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Racing Rules: "Proper Course" #275566
09/22/14 02:48 PM
09/22/14 02:48 PM
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Hillsborough, NC USA
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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Probably the most misunderstood and misused term in the racing rules is proper course. When I hear someone hail "proper course" on the water, or use the term in a discussion afterwards, it is - far more often than not - used incorrectly.

In fact, there are only a handful of places (two definitions and three numbered rules) were the fleet racing rules use the term. Let's begin with the definition of proper course itself:

"A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term. A boat has no proper course before her starting signal."

Simply put, a boat's proper course is the course she would sail if the other boat (not all boats, but the one(s) mentioned in the rule) wasn't there. Now, it's certainly possible that boats may have different proper courses. When two different boats are on a beat to windward, for example, one may outpoint the other. Therefore one's proper course is to sail closer to the wind than the other. Even if the boats are identical, the crew may have different opinions about the fastest way to sail the racecourse. One may wish to foot for speed and the other to pinch. Downwind, one may want to sail hot and the other deep. Or, one boat may seek favorable wind or current one way, and the other another way. When arguing proper course in a protest hearing, a boat needs to have a plausible reason why she would have sailed that course even if the other boat wasn't present. That is the litmus test that the protest committee will use.

Now, let's move on to RRS 17 "On the Same Tack; Proper Course", which is the primary rule involving proper course. It states:

"If a boat clear astern becomes overlapped within two of her hull lengths to leeward of a boat on the same tack, she shall not sail above her proper course while they remain on the same tack and overlapped within that distance, unless in doing so she promptly sails astern of the other boat. This rule does not apply if the overlap begins while the windward boat is required by rule 13 to keep clear."

When in effect, rule 17 restricts a boat from sailing above her proper course. To know whether or not the rule applies, you have to look back to the time when the two boats became overlapped on the same tack - which may be quite a while prior to their actual encounter. If the leeward boat established overelap from clear astern within two of her hull lengths, then she may not sail above her proper course.

Rule 17 does not prevent a leeward boat from sailing above her proper course if
  1. she was clear ahead just before overlap was established,
  2. the boats were farther apart than two of her hull lengths when overlap was established,
  3. the boats are overlapped on opposite tacks,
  4. the boats were overlapped on opposite tacks within two of her hull lengths and one of them gybed,
  5. if she promptly passes astern of the windward boat, or
  6. if the leeward boat became overlapped from clear astern while the windward boat was tacking (and required to keep clear by rule 13).

The gist of that is twofold
  1. If a boat on the same tack is overtaking you to windward, you may head up (to head-to-wind) to prevent her from passing.
  2. If you are overtaking a windward boat, you may not head her up in order to pass.

Also, it's important to note that there is no proper course before the starting signal (the signal, not when a boat crosses the starting line). You may overtake to leeward and head a boat up during pre-start maneuvers, but once the start is signalled, you must turn back down to your proper course.

The next mention of proper course is in another definition. Mark-Room(a) says "...room to sail to the mark when her proper course is to sail close to it...". That mention is just there to close a loophole in the rules where a boat entitled to mark-room at the finish could close another boat out by sailing to the mark. If it isn't a boat's proper course to sail to the mark, mark-room does not entitle her to.

Now let's move on to the various places rule 18 mentions proper course. RRS 18.1 states "... however, it does not apply (a) between boats on opposite tacks on a beat to windward, (b) between boats on opposite tacks when the proper course at the mark for one but not both of them is to tack,...". Part (b) and it's mention of proper course is essentially the same as part (a), except it closes a loophole if one of the boats has overstood the mark and is not "on a beat to windward".

RRS 18.2(c) states "When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b),... if she becomes overlapped inside the boat entitled to mark-room, she shall also give that boat room to sail her proper course while they remain overlapped". This rule means that when a boat owes another boat mark-room, and tries to slip in between her and the mark, the other boat may cut her off, provided that maneuver is not outside the other boat's proper course.

RRS 18.4 states "When an inside overlapped right-of-way boat must gybe at a mark to sail her proper course, until she gybes she shall sail no farther from the mark than needed to sail that course. Rule 18.4 does not apply at a gate mark". When in the zone at a gybe mark, or a single (i.e. not a gate) leeward mark, if a boat's proper course would be to gybe, she must gybe when her proper course dictates. She may not drive another boat farther away before gybing.

