Risks, Rules, and Rachel

Many of the Dire Strait SL-VT Matches highlighted issues with the race mark in Rachel sim. Rachel is blessed with some interesting Rule and strategy issues. 🙂

I wrote about this on Monday; several sailors replied with good comments and questions. It seemed a fun idea to continue the discussion here today. We might end up with a general consensus about how the SL Rules apply when obstructions are close to race markers. On the other hand, we might conclude the setup in Rachel is just awful, and agree to request a change from LL DPW! 🙂

As you can see in the above map, there are Dire Strait race lines in both Fedallah and Queequeg. The Fedallah line recently got an industrial-strength workout during the final phases of the SL-VT regatta. Although GGYC used several different charts, they all followed a pretty typical Match Race, Upwind-Downwind course format as hinted above.

Racers started in Fedallah, then beat windward to clear a top mark just south of Leviathan Island  in Ahab’s Haunt. The skippers then turned their gaze for home, doing a multi-sim downwind ride back towards GGYC that usually included a pit-stop in Rachel at the orange-white race mark.

The map above shows that general layout… focusing on that last turn in Rachel and emphasizing the location of the two buoys in the sim.

The Northern Rachel buoy is a tetrahedron ‘race mark;’ it’s orange with a white stripe. Most Fedallah courses are designed so racing boats pass that mark counterclockwise, before heading to the Fedallah Finish a short distance away.

The Rachel Race Mark is interesting, since there’s another buoy, an old, rusted, Linden ‘nav can,’ sitting a short 44 m SSW of the Mark. That navigation buoy is really a warning marker, indicating the site of a sunken shipwreck.

A skipper that attempts to swing wide at that Nav Buoy could be in for a surprise. The submerged wreck is actually quite large, and rather easy to hit unless a sailor exhibits considerable caution.  But… how can you show caution if you don’t know exactly what’s going on beneath your boat? I wanted to know the details on this too… so I made some graphics that only show the objects in Rachel that extend above Z=16 m.

Why z=16? Well… the surface of nearly all Linden water is set to z=20, so z=16 defines a 4 m water depth. The Trudeau J-Class, Columbia, and prolly many additional vessels have keel depth over 3 m.  Other keelboats draw slightly less, between 1.5-3.0 m. (I have a fantastic picture someplace of Taku Raymaker’s ACA32 keel slamming full speed into a rock off Svar Beckersted’s  island in 2008…) 🙂

Z=16 seems a reasonable, minimum depth for safe sailing. Anything above that may qualify as a hazard or obstruction, although it certainly depends on the boat class.

Anyway, here’s the result.  The blue rectangle in the picture above shows all of Rachel sim. It’s nearly all deep water, except for a few objects in the northeast quadrant. The “mark” on that graphic indicates the location of the orange/white race mark;  Forty-four meters SSW from that point lies the Linden buoy, the one that indicates the wreck. Just north of the Linden buoy there’s a bright red object that shows where the shipwreck’s bow breaks the water surface. The rest of the wreck is submerged, but it continues south just below the water surface for a full 24 m SSE (irregular black lines in the graphic).

Be careful as you pass the wreck! You may think you won’t hit it…but…
Well, Kaz hit it… and Tak hit it…
You think you sail better than they do? 🙂

OK; with that basic info, let’s get practical… and talk about racing Rachel’s ‘obstructions.’ 🙂

If you look at the RACHEL BUOYS map illustration I posted above you’ll  appreciate that match race boats often end up close together in the latter half of the race doing a downwind run to the Rachel Orange Mark.

Amy and Kaz

With two good skippers, that downwind long segment gives the trailing boat a chance to shadow the leader and catch up. The two boats are frequently in tandem when they reach Rachel, since shadow lets a skipper catch-up, but doesn’t help them pass the lead boat.

That sets up the two boats for a ‘confrontation with obstruction‘ when they reach the Rachel shipwreck. 🙂

The insert shown to the right- above has Amy and Kaz nicely parallel and heading toward the Rachel Mark. You can see the shipwreck obstruction with the Orange Mark just a bit further distant. The skippers need to clear the obstruction and then pass the race mark CCW.

However, the actual distance from the visible tip of the wreck to the race marker is 44 m, and race boats usually approach that gap at an acute angle, with sails winged. Under those conditions there is not enough room for both boats to  do this in tandem. So who has ROW?

Let’s take the case of Amy and Kaz, shown in the right side picture above. As they approach the obstruction, the two boats are parallel and overlapped; Amy is leeward and she has has ROW under Rule 11.

However, the shipwreck is a obstruction, and Rule 19.2(b) applies as they approach it:

19.2. Giving Room at an Obstruction
(b) When boats are overlapped, the outside boat shall give the inside boat room between her and the obstruction, unless she has been unable to do so from the time the overlap began.

