Racing Rules: What about that X course finish?

The Lake Pleasant “X Course” introduced some new wrinkles for racers, adding some action with its windward-leeward-windward-leeward design and with a downwind finish—the only one of our courses that (intentionally) ends with the wind behind the boats.

So, consider what happened when Greg Jackson and I converged for a finish downwind at the starboard end of the finish line. Picture this in your mind (since I won’t be sketching a nice diagram of it): As we closed in on the yellow finish ball, I was on port and Greg was on starboard. I stuck my bow between the ball and Greg to finish ahead, but Greg had to steer away to avoid me. Greg thought I’d fouled him; I thought not. What do you think?

Answer: No foul.

I posed the question to one of the world’s leading racing rules experts, Dick Rose, who writes the rules column for Sailing World magazine and who has been one of the key people in writing the rules for ISAF. Here’s his opinion:

Facts: Downwind finish. Greg on starboard, Mike on port. Overlapped when they reach the zone around the mark at the starboard end of the finish line, with Mike inside Greg. Mark to be left to starboard. Mike gets nose between finish ball at starboard end of the line and Greg, but Greg says he had to change course to avoid hitting Mike.

Rules applicable: Greg has right of way under rule 10. However, even though the two boats are on opposite tacks, they are overlapped because they are sailing downwind (see defintion Clear Ahead….Overlap). Because they were overlapped when the first of them reached the zone, Mike is entitled to mark-room from Greg under rule 18.2(b), first sentence. See definition mark-room. Mike was entitled to room from Greg to sail to the mark. That put a limitation on Greg’s right of way. Greg was required to give Mike that room even though Greg was on starboard and had to change course to do so.

If that’s what you thought, nice call. It’s a handy rule to remember on the X course.