Finally, RRS 24.2 says "Except when sailing her proper course, a boat shall not interfere with a boat taking a penalty or sailing on another leg". That is, you cannot sail out of your way just to disadvantage a boat taking a penalty or sailing a different leg of the course.

That's it. By far, RRS 17 is the most commonly applicable of these rules, followed by RRS 18.4. The other times proper course is mentioned are to close loopholes and for good sportsmanship. Note that no rule requires a boat to sail her proper course. Some rules restrict a boat from sailing above below, or beyond it, but no rule actually compels her to follow it.

I hope that helps,
Eric Rasmussen
US Sailing Certified Judge
Chair, SAYRA Appeals Committee

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Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Isotope235] #275574
09/23/14 10:46 AM
09/23/14 10:46 AM
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Mark Schneider Offline
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Eric..

I see the proper course issue on courses with mono's and cats.

on a small boat race course... an A Cat and say a Lightning (cause they think only they know the rules and they outnumber you) will have an issue with a cat overtaking doing the wild thing from well outside the two boats and forcing the lightning to come up to a reaching angle from dead down.... (or more likely do lots of yelling about your proper course)

YMMV as to the value of forcing the lighting to come up and let you by....


The other case is in a mixed fleet of cruising monohulls.... same deal.... you have all the rights in the world... sailing your hot angle at twice the speed... HOWEVER... the death zone wind shadow of the big mono and their hundreds of feet of cloth make this move silly... It won't be fast and you could die because the physics of lead moving through the water trump the rule book. When in doubt... far better to luff the chute... take the transom and continue on...


crac.sailregattas.com
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Isotope235] #275575
09/23/14 10:49 AM
09/23/14 10:49 AM
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Quote

  • The gist of that is twofold
    1. If a boat on the same tack is overtaking you to windward, you may head up (to head-to-wind) to prevent her from passing.
    2. If you are overtaking a windward boat, you may not head her up in order to pass.




Eric, could you expand on an this example:

Boat W on Starboard and windward (WS) has over-stood the lay-line and is now footing to round A mark.

Boat L also on Starboard and leeward (LS) is pinching to make the A mark.

Presumably, LS has been overlapped with WS for some time.

LS has now caught a lift, so no longer needs to pinch and WS maintains course, now on a reach.

Anticipating a wind shift back, LS wants to enter wide and exit close so she sails the lift which now hails for WS to "come up".

What are options here for WS and LS?


USA 777
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: tback] #275576
09/23/14 04:47 PM
09/23/14 04:47 PM
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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Originally Posted by tback
Presumably, LS has been overlapped with WS for some time.
...
Anticipating a wind shift back, LS wants to enter wide and exit close so she sails the lift which now hails for WS to "come up".

What are options here for WS and LS?

To determine if rule 17 applies, you have to look at how the overlap was established -- no matter how far back in time that was. Not knowing that, I can't say whether or not the leeward boat may sail above her proper course.

That appears to be moot, however, because as described, it sounds as if the leeward boat doesn't sail above her proper course anyway. In that case, when L changes course, she must give W room to keep clear (RRS 16.1) and W must keep clear (RRS 11).

Am I missing something?

Regards,
Eric

Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: tback] #275577
09/23/14 08:11 PM
09/23/14 08:11 PM
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Jake Offline
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Originally Posted by tback




Eric, could you expand on an this example:

Boat W on Starboard and windward (WS) has over-stood the lay-line and is now footing to round A mark.

Boat L also on Starboard and leeward (LS) is pinching to make the A mark.

Presumably, LS has been overlapped with WS for some time.

LS has now caught a lift, so no longer needs to pinch and WS maintains course, now on a reach.

Anticipating a wind shift back, LS wants to enter wide and exit close so she sails the lift which now hails for WS to "come up".

What are options here for WS and LS?




To put this in the terminology I use (I have no idea how common this is), if I'm "LS" and sailing a fair bit out from A-mark, I'm telling my crew that we got a lift and can make the mark now but I'm going to keep putting some in the bank - which means I'm going to keep sailing a bit high of the mark in case the wind shifts back to it's original heading.

