’s very understandable that the umpires may call similar situations differently.  So how does the Blue boat manage the risks here?

Blue should always ensure she keeps clear of the starboard tack boat and protest Yellow if she sails beyond her proper course. This means that Yellow will get one or two penalties and if she already had a penalty, that could turn into a Black!

If Blue slows at the zone, she might be in a better position just after the mark to make her next move.