Paul Exner on Heavy Weather Sailing

Paul Exner speaks at the World Cruising Club’s ‘Ocean Sailing Seminar’ in Annapolis, Maryland in March on what it’s like to sail offshore in strong conditions. Paul touches on heavy weather in theory and mixes in his own experiences from his varied career as an ocean sailing skipper.

New Steering Wheel Adventure: Part 3

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After many deviations, diversions, and delays, the steering wheel project is finally finished (see part 1 and part 2). What started as buying a new steering wheel on Ebay turned into rebuilding the entire teak console, re-wiring much of the boat, servicing and adjusting much of the steering system (installation of the new wheel changed the geometry of things just a tad), building a new instrument panel, and all new senders on the engine to go with the new instruments.

I’ve blogged about instruments, senders, and instrument panels before (see Gauge of Confusion), but now we’ll go in a little deeper.

The fist thing to keep in mind is that the instrument panels from the engine manufacturers are often a rip off. You can build your own using better components for much less. More importantly, it will be exactly the way you want it. People are figuring this out, and aftermarket panels for various engines are all over the Internet.

I built mine with idiot lights, analogue gauges, a bilge monitor console, and seven fused switches to control other stuff for about $275, but I kept a few of my old instruments. In my case it’s a very customized shape and size for my boat, and I wanted to cram a lot of stuff into the this small piece of real estate:
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The next thing to keep in mind is the material of the panel: Never, under any circumstances, try to make it out of anything thicker than 1/4-inch. Switches, gauges, lights, etc. are all built for thin panels, and if you have something thicker you’ll be in for a lot of frustration. See my old panel for examples of futile and unnecessary adventures with a chisel…and see how trashed my old panel was. I just couldn’t put it back looking like that:
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I have lately built all my instrument panels out of black, 1/4-inch Starboard. It’s easy to cut and drill, I think it looks good, and it’s got a matte texture that hides dirt and fingerprints.

As to engine instruments and senders, they’re just as confusing as they’ve always been. I’ve learned all about these things, and I still ran into trouble. Check out this email from VDO, a quality international gauge manufacturer who I’d bought three new gauges from. I’d spent hours on their website and just could not find what I needed:

Good Morning Mr. Beek,

Thank you for your inquiry.

This instrument is designed to work with the OEM sender that’s also a 220F Temp gauge. VDO does not manufacture a corresponding 220F temp sender. If you require a replacement, parts that may work can be found at;

Standard Ignition: TS-6 1/2′-14 thread
KEM Manufacturing” TW-3 12′-14 thread and TW-106 M114X1.25 thread
Autozone(Duralast): TU201, 3/8′-18 thread

Please let us know if we can further assist you.

VDO Sales Team

Kudos to them for at least telling me who I could buy the right bit from. As I said in Gauge of Confusion, the right sender for the gauge must cover the same range as the gauge, vary its resistance in the right range for the gauge, and be the right size to fit an existing hole in your engine. Drilling a new hole would take a leap of faith and risks a mistake that you’d be too embarrassed to share with others.

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Looking at the right side of my instrument panel, we’ve got my good old mechanical tachometer, which has worked for nearly 50 years, so why change it? Next to that we’ve got the engine gauges for water temperature and oil pressure. Below those two gauges is the idiot light/buzzer for water temp and oil pressure. If that alarm goes off, I quickly check the gauges to see whether it’s high water temperature or a drop in oil pressure that has caused the alarm. I think it’s important to have both the idiot lights and the gauges: the gauges for precise readings and data over time; the idiot lights to actually alert you, unless you happen to be looking at the gauge when something goes wrong.

Under the tachometer is a second idiot light/buzzer. This one is for the new Aqualarm raw water flow sensor I installed:
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After many years of fretting about my engine, it occurred to me that this flow sensor, attached to an alarm, could be key. You could have a complete raw water flow failure (failed pump, broken hose, blocked intake) and it would take several minutes for your engine to heat up enough to trigger the water temp idiot light. In the mean time you’re frying an impeller, melting your exhaust hose, and maybe damaging the engine itself. I wired it to a second idiot light/buzzer because it was a bit complicated and fiddly to have three different devices connected to the same light/buzzer and keep them straight. My flow sensor is just before the exhaust injection elbow, so it would tell me if anything had gone wrong in the entire raw water circuit.

