Penultimate Wednesday 2015

Two races to go in the closest Wednesday series for many years, and most of the leading candidates were rigging up after what had been a windy day, but which was calming down. The breeze was easterly, always the most challenging direction at Island Barn, the light was limited, and sunset was coming soon. It looked shifty out there. Course: well it's got to be simple, and it's got to be short if we want to get a reasonable number of laps in and not have the race decided by who's where if the wind drops. What was delivered was a starboard rounding quadrilateral of moderate length beat (well clear of the windward bank), shy (probably kite usable) reach, run, shy (probably not kite usable) reach. Seems fair.

On lap one four Lasers were having a very considerable tussle up the beat. Closely matched they were, which was perhaps not what the Laser after series points was really after. Behind them Evan Cairns had a fairly quiet race, being the one front of fleet Solo present, and a little behind that Mike Curtis (RS400) was leading the people from the second start, but with Gareth Griffiths' Aero in much close attendance than he would have liked. Soon after that Mike Jones (RS Vision) was disconsolately sailing back to the jetty with a broken tiller extension UJ, exactly what he didn't need...

So, as the race progresses, more battling between the Lasers, Mike C getting further away from Gareth, but not as much as he'd like. The Aero seemed to like the course, being able to plane well on the shy reaches.  

The next drama resulted in one of our very rare protests.  I ended up running an arbitration hearing on this, worth running through for the process I think.  Here's a sketch showing initial positions and subsequent as I reconstructed to the best of my ability from the evidence.

Graphic - mark room incident.


I think the best way to work out these things is firstly to take your best guess at what happened working from the evidence - the facts found - and then figure out how the rules work. You'd think that finding out what happened would be easy, but, without a blimp and live video its surprisingly difficult. This is my best guess. 

As they approach the Zone A on Port and B on starboard, with C way to the right, also on starboard, and going much faster. All boats are overlapped.
At the Zone B starts to give A mark room. 
A and B then see C coming in very fast, and form the opinion  that a high speed collision is imminent. In order to avoid being T boned they luff up, A gybing, and hit each other and the mark, causing no damage or injury.
C drops the spinnaker, slows rapidly and rounds just behind A and B.
The decision I came to:
C had ROW over B and A (RRS10,11)
B had ROW over A (RRS10)
A was entitled to mark room from B and C (18.2a)
B was entitled to mark roon from C (18.2a)
B did not give A mark room, because she was attempting to avoid a 
collision under RRS14.
C gave B adequate mark room.
A is exonerated under 21 for contact with mark and B.
B is asked to accept exoneration penalty.
Note that a feature of the way the rules are now written (and its an improvement too I think) is that part A of the rules determine who has right of way, but part B and C limit what a right of way boat can do. So that although C basically had right of way, the part C rules, specifically rule 18, mean that  she must allow A and B through. 
So far so good, and I hope I got this right, but from then it gets a little bit sticky, and I've asked the RYA for clarification. There's a case in the Case book (the Case book is a list of officially worked examples of the rules in practice) that says, in the event of a starboard boat taking avoiding action from a port one, that if the starboard boat does divert and has a reasonable apprehension of a collision then port has most likely broken the rule. Here A and B were both convinced that a collision was imminent and took avoiding action as per RRS14. If C had collided with them and they hadn't taken avoiding action they would most likely be exonerated under Rule 14a. But they did take avoiding action, which was probably the seamanlike thing to do, because it replaced a potential high energy impact with a very minor one causing no damage. 
But the fact remains that in the event C did keep clear, so I penalised B for doing what, without the benefit of hindsight, appeared to be the right thing in the opinion of both A and B. I find that uncomfortable. In Case 30, with port/starboard, you can't know whether there would have been a collision. In this case I was "comfortably satisfied" (that's the level of confidence you should have about protests) that C did in the end keep clear, and so even though I think A and B took sensible precautionary avoiding action I didn't think C broke any rules. 
When it comes to taking avoding action RRS 14 says you need not take avoiding action until its obvious the other boat is not keeping clear, but it doesn't say you must not. 
OK, long diversion, and I hope the parties recognise what happened to them from my description. Another lesson out of this, by the way, is how important it is to sit down and discuss these things coolly. These rule problems can easily get very heated, but by the time we'd all sat down together with a pint each, worked out the mark roundings round a half pint bottle of Youngs, and all listened to each other one at a time all was fine I hope. 
Anyway, back to the race. Well, the results anyway. Gareth won: that's what he wanted. Ben Jones, who's been putting in a lot of good results lately, was second. He's not quite in contention for the series medals though. Mike Curtis was 3rd, which counts as a 'hmm', I expect. Bearable but needed better. 5th was Paul Wright Anderson in a Laser, but he gets an XPA which adds another 3 points. 6th was shared between Evan Cairns and Kevin Pearson, which was definitely not what they wanted.
In the personal handicap Mike Jones gets an RET, which is not what he wanted *at all*, Ben Jones won, Mike Curtis was 2nd , and so on as you can see.
So we come into the last race. You've got all the discards you are going to get now, so points totals will increase next week. You can see what the totals are now, but at the end of next weeks race, assuming no DNDs, Gareth will have 18 points if he doesn't compete or places 3rd, something more than that if he competes and is worse than 3rd (a 10th, for instance would send him to 19.1 points), and 1 or 2 points plus a decimal better than that for 1st of 2nd. Paul Playle will have 19.8, and (if he can sail) a win could take him down to about 17.2. Mike C, on 21.1, can get down to 17.9 if my sums are correct, and Kevin 24.6 and 19.9.
In the personal handicap. Well that broken tiller extension has done Mike Jones no favours at all. He now needs a reasonable result next week. An OOD would do! Otherwise Mike Curtis will catch him. Don't think anyone else is in it.