How overlap was established aside, I think the inquiry you have here is more about what is "proper course" if the boat in question is overstood. In reality, you are probably not going to find a realistic situation where a windward boat has overstood a mark and is reaching down to it while a leeward boat is on the layline and overtaking the windward boat from behind. I suppose that if you are in a wild mix of boats that could happen - but then the "proper course" for the leeward boat is pretty hard for the windward boat to determine. Not to mention, if you are leeward and sailing THAT close to the windward boat that was so much slower than you, you have just sailed into a big wind shadow and are not being very smart.

For the sake of nuance, though, Eric, how do you think this applies? Suppose there is a bit of distance to go to the top of the course (1/4 mile or better) and an F18 is the leeward boat trying to fetch A-mark on a shifty course and is sailing a little high of the mark to ensure that he can make it if the wind shifts in an unfavorable direction. Meanwhile, a Melges 24, who was ahead is sailing directly at the mark is overtaken from astern and to leeward by the F18 in very close quarters (which, would be insane for the F18 because of the wind shadow...but for the sake of discussion...).


Jake Kohl
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Isotope235] #275578
09/23/14 08:18 PM
09/23/14 08:18 PM
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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This is a somewhat atypical hypothetical example of RRS 17 (based on an actual encounter I had recently), but it illustrates how a right-of-way boat can be limited to not sailing above her proper course.

[Linked Image]

Prior to position 1, the boats are overlapped on the same tack more than 2 boatlengths apart. Yellow has understood the mark and is sailing slower than Blue. At position 1, the two boats close to within two boatlengths. Because Blue did not establish overlap to leeward of Yellow from clear astern within two of her hull lengths, Rule 17 does not restrict her course.

Between positions 1 and 2, however, Yellow catches a puff, accelerates, and breaks overlap. She hails "no overlap". Blue, thinking that Yellow is about to claim mark-room, replies "we're not at the zone yet".

Between positions 2 and 3, Blue gets the puff, accelerates, and the two boats become overlapped again. This time however, Blue did establish overlap to leeward of Yellow within two of her hull lengths. Therefore RRS 17 prohibits Blue from sailing above her proper course. Yellow hails "proper course".

Blue's proper course (the course she would sail to finish as quickly as possible in the absence of Yellow) is to sail directly aside the leeward mark. Blue turns down to that course between positions 3 and 4 and maintains that course until position 5. Yellow sails a parallel course.

At position 5, Yellow reaches the three boat-length zone. Yellow is overlapped inside of Blue. Per RRS 18.2(b), Blue must thereafter give Yellow mark-room. Yellow hails "mark room".

Between positions 5 and 6, Blue turns down to give Yellow mark-room. She actually turns down a little farther than necessary (aiming for a tactical rounding). Yellow takes advantage of the excess room.

Between positions 6 and 9, Blue gives Yellow mark-room and Yellow sails within that mark-room. Both boats round the mark and Yellow exits inside and ahead of Blue.

During most of the encounter (except for the time between positions 1 and 2), Blue has sailed faster, but Yellow has taken advantage of her position and the rules to come out ahead.

Had Yellow not caught the puff and broken overlap at position 2, Blue could have headed Yellow up and driven her past the mark (provided they remained outside the zone). Then Blue would gybe and come out ahead.

I hope that's helpful,
Eric

Attached Files
ProperCourseAndLeewardMark.png (135 downloads)
Proper Course and Leeward Mark Rounding
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Jake] #275582
09/24/14 07:22 AM
09/24/14 07:22 AM
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Jake
For the sake of nuance, though, Eric, how do you think this applies? Suppose there is a bit of distance to go to the top of the course (1/4 mile or better) and an F18 is the leeward boat trying to fetch A-mark on a shifty course and is sailing a little high of the mark to ensure that he can make it if the wind shifts in an unfavorable direction. Meanwhile, a Melges 24, who was ahead is sailing directly at the mark is overtaken from astern and to leeward by the F18 in very close quarters (which, would be insane for the F18 because of the wind shadow...but for the sake of discussion...).

How about we say the incident is between an F18 and a Laser? Then you shouldn't have any qualms about being able to overtake, or to sail through the shadow of the windward boat. Also, the boats don't have to be in "close quarters". Rule 17 applies if the F18 establishes overlap within 36 feet (two of her hull lengths - not two of the laser's). Also, because a Laser can roll-tack on a dime without losing much speed, she will typically sail straight towards the windward mark (ignoring the lifts). She looses less by throwing in two late tacks than by overstanding the mark. The F18 on the other hand, will very likely "take some insurance" by following the lifts above the layline. The cost for her to take two late tacks is quite high whereas she loses very little by overstanding.