Along the bottom of my panel are seven switches and fuses, which aren’t labled yet, but they are: Bilge blower, instrument lights, compass light, spare, windshield washer (yes, call me crazy, but when the salt gets caked on this will be a Godsend), port wiper, and starboard wiper.

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On the left side of my panel I’ve got an Aqualarm Bilge Monitor, which I really like. Next to that is the old engine hour meter, which has the recorded hours on it, so I wasn’t about to change it. And next to that is the transmission pressure gauge, which always says the same thing no matter what, but I guess it would tell me if I lost my transmission fluid.

The big red thing at the lower left is a switch that silences the alarms, but the red thing would have to be sticking up like a sore thumb with the alarms turned off, so I won’t be able to forget. This way, when I’m starting the engine in the early morn I don’t have to wake everyone up with the alarms, as they will go off for 10-15 seconds until the flow switch gets triggered and the oil pressure comes up.

As to the wiring on the back of the panel, it looks like a rat’s nest, but it’s pretty simple:
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Each gauge has three connections on the back, labeled +, GND, and Sender. The GND just goes to ship’s negative. The + should connect to the accessory tab on your ignition key, along with the regulator. Sender connects directly to the appropriate sender on your engine. Since your engine is grounded (negative in most cases) the sender makes or breaks, or varies the resistance of, this second negative connection to the gauge.

Each gauge also has a light, which needs positive and negative, so now we’ve got five wires connected to the back of each gauge. Many things on the backs of instrument panels can be daisy-chained together: Ship’s negative can hop from one negative connection on the back of a gauge, then the negative connection to the light on the gauge, and on to the next gauge. Same with positive from the key switch, which can go to all the gauges, and to the positive sides of the idiot lights. It’s okay to crimp up to three wires into the same ring or slip-on terminal.

You need circuit protection for your panel, so a fuse in line with the key switch is simple.

My bilge monitor is largely separate from the other stuff on the panel, and my row of seven switches has a separate feed and it’s own fuse.

The only problem with all this brand new teak and varnish is it makes the rest of the boat look like crap:
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MELONSEED SKIFF: Successfully Deployed as Secret Weapon (Sort Of) in 2015 Round Island Regatta

Start

There’s a rumor going around that the only reason I’ve been looking to sell Mimi, my beloved Drascombe Dabber, is because she’s not competitive in the Round Island Regatta, an anarchic free-for-all involving small sailing and paddle/rowing vessels that is convened each summer on the back channel here in Portsmouth. And yes, it is true we did very poorly in Mimi last year. And I will confess it had crossed my mind that the Melonseed skiff I had set my heart on as Mimi’s successor might just get me on to the podium.

And, in fact, it almost turned out that way. In that photo up top (taken by my crew, daughter Lucy) you see me helming our new Melonseed, MiMi2, at the Class 1 start of this year’s regatta this past Saturday. We did well off the line and were in the top three (out of 27 boats in Class 1 Sail) after one lap round the course. And by the end of the second lap, we had a firm lock on second place. But then the anarchy factor took hold.

We had been told at the skipper’s briefing that we should all sail three laps round the course. But evidently the race committee never received this memo and sent some, but not others, around a fourth time. We were in the former group, but didn’t learn this until after we’d set up to cross the finish line (in second place) after our first three laps. We had to re-round the bottom mark to start our fourth lap, and so unfortunately slipped into third place.

We seemed then to at least have locked on to third place, until we completed our fourth lap and were edged out at the finish line (by mere inches) by another boat that had sailed only three circuits of the course.

Those who have followed the regatta from its inception won’t be surprised by any of this. After the very first event the race committee was unable to identify even the first-place finishers, and to limit confusion and acrimony have since seen fit to recognize only line-honors competitors. So really there is no difference, podium-wise, between second and fourth place.

