The Racing Corner – Part Two

Racing Corner Month 2 by Doug Roberts – POYC Racing Chair

Why we race sailboats.

It’s about being with people who share our interests. It’s about being with friends and making new friends. It’s about adding meaningful memories that will last a lifetime. Our sport is about respect for the rules, respect for fellow competitors and respect for traditions. Sailboat racing is a shared experience. The bonds created on the course outlast the day of competition. Make a commitment to yourself to join this great sport this year.

Rounding Marks

Room at the Mark!!!! You will hear this on the race course. Giving room is one of the areas where it seems sailors have little room for forgiveness. Room is the space needed by a boat in the existing conditions to perform a particular maneuver promptly and in a seaman-like way.

Of all the racing maneuvers you should practice, rounding the marks is where you should definitely sharpen your skills, because many gains and losses are made at mark roundings. Often a pack of boats will approach the mark, basically tied with each other. Because of the nature of the rounding, someone will come out on top, and depending on the number of boats and the skill of the skippers, the last boat could end up 20 boat lengths behind.

There are three “maneuvers” for which room may be required:

(1) keeping clear of a right-of-way boat,
(2) passing a mark or obstruction or
(3) tacking to avoid an obstruction.

There are several important elements within the definition of “room.”

· One element is “existing conditions,” so that the space required for a particular maneuver will vary depending on what conditions (wind and sea) exist at the time (and may also vary depending on the size and type of boats involved).

· A second element to “room” is “seaman-like way”. A boat will only be entitled to enough room to complete a particular maneuver properly (and will not be entitled to the room necessary to “mess up” the maneuver).

· A third element is “promptly,” so a boat is only entitled to the space to make a particular maneuver “promptly” and may not delay in making a particular maneuver if that causes her to take more room than she would have needed if she had acted promptly.


· Three-length zone – The three-length zone is an area that extends from a mark or obstruction on the race course that is equal to three boat lengths. The radius of the Zone is equal to three boat lengths.

· Mark – A mark is any object that according to the sailing instructions must be passed on a particular side, including the marks which indicate the ends of the starting and finishing lines. The anchor line of a buoy that is a mark (similarly, the underwater area around an island that is a mark) is not considered part of the mark. So if the island is a mark and you run aground, you do not need to serve the penalty for hitting a mark (unless of course you run aground so hard you hit dry land).

Three More Rules

* When you’re tacking, you must keep clear of all other boats from the time your boat passes head to wind until it is on a close-hauled course (Racing Rule 13). Look around before you tack to make sure you don’t tack in the way of another boat.

* Whenever you are the right-of-way boat and want to turn, you must give the other boat a chance to keep clear (Racing Rule 16). You cannot make an abrupt turn that allows no opportunity for the other boat to stay out of your way.

* When a boat reaches the three-length zone from a mark or obstruction, it has to give boats overlapped inside it room to round or pass the obstruction (Racing Rule 18). The outer edge of this zone is three boat lengths from the mark. This Rule is switched off at starting marks, and between boats on opposite tacks at the windward mark.

In the newsletter next month we will cover finishing the race, avoiding obstructions, and sailing a proper course. See you at the March meeting and work party.

Doug Roberts – Racing Chairman

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