So, this is an instance where the two boats have different proper courses. Rule 17 prohibits the F18 from sailing above her proper course (again, that is the F18's proper course, not the Laser's) -- and she doesn't. When the F18 follows the strategy of using the lifts to "put some space in the bank", she must give the Laser room to keep clear (RRS 16.1) and the Laser must keep clear (RRS 11).

I hope that helps,
Eric

Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Isotope235] #275681
09/30/14 04:47 PM
09/30/14 04:47 PM
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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Here are a couple of diagrams to illustrate the purpose of rule 17. I've shown them with boats on a beam reach, but the principle is the same for boats on a beat to windward, or on a run downwind.

[Linked Image]

In this first example, Blue did not overtake Yellow from clear astern. Therefore rule 17 does not apply. Blue may sail above her proper course (provided she complies with rule 16.1) and take Yellow head-to-wind in order to prevent Yellow from passing her. Yellow must keep clear per rule 11. Neither boat breaks a rule. Yellow should lose this protest.

[Linked Image]

In the second example, Blue did establish overlap from clear astern within two of her hull lengths so rule 17 does apply. Blue may not sail above her proper course. Blue luffs Yellow up anyway (in order to pass through Yellow's wind shadow). Yellow must keep clear per rule 11 (and she does). Blue breaks rule 17. Yellow should win this protest.

I hope that helps,
Eric

Attached Files
ProperCourseLegal.png (68 downloads)
When a boat may sail above her proper course
ProperCourseIllegal.png (67 downloads)
When a boat may not sail above her proper course
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Isotope235] #275683
09/30/14 07:00 PM
09/30/14 07:00 PM
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Faster boat loses both times. Interesting...

Good news for us Wave sailors!

Mike

Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: brucat] #275686
09/30/14 07:17 PM
09/30/14 07:17 PM
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Jake Offline
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Originally Posted by brucat
Faster boat loses both times. Interesting...

Good news for us Wave sailors!

Mike


[Linked Image]


Jake Kohl
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Jake] #275688
09/30/14 07:38 PM
09/30/14 07:38 PM
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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Take heart Jake. On your F18 with the chute up, you should be able to blow through a Wave's wind shadow without having to luff up.

Then again, if you're behind a Wave, you've already lost.

Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Jake] #275689
09/30/14 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Jake
Originally Posted by brucat
Faster boat loses both times. Interesting...

Good news for us Wave sailors!

Mike


[Linked Image]


While I thoroughly enjoyed Eric's response, I can't believe you failed to see the sarcasm in my post, Jake...

Mike

Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: brucat] #275694
10/01/14 05:42 AM
10/01/14 05:42 AM
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Jake Offline
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Originally Posted by brucat
Originally Posted by Jake
Originally Posted by brucat
Faster boat loses both times. Interesting...

Good news for us Wave sailors!

Mike


[Linked Image]


While I thoroughly enjoyed Eric's response, I can't believe you failed to see the sarcasm in my post, Jake...

Mike


Likewise!


Jake Kohl
Re: Racing Rules: "Proper Course" [Re: Isotope235] #275696
10/01/14 06:12 AM
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smile

Tactical Luff [Re: Isotope235] #275698
10/01/14 06:42 AM
10/01/14 06:42 AM
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Isotope235 Offline OP
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In my previous hypothetical example of boats approaching a leeward mark, the windward boat (Yellow) broke overlap by means of a lucky puff. So, what can Yellow do to protect her position if she isn't so lucky?

I've redrawn the diagram to answer that question:

[Linked Image]

Again, prior to position 1, the boats are overlapped on the same tack more than two hull-lengths apart. Therefore Blue is not restricted by RRS 17.

At position 2, Yellow turns up sharply enough to break the overlap with Blue. She then turns back down.

At position 3, overlap is reestablished, with Blue coming from clear astern within two hull-lengths. Now RRS 17 does apply. Blue may not sail above her proper course. Blue must turn down to sail towards the mark, which she does by position 4.

This maneuver by Yellow is known as a "Tactical Luff". Most rules authors diagram it between boats on a beat to windward, but I think catamarans are more likely to use the tactic going downwind as I've drawn.

I hope that helps,
Eric

Attached Files
TacticalLuff.png (41 downloads)
Tactical Luff

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