Now in its fifth year, the regatta has in other respects made great strides forward. So much so we even succeeded in persuading New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan to hand out the prizes this year at the post-event picnic, held on the grounds of the Wentworth-Lear Historic Houses, non-profit recipient of all regatta proceeds.

Maggie confers

Gov. Maggie (left) confers with yr. humble narrator (center) and event founder Chas. “May I Cast Off Now?” Lassen (right) prior to the awards ceremony

Maggie bestows

Gov. Maggie doing her thing

Class 2 start

The Class 2 (single paddle) start is always exciting!

Winner Drew

Drew Craig, winner of Most Handsome Boat & Crew in Class 2, shows off his style

Most Handsome contenders

Other contenders in the Most Handsome competition

Skull man

Ditto

For the record, here are this year’s official winners:

Class 1 (Sail): Line Honors, Katie Paine; Most Handsome Boat & Crew, Nate and Caroline Piper

Class 2 (Single Paddle): Line Honors, Rob Nichols; Most Handsome Boat & Crew, Drew Craig

Class 3 (Multi-Paddle): Line Honors, Peter Schwab; Most Handsome Boat & Crew, Nancy and David Borden

Sportsmanship Award: Julia and Karen

Getting back to that rumor, I’ll note first that the Melonseed skiff was indeed very competitive this year. We weren’t giving up anything to anyone in terms of boat speed and might easily have taken line honors but for some tactical errors committed by yours truly.

But that’s not really why I wanted the boat.

Melonseed mold

Melonseed builder Roger Crawford shows off the mold from which MiMi2 sprang

Melonseed hoist

Roger hoists MiMi2 from her cradle prior to loading her on to her trailer

Lucy in boat

Lucy tries MiMi2 on for size after her arrival in Portsmouth

Much as I love Mimi 1, she is a bit too unwieldy for an inexperienced child to handle confidently, and I am hoping someday that Lucy (or maybe even Una?) will develop an interest in taking command of at least a small sailboat. Also, Mimi 1’s range under sail in the Portsmouth backwaters is limited by the height and complexity of her rig. She won’t fit under the many local bridges and causeways, and her heavy spars and standing rigging make de-rigging and re-rigging her to pass under same a bit more trouble than its worth.

MiMi2, I am thrilled to report, is small enough to sail under all local bridges at various states of the tide. So far Lucy does seem interested in learning to sail her, and, of course, I am not complaining about the fact that she is much more easily driven (under both sail and oars) than Mimi 1.

Mimi 1, meanwhile, is now in the custody of my good friend Seth Judah Lapidow, Esq., who is returning to his roots on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. Alas, in her first excursion on the lake, Mimi 1’s engine stopped running, and poor Seth had to row two miles home from the New York shore, as he had neglected to bring the sailing rig.

Mimi on Champlain

Internal combustion breakdown. This is Seth’s young organic-farmer serf, Jon, who accompanied Seth on Mimi, but evidently is not capable of rowing himself

If Mimi persists in disappointing Seth like this, it is likely he will not buy her from me (what he really wants is a fast center-console skiff), so those of you pining for her may well have another chance to make the deal of the century. I will be dropping the price big-time if she goes back on the market. Meanwhile, I am looking very forward to sailing her on the lake next time I visit Seth.

Posted in Uncategorised

MELONSEED SKIFF: Successfully Deployed as Secret Weapon (Sort Of) in 2015 Round Island Regatta

Start

There’s a rumor going around that the only reason I’ve been looking to sell Mimi, my beloved Drascombe Dabber, is because she’s not competitive in the Round Island Regatta, an anarchic free-for-all involving small sailing and paddle/rowing vessels that is convened each summer on the back channel here in Portsmouth. And yes, it is true we did very poorly in Mimi last year. And I will confess it had crossed my mind that the Melonseed skiff I had set my heart on as Mimi’s successor might just get me on to the podium.

