Sailing World - - Contents - BY DAVE PERRY

When two AC50S meet, some­one bet­ter get out of the way.

THE AMER­ICA’S CUP Event Au­thor­ity re­ceived per­mis­sion from World Sail­ing to write its own ver­sion of

The Rac­ing Rules of Sail­ing ( the RRSAC) for the 35th Amer­ica’s Cup. The goal of the RRSAC is to pro­vide safe rac­ing be­tween the boats (which are sail­ing close to 50 mph at times on foils) and to pro­vide a rel­a­tively sim­ple game to un­der­stand for the view­ing au­di­ence. This ar­ti­cle ex­plains how the RRSAC works when the boats en­gage each other.


The pre-start en­gage­ment pe­riod in the Amer­ica’s Cup is only two min­utes. In that time, the boats will sail down­wind across an en­try line set per­pen­dic­u­lar to the wind. The boat as­signed the port-tack en­try (P) is al­lowed to cross the En­try Line at 2: 10 be­fore the start; the star­board- tack boat (S) must wait un­til 2:00 to en­ter (RRSAC 27.4). Be­cause the boats are ap­proach­ing each other at clos­ing speeds greater than 70 mph, the pur­pose of the early en­try for P is to al­low her to safely cross in front of S as she en­ters the start­ing area.

En­gage­ment sit­u­a­tion: If P is late, or gets an un­fa­vor­able change in wind ve­loc­ity or di­rec­tion, she might not be able to

Be­cause of the high- speed na­ture of Cup rac­ing, the rac­ing rules that sailors ad­here to have been tweaked to keep the rac­ing safe while pre­serv­ing fun­da­men­tal match- rac­ing tac­tics.

cross S. In that case, S will aim di­rectly at her and force her to head up and tack ( a dial- up) or bear away and jibe (a dial-down). The RRSAC is the same as the stan­dard rac­ing rules in this sit­u­a­tion. P is re­quired to keep clear un­der Rule 10 ( port- star­board). S, when she changes course, is re­quired to give P room to keep clear un­der Rule 16.1 ( chang­ing course). The only diff er­ence is that in the RRSAC, there is no rule about tack­ing ( no Rule 13). There­fore, the mo­ment P passes head to wind, she is in­stantly the right-of-way boat un­der Rule 11 ( wind­ward- lee­ward); and, as un­der the stan­dard rac­ing rules, she is re­quired to ini­tially give S room to keep clear un­der Rule 15 (ac­quir­ing right of way).


En­gage­ment sit­u­a­tion: Un­der the stan­dard rac­ing rules, if a port­tack boat (P) is bear­ing away to pass astern (“duck”) a star­board­tack boat (S), S is not al­lowed to bear away (“hunt”) from P when the boats are close (Rule 16.2). How­ever, in the RRSAC, S is al­lowed to hunt P as long as she does not bear away far­ther than 90 de­grees from the true wind (RRSAC 16.2).


En­gage­ment sit­u­a­tion: Un­der the stan­dard rac­ing rules, if a boat be­comes over­lapped to lee­ward of a boat that was ahead of her, she can­not sail above her proper course (Rule 17). But there is no Rule 17 in the RRSAC. There­fore, if a boat catches up from astern and over­laps the other boat to lee­ward, it has full luff­ing rights and can force the wind­ward boat to sail as high as she wants, of course giv­ing her room to keep clear un­der Rule 16.1 (chang­ing course) when she luffs.


To keep the boats close to each other, the race­course has an “elec­tric fence,” or bound­ary on ei­ther side, which boats are re­quired to stay within (RRSAC 28.3). The penalty for go­ing out of bounds is to get back in bounds, and then slow down and lose two lengths rel­a­tive to the other boat. There is

a four-length zone lead­ing up to the bound­ary. Lights on the boats and a dis­play near the skip­per in­di­cate the dis­tance to the bound­ary. When a boat is in the zone of the bound­ary, its green light turns on. Once in the zone, a boat clear ahead, or an in­side boat, is al­lowed to sail her proper course to exit the zone, and the other boat must al­low her the space she needs to do so (RRSAC 20.2).

En­gage­ment sit­u­a­tion: The two boats (L and W) are sail­ing up­wind over­lapped on star­board tack to­ward the left- hand bound­ary with L to lee­ward. When L en­ters the zone of the bound­ary, she can tack onto port tack with­out warn­ing, and W must give her room to do so. How­ever, the mo­ment L has sailed com­pletely out of the zone, her pro­tec­tion un­der RRSAC 20.2 turns off. So one tac­tic for W is to sail high and slow so when L tacks in the zone, the boats will in­ter­sect when L has sailed out of the zone, po­ten­tially forc­ing L to have to tack back. This same sit­u­a­tion will oc­cur when L and W are sail­ing down­wind into the zone of the right-hand bound­ary, with W as the in­side boat with the right to jibe.


A sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the RRSAC is that boats on op­po­site tacks on a beat to wind­ward are con­sid­ered “over­lapped,” and RRSAC 18 ( mark- room) ap­plies at a wind­ward mark. Also, “mark­room” is room for an in­side boat to sail her proper course around the mark, in­clud­ing tack­ing. In the Amer­ica’s Cup, the boats pass through a wind­ward gate, leav­ing the left- hand mark to port and the right- hand mark to star­board. There­fore, when P and S are in the zone of the left­hand mark, P is the in­side boat, and S must give her room to tack and sail her proper course around the mark.

En­gage­ment sit­u­a­tion: The two boats ( S and P) are ap­proach­ing on op­po­site tacks and will con­verge in the zone of the left- hand wind­ward gate mark. S needs to sail above the lay­line to the left- hand mark in case P wants to tack and round that mark. How­ever, P has the op­tion of duck­ing S and round­ing the right- hand mark and pick­ing up the star­board- tack ad­van­tage on the fi rst meet­ing down­wind.


Ba­si­cally, the penalty in the Amer­ica’s Cup, in­clud­ing when a boat is OCS, is to slow down and get two boat lengths be­hind the other boat, which means put one boat length of wa­ter be­tween the two boats ( RRSAC 44.2). How­ever, if a boat sails out of bounds or fouls a boat on a diff er­ent leg of the course, the penalty is to slow down un­til the um­pires de­cide the boat has lost two boat lengths in the race rel­a­tive to the other boat.

To protest, the skip­pers will hit their “protest but­ton.” There will be um­pires fol­low­ing the boats on the race­course and um­pires sit­ting in a booth on shore. Um­pires in the booth have video and graphic views of the boats and can replay sit­u­a­tions be­fore mak­ing their de­ci­sions, if needed. The um­pires in the booth ad­min­is­ter the penal­ties by turn­ing on a boat’s blue light. When the um­pires de­cide the boat has fulfi lled its penalty, they will turn off the blue light.

Dave Perry, au­thor of Un­der­stand­ing the Rac­ing Rules of Sail­ing

Through 2020, and nu­mer­ous other ti­tles, is Rules Ad­viser for Artemis Rac­ing.

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