Rules at the Windward Mark

Who is wrong here?

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So there are boats approaching the windward mark from both port and starboard, a port tack boat (Boat A) lee-bow's a starboard tack boat with about 2 boat lengths to the mark (Boat B), Boat A completes the tack and Boat B is not forced to alter course, Boat A can make the mark without luffing head to wind on starboard tack only if the now windward starboard tack gives him room to do so, Boat B does not give room and makes contact with Boat A causing him to hit the mark.

This seems to happen alot, and it happens fast on the laser, what is the ruling on this?
Ive heard that if you change tacks while in the 3 boatlength circle, your automatically have no rights as to room... And, ive been in this situation, where I was protested... The jury came out saying that I put myself in that situation, which puts the other boat as right of way boat... Basically, its a bad idea! :D


Former ISAF Laser Measurer
The full list of rules that apply here are 10, 13, 11, 15, 16.1, 18.2 & 18.3

10. Opposite tacks - no infringement
13. While tacking - no infringement
11. Windward Boat - whilst this rule applies, it's counteracted by both 15 & 16.1 changing course depending on timing
15. Acquiring the right of way - limits rule 11 - right of way boat (boat A) winward boat must give time for the windward (boat B) to keep clear
16.1 Changing course - limits rule 16.1 - right of way boat (boat A) winward boat must give time for the windward (boat B) to keep clear
18.2 Giving Mark Room - Over riden by 18.3
18.3 Tacking when approaching the Mark - this is the principle rule and impacts on the other rules.

18.3 States that:
If two boats were approaching a mark on opposite tacks and one of them changes tack , and as a result is subject to rule 13 in the zone when the other is fetching the mark, rule 18.2 does not thereafter apply. The boat that changed tack
(a) shall not cause the other boat to sail above close hauled to avoid her or prevent the other boat from passing the mark on the required side.
(b) shall give mark room if the other boat becomes overlapped inside her.

What this all amounts to is that the boat that tacks (Boat A)
Must not make the other boat alter course when changing tack.
Does not obtain the rights to alter course initially because of the way they became the leeward boat
Must give the windward boat the opportunity to keep clear
You cannot at any stage force him to sail above close hauled
If the other boat is gains a leeward overlap you must keep keep clear and must give him mark room

The orginal starboard boat whilst windward boat (Boat B) must keep clear but cannot be forced to sail above close hauled, but if that means sailing above close hauled, the other boat (boat A) will be in the wrong.

So in your situation, boat B only has to sail above close hauled to make sure that boat A is in the wrong. He doesn't need to tack, but he does need to alter course to keep clear of boat A and he needs force the issue by sailing above close hauled to make sure that boat A is in the wrong.

Essentially, boat A is almost always in the wrong by tacking within the zone no matter how it unfolds and will almost always be found by a competent protest committee to be in the wrong.


Former ISAF Laser Measurer
I'll explain that a bit better.

Boat A
Boat A before it tacks, must give way to Boat B
Boat A has now rights when tacking
Once Boat A completes its tack;
Boat A becomes the right of way boat
It must initially give Boat B room to keep clear
If Boat A alters it's course, it must initally give Boat B room to keep clear
Boat A cannot force Boat B to sail above close hauled because of where/how Boat A gained right of way

Boat B
Before Boat A tacks, boat B on Starboard has right of way.
As Boat A tacks, boat A has no rights, so boat B has right of way.
Once the tack is completed;
Boat B does not have to anticipate Boat A completing its tack and acquiring the right of way and must be given subsequent time to keep clear.
Boat B must keep clear of Boat A once the tack is completed.
Boat B must be given time to respond to any action by Boat A with respect to keeping clear.
Boat B cannot be forced to sail above closed hauled.

All of which must occur with the time it takes to travel the distance from where the tack was completed to the time the mark is reached (less than 3 boat lengths). Hence why Boat B is essentially safe from a protest by Boat A being upheld and why Boat A will struggle to defend it's actions in a protest.
if boat A can complete her tack and not cause Boat B to have to make any manoeuvres, then they are in the right and have the right of needing room, except that there was and was not overlap entering the 3 boat length circle as this is extremely hard to judge when approaching the mark on two different tacks, i dont know, i have gone with boat A because i have done that and it has won me many races and i have not been protested for it
Not being protested for it doesn't necessarily mean you were in the right though, just that the other person either couldn't be asked to protest, didn't know the rules, or you had room to do it legally.
If you protested everyone who tacked in on port too close to the mark at a UK qualifier they'd still be hearing all the protests into the early hours!


Active Member
Great explanation AlanD. Basically if you tack 'in the zone' and cause another boat to sail above close hauled you are knackered. Just because you can make it without luffing doesn;t mean another boat can....
The only grey area really is was the Stb boat on the layline and did they have to go above close hauled. In most cases (without a witness) the PC will probably find in favour of the Stb tacker. I believe this is how the rules are designed to discourage people from charging in on port, tacking and causing mayhem! You have to be very sure when you do this kind of approach and hope for a nice gap....or bail out!