And, in fact, it almost turned out that way. In that photo up top (taken by my crew, daughter Lucy) you see me helming our new Melonseed, MiMi2, at the Class 1 start of this year’s regatta this past Saturday. We did well off the line and were in the top three (out of 27 boats in Class 1 Sail) after one lap round the course. And by the end of the second lap, we had a firm lock on second place. But then the anarchy factor took hold.

We had been told at the skipper’s briefing that we should all sail three laps round the course. But evidently the race committee never received this memo and sent some, but not others, around a fourth time. We were in the former group, but didn’t learn this until after we’d set up to cross the finish line (in second place) after our first three laps. We had to re-round the bottom mark to start our fourth lap, and so unfortunately slipped into third place.

We seemed then to at least have locked on to third place, until we completed our fourth lap and were edged out at the finish line (by mere inches) by another boat that had sailed only three circuits of the course.

Those who have followed the regatta from its inception won’t be surprised by any of this. After the very first event the race committee was unable to identify even the first-place finishers, and to limit confusion and acrimony have since seen fit to recognize only line-honors competitors. So really there is no difference, podium-wise, between second and fourth place.

Now in its fifth year, the regatta has in other respects made great strides forward. So much so we even succeeded in persuading New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan to hand out the prizes this year at the post-event picnic, held on the grounds of the Wentworth-Lear Historic Houses, non-profit recipient of all regatta proceeds.

Maggie confers

Gov. Maggie (left) confers with yr. humble narrator (center) and event founder Chas. “May I Cast Off Now?” Lassen (right) prior to the awards ceremony

Maggie bestows

Gov. Maggie doing her thing

Class 2 start

The Class 2 (single paddle) start is always exciting!

Winner Drew

Drew Craig, winner of Most Handsome Boat & Crew in Class 2, shows off his style

Most Handsome contenders

Other contenders in the Most Handsome competition

Skull man

Ditto

For the record, here are this year’s official winners:

Class 1 (Sail): Line Honors, Katie Paine; Most Handsome Boat & Crew, Nate and Caroline Piper

Class 2 (Single Paddle): Line Honors, Rob Nichols; Most Handsome Boat & Crew, Drew Craig

Class 3 (Multi-Paddle): Line Honors, Peter Schwab; Most Handsome Boat & Crew, Nancy and David Borden

Sportsmanship Award: Julia and Karen

Getting back to that rumor, I’ll note first that the Melonseed skiff was indeed very competitive this year. We weren’t giving up anything to anyone in terms of boat speed and might easily have taken line honors but for some tactical errors committed by yours truly.

But that’s not really why I wanted the boat.

Melonseed mold

Melonseed builder Roger Crawford shows off the mold from which MiMi2 sprang

Melonseed hoist

Roger hoists MiMi2 from her cradle prior to loading her on to her trailer

Lucy in boat

Lucy tries MiMi2 on for size after her arrival in Portsmouth

Much as I love Mimi 1, she is a bit too unwieldy for an inexperienced child to handle confidently, and I am hoping someday that Lucy (or maybe even Una?) will develop an interest in taking command of at least a small sailboat. Also, Mimi 1’s range under sail in the Portsmouth backwaters is limited by the height and complexity of her rig. She won’t fit under the many local bridges and causeways, and her heavy spars and standing rigging make de-rigging and re-rigging her to pass under same a bit more trouble than its worth.

MiMi2, I am thrilled to report, is small enough to sail under all local bridges at various states of the tide. So far Lucy does seem interested in learning to sail her, and, of course, I am not complaining about the fact that she is much more easily driven (under both sail and oars) than Mimi 1.

Mimi 1, meanwhile, is now in the custody of my good friend Seth Judah Lapidow, Esq., who is returning to his roots on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. Alas, in her first excursion on the lake, Mimi 1’s engine stopped running, and poor Seth had to row two miles home from the New York shore, as he had neglected to bring the sailing rig.

