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TOPIC: A leeward boat with no luffing rights

A leeward boat with no luffing rights 6 months 3 weeks ago #142

  • Bill Brockbank
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This didn't lead to a protest.
In a shifty, light Northerly wind 2 boats approached F mark (to be left to starboard) on a broad reach on their way to a temporary mark near 12.
The faster boat established a leeward overlap from behind a slower boat within 2 lengths and well before Mark F's zone. The boats, now W and L, remained overlapped throughout this incident.
Both boats cleared F without incident
The fastest course would be to bear away to escape most of the wind shadow caused by Fishermans Point, luffing up later. However, the points at which to luff or bear away depend largely on whether the boats get a gust between F and the wind shadow. These can be guessed but cannot possibly be known.
Faster L's attempts to sail through slower W's lee are hampered by W's wind shadow. L luffs slightly to increase her speed and break clear ahead of W. So W needs to luff slightly, does so and keeps clear of L.
Q. What would have happened if this had gone to protest?
A. It depends. The rule is clear, L (having come from behind) can't sail above the course she would sail if W weren't there. L breaks this rule but to penalise her a protest committee would have to measure L's intent. To 'get inside L's head'; to know why L really luffed. Which they can't do (unless L messes up her evidence) with sufficient certainty to act.
Protest committees are human, they don't like 'not sure' verdicts. In practice they'll use a 'reasonably sure' test, knowing full well (as do the protagonists) that it's only defensible not right. So...
Q1. During L's luff she doesn't sail a course above the next mark.
A1. In the absence of any other clues, dismiss W's protest. L's luff might have been legitimate.
Q2. L's luff takes her far enough upwind of the course to the next mark she'll later need to bear away or gybe so losing more time than her luff gained.
A2. In the absence of other clues, uphold W's protest. L's luff was more likely to clear W's wind shadow than to sail the fastest course had W not been there.

An experienced PC will often add "we can't know what happened on the water, we can only take into account the evidence as presented". They might also add 'more likely than not' to some of their facts found.

Knowing this it's unlikely W will protest.
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