US Sailing Introduces New Rules for 2009-2012

The start of a new year often brings about big changes: a new diet, a new destination, and a new attitude. But for US Sailing, 2009 means the start of a new edition of The Racing Rules of Sailing, the legislating guidebook that gets a facelift every four years. The new edition for 2009-2012 includes some major amendments that will have sailors rethinking their race strategy. Dave Perry, chairman of the US Sailing Appeals Committee, posted his summarized version of the rules. Major changes include:

So long, proper course: Rule 17.2 (On the Same Tack; Proper Course) once stood as the limiting reagent that kept windward boats, and boats clear ahead, from dipping into their neighbor’s pathway. Now that the rule has been removed, this limitation no longer applies and boats are free to sail below their proper course, a change that could make a big difference in boat positioning for mark roundings and team race maneuvers.

Expanding the circle: Rule 18, which determined rights at a mark or obstruction based on when boats were “about to round,” was completely revamped. Under the original ambiguous language, there were contentions as to when the rules began to apply. “Room at the mark,” after all, could mean a lot of things. The new phrase “mark-room” specifies that a boat should be given room to reach the mark in a seamanlike fashion, round it, and sail proper course away from it without interruption. With this new language, the ruled area is referred to as “The Zone” and its parameters are clearly defined as a three-boatlength circle around the mark or obstruction. (It was two boatlengths under the old version of the rule.) Using the Zone, outside boats now have a clearly defined point at which they must give room to inside boats. (If an outside boat exits “The Zone” at any point, Rule 18 stops applying.) The details of “The Zone” vary between two and four boatlengths depending on the type of race, but by defining it more specifically, this rule seeks to avoid vague protests in the future.

Go ahead, Interfere: Rule 23.2 (Interfering with Another Boat) was changed to say that if a boat remains on her proper course and encounters a boat exonerating for a penalty, the first boat has rights to continue on her proper course.

There are a dozen other adjustments that vary from a change in vocabulary (“personal buoyancy” became “personal flotation devices”) under Rule 40, to a change in the details of a redress under Rule 62. To help spell out the details of the alterations, US Sailing is teaming up with North U. to present rule seminars throughout the nation. You can find a seminar near you. Instructors will include Dave Perry, Brad Dellenbaugh, Pete Dellenbaugh, and Peter Isler.

New Year’s resolutions are fleeting, but new rules will linger for at least four years, so learning the details of the changes is a wise resolution.

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