Mimi on Champlain

Internal combustion breakdown. This is Seth’s young organic-farmer serf, Jon, who accompanied Seth on Mimi, but evidently is not capable of rowing himself

If Mimi persists in disappointing Seth like this, it is likely he will not buy her from me (what he really wants is a fast center-console skiff), so those of you pining for her may well have another chance to make the deal of the century. I will be dropping the price big-time if she goes back on the market. Meanwhile, I am looking very forward to sailing her on the lake next time I visit Seth.

Posted in Uncategorised

Move the Lead for Better Speed

I had just started crewing on a Tornado catamaran, and it was my job to set and trim the jib. There was a lot of talk about measurements from the bow, aft, and the rail inboard. As a dinghy sailor, the cat was so foreign to me I figured those measurements were a good place to start, but then one of my non-cat friends asked, “Don’t you just want the jib to break evenly?” This simple question pointed to the obvious: Every boat has unique sail shape characteristics, but the fundamental concepts behind how to set the jib leads are the same across all boats.

Although it’s a great starting point, and it would be nice to simply set the leads to “break evenly,” there’s much more we can do with them to maximize the jib’s performance. Adjustments forward or aft change the power of the jib, and the lead’s lateral position (inboard or outboard) affects pointing. The goal here is to develop an understanding of what both lead adjustments do, and to help establish an all-around sweet spot. Once there, we can explore subtle changes to make the jib more versatile. Let’s start with some thoughts about moving a lead fore and aft:

Break even: Moving a lead forward or aft changes the angle at which the sheet pulls down on the clew. Moving the lead forward pulls the clew down and trims the top of the jib. Moving it aft opens the top of the jib. If you trim the jib, and the bottom luff telltales are streaming on both sides and the top, inner telltales are not streaming, you can move the lead forward to trim the top. If the top, outer telltale isn’t streaming, moving the lead aft will correct that. This is the “break even” method: With the top and bottom luff telltales streaming on both sides, heading up a little causes the top and bottom inner luff telltales to “break” at the same time.

Leech tension: Pulling down on the clew by moving the lead forward tightens and hooks in the leech, while moving them aft twists it open.

Foot depth: Moving the lead aft flattens the bottom of the jib. Moving it forward rounds the bottom and powers up the sail. Even though it only affects the bottom-third of the jib, it’s important because the jib is triangular and that bottom third is a significant percentage of the sail.

Before we get into how best to make jib-lead adjustments, we first need to establish a sweet spot. We can’t go wrong with the “break even” method for the fore/aft lead because, top to bottom, the jib is pulling the boat evenly. The inboard/outboard position, which affects your ability to point, isn’t so easy. Often, the boat will have only jib tracks running fore/aft, so adjusting them laterally isn’t an option. If there is a way to move them in and out, however, start with the tuning guide recommendation, or ask a fast competitor. The only method I know of to find this ideal in/out position is to try various settings until you find the right combination of speed and point. If they are too far outboard, the boat will feel great, but you can’t point. If they are too far inboard, the boat may point fine, but you’re slow. In moderate wind and waves, once the jib breaks evenly top to bottom (using the break-even method), experiment with your leads in and out until you get the best combination of speed and point. Then, mark and measure those settings—that’s your sweet spot.

If the water is very flat in moderate breeze, the leads can be pulled aft a setting or two to flatten the bottom of the jib. Trim the sheet tight so the extra flatness at the bottom of the jib will allow you to point higher with little loss of speed. The compromise is that the top of the jib will be slightly under-trimmed, but since you are not looking for power that’s OK. I like the clew inboard a little in these conditions, but I find I don’t need to bring the leads inboard because, by sheeting tighter, the clew of the jib is already being pulled to windward.

If you need power because of waves, moving the lead forward will power up the jib. I like the clew outboard a little in these conditions, but there is no need to move the lead out because you will be easing the jib sheet to keep it powered up, and the clew will fall further outboard anyway. In these conditions, it’s really easy to over-trim the jib because the leads are a little forward to round the foot, and that pulls down on the leech. You don’t want a tight sheet causing a tight leech because the boat is sailing a low, powered-up angle and the slot is already narrowed with mainsheet eased.

