The pat­tern of begin­ners’ rules vi­o­la­tions sug­gests top­ics for coaches to em­pha­size in chalk talks.

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The pat­tern of begin­ners’ rule vi­o­la­tions sug­gests top­ics for coaches to em­pha­size in chalk talks.

O An­drew Nel­son, youth sail­ing di­rec­tor for Washington and Ore­gon, is em­ployed by the Sail­ing Foun­da­tion, a non­profit whose mis­sion in­cludes in­creas­ing the num­ber of kids rac­ing sail­boats and rais­ing their skill level. His job gives him an op­por­tu­nity to see hun­dreds of youth races each year. He shared with me rule vi­o­la­tions he com­monly ob­serves.

Luff­ing in the Prestart

Be­fore the start, while

star­board- tack boats are stalled, with sails luff­ing just below the line, boats that come into that lineup from clear astern with speed don’t seem to un­der­stand their rights and obli­ga­tions. While they are clear

astern, they are re­quired by Rule 12 to keep clear of a “parked” boat ahead. Im­me­di­ately af­ter a lee­ward over­lap be­gins, the new lee­ward boats be­come the right- of- way boats under Rule 11, but they also have two obli­ga­tions. Under Rule 15, they must ini­tially give the wind­ward boat room to fulfi ll its new obli­ga­tion to keep clear, and under Rule 16.1, if they change course, they must give the wind­ward boat room to keep clear.

In the first di­a­gram, just af­ter Ben be­comes over­lapped with Alice, he holds his course and hails “Go up!” to Alice. But she is not re­quired to go up. Her only obli­ga­tion is to keep clear, and Ben must give her room to do so.

Fran luffs right af­ter she es­tab­lishes her over­lap on Ed and hails “Go up!” To keep clear, Ed will have to luff , but if he does, his stern will swing into Fran’s bow. If he doesn’t luff, or if he bears away, Fran will have to take avoid­ing ac­tion to keep from hav­ing her bow hit Ed’s star­board side. Thus, there’s no way that Ed can keep clear af­ter Fran luffs. Fran’s luff, there­fore, breaks Rule 16.1 be­cause when she luffs she does not give Ed room to keep clear. Be­cause she luffs im­me­di­ately af­ter gain­ing right of way, she also breaks Rule 15.

A boat’s hull piv­ots about its cen­ter­board when it turns. There­fore, if a lee­ward boat luffs be­fore it is bow even with the wind­ward boat, there is likely to be con­tact. How­ever, if the two boats are bow even or if the lee­ward boat is bow out, then the wind­ward boat will be able to luff to keep clear. Lou han­dles this start­ing- line sit­u­a­tion ap­pro­pri­ately. Be­cause he delays his luff un­til he is bow even with Ken, Ken can eas­ily luff and keep clear, so Lou does not break ei­ther Rule 15 or 16.1.

Tack­ing in the Zone

Al­most all dinghy races th­ese days be­gin with a beat to wind­ward to a mark to be left to port. That wind­ward mark is an­other place where rule vi­o­la­tions of­ten oc­cur. In the sec­ond di­a­gram, Pete en­ters the zone on port tack and tacks to lee­ward of Sal who has been fetch­ing the mark on star­board tack for sev­eral lengths. Every boat must even­tu­ally tack from port to star­board into a po­si­tion from which it can fetch the mark. What new­com­ers to rac­ing don’t ap­pre­ci­ate is how easy it is to break a rule if you make that fi­nal tack in­side the zone.

When Pete tacks, he must com­ply with three rules. ( 1) While he and Sal are on op­po­site tacks, he is on port tack and re­quired by Rule 10 to keep clear. ( 2) Af­ter Pete passes head to wind during

his tack, Rule 13 re­quires him to keep clear of Sal un­til he is on a close­hauled course on star­board, and (3) if he causes Sal to sail above close­hauled, he will break Rule 18.3. Af­ter Pete com­pletes his tack, he is fetch­ing the mark, but to do so he must luff above close­hauled and “shoot” the mark. That luff will cause Sal to sail above close­hauled. There is sim­ply no way that Pete could tack where he did and then round the mark with­out break­ing Rule 18.3.