Former ISAF Laser Measurer
I believe this is how the rules are designed to discourage people from charging in on port, tacking and causing mayhem!
That's my understanding as well, the rule was designed to stop people coming into the zone and tacking, because of how often it causes collisions.

Whilst Boat A might get away with it, the majority of competent PC, NJ & IJ will support the boat that was already on starboard tack (Boat B) unless the boat that tacked (Boat A) can definitely prove it gave Boat B time to keep clear and Boat B didn't go beyond close hauled, which is a very difficult task at a crowded mark rounding when everyone is preparing to go around the mark themselves. Also note that IJ's tend to go for a decision where based upon where both parties last agreed on the facts, that is Boat A tacked inside the zone and had to give the opportunity for Boat B to keep clear.
Well since it happened in the 3 boat length circle, the new starboard tack boat has no rights. Coming in off the bow of a starboard tack boat is a pretty ballsy move, that everyone takes and that every non corinthian sailor would take advantage of in the protest room. Been there many times. The starboard boat will always win the protest
Sailing is NOT a contact sport and it's always best to avoid contact if possible and then protest the other boat when they broke a rule.

No right of way rules turn off in a mark rounding and there is always a right of way boat and a keep clear boat. In this case A may not be entitled to mark room, but still has the right of way after completing the tack and B is the keep clear boat.

As a keep clear boat, B must do all that she can to keep clear and to avoid a collision. If before A tacked, B was fetching the mark, and B needs to head above close hauled, then A breaks rule 18.3 and must be penalized. If B makes no attempt to keep clear of A, she breaks rule 11 and if they collide breaks rule 14. If B did all that she could to keep clear, then A has broken rule 15 or 16.1 as well as 18.3.
There are several rules that turn on once boats enter the zone. Once Boat A has tacked in the zone onto starboard she cannot take B above close-hauled even though her proper course may be to luff up to round the mark (Rule 18.3). To clarify Boat A is not entitled to "markroom" because she tacked inside the zone. She only has minimal rights under Rule 11 ( Same tack, overlapped). That said if Boat A is NOT fetching the mark she is NOT entitled to room. If there is contact under Rule 14 Boat B MAY only be penalized if there is contact resulting in damage. The better approach is to avoid contact and protest Boat A. From an umpiring standpoint the onus is on Boat A to prove her case. Unless the evidence is overwhelming (B overstood, or A was clear ahead) most likely A would be penalized. Judges frown on boats tacking in the zone - not only can it be dangerous, it's shortsighted and considered unsportsmanlike. Better to plan your port tack approach from further out where boats ARE more likely to overstand or duck and come into the mark with clear air and speed.
I think I recall seeing the described incident in one of the game's quizzes. Aside from that, I thought an education sailing rules game relevant to the discussion on sailing rules above.
To make it work: click on a level; easy, medium or difficult. Then click on the >> symbol at lower right.
If you cant see the picture, maybe see if the pop-up window was blocked, or if you have Javascript and Flash installed.

I've recently seen or been caught up in 2 buoy room incidents, which had me wondering about limits in rule interpretation:
1/ Approaching a gybe mark on a starboardt tack reach. Boat A is overlapped with Boat B, and has mark room. Boat C is overlapped with Boat D, and both are clear astern of A and B.
Boat A luffs B (Rule 11), pushing to the edge of the 3 boat length circle, then gybes to port and becomes almost stationary near the mark.
Boat B gybes to starboard, also becoming bear stationary.
Boat D goes outside the 3 boat length circle to go behind these two boats (Rule 18.2B).
Boat C remained on course for the mark and now finds itself blocked with the mark to port, A and B forming an obstruction ahead, and D to starboard. C is still traveling at reaching speed and cannot give D adequate time to keep clear if it wanted to veer that direction.

C is foul of the rules (Rule 18.2B), but what would have been a better strategy?
I argued that A also broke Rule 18.4; to which the skipper argued his proper course was go wide and then cut in, in order to defend his position. How to define the proper course?

2/ Rounding the windward mark, a group of at least a dozen boats are close together and approaching on port.
A large sport boat is clear ahead, and to leeward of the line the group of boats is taking. It tacks onto starboard and aims directly adjacent to the mark. The leading of the group of boats either collide with it, or drastically swerve to avoid it, and collide with boats either side of them. There were many calls of "WTF?" "You cant do that!"
The sport boat could argue it was on starboard (Rule 10), was clear ahead (Rule 18.2), and the question is should it have given the port boats room to keep clear (Rule 15)? How far should it have to go past the mark until it tacked?

If the sport boat tacking to starboard and fouling those coming into the mark broke the rules, then how is a boat gybing to port who does that OK?