In heavy wind and flat water, move the lead aft from the break-even setting. Doing so flattens the bottom while twisting open the top–both are good methods to depower. This is a good time to pull the lead outboard a little, too, if you’re really overpowered. Be careful not to go too far outboard because you will loose the ability to point.

There are usually waves with big wind, however, so you’ll want to moderate how much you flatten the bottom by moving the lead aft. In waves, you’ll be easing your jib sheet, and that will automatically twist open the top and move the clew outboard. It’s worth going to leeward to see how much so, because—depending on the geometry—every boat’s jib eases differently. If, when you ease the sheet, it rounds the bottom too much, perhaps a little aft on the lead will work well. If, however, the top opens dramatically when you ease, moving the lead aft will cause too much twist. In that case, moving the lead outboard might be a good choice because you can trim a little firmer, reducing twist without closing off the lower portion of the slot.

In light wind, the weight of the clew and the sailcloth hang on the jib, having the same effect on the jib as moving the lead forward (pulling down). As the wind gets very light, you will find you will need to move your leads aft to keep the jib breaking evenly. If it is extremely light, hold the clew up by trimming by hand.

Each boat has different geometry, so it is a useful exercise to experiment, noting what each change does. Pay particular attention to the depth of the bottom of the jib and the tightness of the leech. There is one last sanity check: With the leads set with the jib breaking evenly, look at the foot of the jib. If it looks flat or even stretched, try moving the lead forward until it has some shape. If it looks unreasonably round, move the lead back. These are all subtle changes, but they have a surprisingly big impact.

Thanks to Mike Marshall, a sail designer at North Sails One Design. Marshall used Flow/Membrane design analysis software, a part of the North Sails Design Suite. Membrane, as well as the rest of the suite, model rig geometry and mast and sail properties in a specific onset flow to determine the sail shapes. For this analysis, he modeled movements in the leads while keeping all the other variables the same.

Undoing Race Committee Errors

Two readers, Mike Gurley and Warwick Coppleson, recently asked how the rules apply in two unusual situations, both the result of well-intentioned, but unwise race committee actions. Each one highlights how risky it is for the race committee not to follow tried and true procedures.

Mike Gurley reported on a race for several different classes of boats. The classes each had their own start, and the course for each one was signaled from the committee boat at its warning signal. There were two courses, both of them were windward-leeward-windward. Faster classes sailed the longer course, which was a beat to windward to Mark W, then a run to the leeward mark, Mark L, and a final beat to Mark W. The course had an unusual feature—on the downwind leg, boats were required to pass through a gate formed by Marks G1 and G2, midway between W and L. The slower classes sailed a shorter course—to W, then through the gate onto a final beat back to W.

The fun began at the gate. As shown in the diagram, Stella—a boat sailing the long course—and Luke—a boat sailing the short course—were overlapped as they ran downwind toward G1. Stella and Luke each knew their own course, but neither knew the other’s course. Both of them were required to leave G1 to starboard. The long course required Stella to sail straight past G1 and continue to L, while the short course gave Luke the option to round either G1 to starboard or G2 to port.

Luke, who was preparing to round G1 onto the beat back to W, hoisted his jib and doused his spinnaker between Positions 1 and 2. Stella continued flying her chute. When Luke came alongside G1, he luffed to begin his rounding while Stella sailed straight. Immediately after Stella’s stern passed G1, the boats were about to collide, but Luke avoided contact by bearing off. He then protested Stella alleging that, as the windward boat, she broke Rule 11 by not keeping clear. Eventually Luke crossed behind Stella and rounded onto the beat to W, but he lost considerable distance in the process.