Now let’s see how the rules treat Paul, who tacked onto star­board to lee­ward of Stan, but did so out­side the zone. Rules 10 and 13 ap­ply to Paul just as they did to Pete. But be­cause Paul passes head to wind out­side the zone, Rule 18.3 does not ap­ply to him. Af­ter Paul tacks, he may luff to shoot the mark even if he causes Stan to sail above close­hauled.

There is one ad­di­tional ad­van­tage to mak­ing your fi­nal tack from port to star­board out­side the zone. When boats tack onto star­board more than three lengths from the mark, most of them are over­stood. This means that, if you tack close to lee­ward of one of them, you will prob­a­bly fetch the mark your­self. If, how­ever, you make that tack in the zone, odds are the boat you tack under will have al­ready cracked its sheets and will no longer be over­stand­ing the mark.

Keep­ing Clear

On down­wind legs, Nel­son re­ports that boats fre­quently break Rule 15 and then Rule 16.1. This oc­curs when two port-tack boats are over­lapped and close to each other. The

wind­ward port-tack boat breaks Rule 15 by jib­ing onto star­board so close to the lee­ward port­tack boat that there isn’t room for the port-tack boat to keep clear. What’s more, the jib­ing boat of­ten makes things worse by im­me­di­ately luff­ing and, thereby, break­ing Rule 16.1.

All the vi­o­la­tions dis­cussed so far sug­gest coaches and in­struc­tors should spend more time on two def­i­ni­tions — “keep clear” and “room,” on the lim­i­ta­tions im­posed by Rules 15 and 16.1, and on the risks of tack­ing from port to star­board in­side the zone at a wind­ward mark.

Tak­ing Penal­ties

Nel­son re­ports that col­li­sions re­sult­ing in dam­aged boats are un­com­mon, in­di­cat­ing that new sailors seem to un­der­stand Rule 14’ s re­quire­ment that boats avoid con­tact. He also sees quite a few boats mak­ing two penalty turns, each in­clud­ing a tack and a jibe, af­ter they are in­volved in an in­ci­dent in which a rule of Part 2 may have been bro­ken. How­ever, the turns they take fre­quently do not meet two re­quire­ments of Rule 44.2 — that be­fore be­gin­ning to spin, a boat must sail “well clear of other boats as soon af­ter the in­ci­dent as pos­si­ble” and then make the two turns “promptly.” When asked why they de­lay their turns, new sailors of­ten re­port that they were wait­ing for the per­fect time to spin or that they thought it was OK to de­lay spin­ning pro­vided they com­pleted their penalty turns on the same leg they were on when the in­ci­dent oc­curred.

The late spin­ners don’t seem to re­al­ize that late turns sim­ply don’t count. If they were protested, they would be dis­qual­i­fied by the protest com­mit­tee even though they had spun. This sug­gests that coaches should teach the de­tails of Rule 44.2 and run drills to prac­tice tak­ing a two-turns penalty as quickly as pos­si­ble.

An­other com­mon mis­un­der­stand­ing of penal­ties taken on the wa­ter is this: Sailors who take a two-turns penalty as re­quired by Rule 44.2 of­ten re­port that they did so be­cause they didn’t know they’d bro­ken a rule. They didn’t re­al­ize that in that case they had a get-out-of­jail-free card. That is, they could protest the other boat with­out risk of dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion and then learn in the hear­ing how the rules ap­plied to the in­ci­dent. If the protest com­mit­tee found they’d bro­ken a rule, they would not be dis­qual­i­fied be­cause they’d taken the ap­pro­pri­ate penalty on the wa­ter.


The start­ing line and weather mark are two com­mon prob­lem ar­eas for begin­ners.

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