How do the rules apply here? Luke had right of way under Rule 11, but he owed Stella mark-room under Rule 18.2(b)’s first sentence. As the definition Mark-Room states, Luke was required to give Stella room to leave G1 to starboard, which he did. And after she entered the zone, Stella’s proper course was to sail straight toward her next mark—Mark L, and, as the diagram shows, that course took her close to Mark G1. Luke, therefore, was also required to give Stella room to sail to G1, which he also did. It wasn’t necessary for Stella to round G1 to sail her course, so when Luke began to luff, just after Position 2, Luke had already given Stella all the room to which she was entitled under the definition Mark-Room. Thus, Stella’s entitlement to mark-room had ended and the only rules that applied between the boats were Rules 11, 16.1 and 14.

Rule 16.1 required Luke to give Stella space to maneuver promptly to keep clear. Stella, thinking that Luke would be sailing straight to Mark L just as she was, didn’t expect Luke to luff and she failed to respond promptly. For that reason, she broke Rule 11. She is not exonerated under Rule 21(a) because when her breach occurred she was no longer entitled to mark-room. Luke avoided breaking Rule 14 by curtailing his luff before there was contact. Luke did not break Rule 16.1 because, if Stella had responded promptly to his luff, she would have had space to keep clear in a seamanlike way.

The rules require Stella to be disqualified for breaking Rule 11, but the real party at fault here is the race committee. By setting courses, which made Mark G1 a rounding mark for the slow boats and simultaneously a passing mark for the fast boats, the race committee created this awkward situation. Rule 18 is not designed to work when boats are required to round a mark in different ways. I have made this point before: ISAF Case 26 shows that it’s downright dangerous to require some boats to round a mark to port while others are rounding it to starboard, and US Appeal 97 shows that Rule 18 can be impossible to understand when a mark is simultaneously a windward mark for some boats and a leeward mark for others. The predicament for Stella and Luke illustrates that mark roundings become confusing when boats’ courses require them to exit the mark on different courses. The lesson here for the race committee is simple: Do not use one mark for two different courses if boats sailing each of those courses might be rounding or passing it at the same time.

Warwick Coppleson’s situation occurred during a race for one-designs. When the fleet approached the spot where Mark 3 should have been, they found not one but two buoys, both of which had been set by the race committee and both of which matched the description of Mark 3 in the sailing instructions. Let’s call those two buoys “A” and “B.”

Indomitable arrived first on the scene with a big lead. She chose to round A and sailed on to finish first, well ahead of the second boat. A race committee member in a boat flying a race committee flag saw Indomitable round A and thought she had rounded the wrong mark. He did not hail Indomitable, but instead motored over to A and proceeded to hail each of the rest of the boats in the fleet, instructing each one to round B—which they all did.

The posted scores showed Indomitable as DSQ while the boats that had rounded B were scored in the order in which they finished. Indomitable was, understandably, not pleased. She protested each of the boats that finished after her alleging that each one broke 41 by receiving outside assistance, and she requested redress for herself claiming she should have been scored 1 point for first place.

How should the protest committee have responded to Indomitable’s protests and request for redress? All the protests under Rule 41 should be dismissed. Boats are permitted to receive “unsolicited information from a disinterested source.” There was no reason for the boats that were hailed to think that a member of the race committee had any interest in the outcome of the race. However, Indomitable should be granted redress under Rule 62.1(a) because her score in the race, DSQ, was obviously worsened through no fault of her own by the failure of the race committee to hail her to round B instead of A, and that omission was clearly improper. Obviously, a race committee should act evenhandedly and fairly, so an action or omission of the race committee can be “improper” even if it breaks no racing rule. What’s more, Rule 90.2(c) requires any oral instructions from the race committee given on the water to be given to each boat in the race. Finally, because Indomitable finished, scoring her DSQ without a protest hearing was an improper action (see Rule A5).

What redress should Indomitable receive? Rule 64.2 requires the protest committee to “make as fair an arrangement as possible for all boats affected,” and Rule A10 suggests alternative forms that redress may take. In this case, since Indomitable had a big lead approaching Mark 3, it seems fair to award her first place in the race and adjust all other boats’ scores accordingly (such an adjustment is permitted by Rule A6.2).

E-mail for Dick Rose may be sent to [email protected]