Amy is the “outside boat” in this case, and she is obliged to give Takabou room. Depending on the circumstance, that could even mean Amy needs to turn so far away she could miss the race mark.

But wait... this issue gets complicated. Both boats are also fetching the race mark a short distance ahead. Match Races usually use a ‘two boat length zone‘ around race marks, and within that zone, Rule 18 turns on.


18.2 Giving Mark-Room
(a) When boats are overlapped the outside boat shall give the
inside boat mark-room, unless rule 18.2(b) applies.
(b) If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone,
the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside
boat mark-room. If a boat is clear ahead when she reaches the
zone, the boat clear astern at that moment shall thereafter give
her mark-room.
(c) When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b), she
shall continue to do so even if later an overlap is broken or a
new overlap begins. …

When the boats enter the ‘zone,’ Rule 18 applies and Amy is the inside boat. She has right-of-way to clear the Mark, and Takabou is supposed to keep clear. However, if you look below the two boat length zone in this case is 46 m; it actually includes the northern end of the wreck/ obstruction!

Oops… Who has right-of-way now? Kaz has Rule 19 protection, but Amy is the Rule 18 Zone Diva.

I’m sure there are other opinions on this, but I thought it was pretty clear. In a match race with two boats approaching the mark, an obstruction requires the skippers to heed Rule 19 to avoid ‘collision carnage.’ This is an important issue, and Amy must yield to Kaz so he gets past that shipwreck.

However, as soon as Kaz clears the wreck, Rule 19 switches off and has no standing since there is no more obstruction. At that point, Rule 18 takes priority, and Amy has ROW for ‘mark room.‘ Kaz needs to return Amy’s favor and now give her space so she can do her thing.

Grin. Racing Rules are part of sailing fun, and RL sailors spend long summer nights arguing these points on Club decks after matches… I’m telling you my thoughts, but not insisting it’s right for SL; I’d love to know other views on this, so we have a consistent understanding for the next regatta!

11 responses to “Risks, Rules, and Rachel

  1. Lynn Parkin August 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm
    “And, (to bring the rule into the discussion), the wreck was not a continuing obstruction, such as a terrain feature, but was a point obstruction that could be sailed around and behind, and to do so would allow the boat even to remain on course, since that takes you around the mark as well. I knew the obstruction was there, and that it was important to get to the mark first, because the second boat, if overlapped would have to take that course.”
    I agree the term ‘continuing obstruction‘ is confusing… and was initially undefined in RRS.
    Later official Rules posts made it clear ‘Continuing Obstructions’ are NOT boats, but unusually long barriers, such as a coastline.
    The Rachel shipwreck is a 24m long obstruction, so it’s boat-sized. (That makes sense; since it’s a boat!).
    I agree; it’s not a continuing obstruction.

  2. Bea August 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm
    “Your “understanding” about 19 is correct as it is a “copy/paste” from ISAF RRS.”
    Phew! I thought I made it all up…

    Bea August 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm
    “… What is less clear for me, in your article and live chat, is that your clearly state about the call for “ROOM”. My understanding is that “Hailing and Responding” are part of rule 20, not 19.”
    Good point. You are correct. However, after dozens of races, I never saw an SL-VT boat protest under Rule 19; Takabou Destiny was the first skipper to raise the issue in the Finals. I commented a skipper should ask for ‘Room’ since it seemed clear sailors did not appreciate they had that option. I wanted the inside skipper to tell the outside boat they needed to move. If an inside skipper didn’t do that but protested under 19… they’d have a good argument.
    But as I said, no one protested under 19.

    Bea August 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    “Were rule 20 in use for SLVT? Do you thing RRSSL should consider use of Rule 20?”
    I dunno. Rule 20 was never relevant,
    and it never came up in SL-VT,
    to my knowledge.
    We never got past Rule 19… 🙂
    Actually I think its up to Regatta Organizers
    to decide which ruleset to use.
    They can then discuss the details with their race staff.

    Bea August 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm
    “The second case, clearly indicates how the judges rule, even if subjective decision. “The sailing was so great, so exciting and audacious, it seemed very wrong to call either sailor DSQ for their efforts” . Interesting. The judge dilemma, it happens 3 to 6 times a week I guess.”
    I’m not sure what point you are making. I was critical of many ‘political’ issues with SL-VT (ask don how often I ranted at him 🙂 ). Having said that, Don and Roan organized the Semis and Finals extremely well. I can only comment about judging… but every race I was involved in had umpires — GOOD umpires — stationed at each mark, there were smart sailors following the boats, and incredible, dedicated line staff (<–waves to Amy and Hawk). Naeve, Soro, Silber, Jane took turns calling the Judging shots. I can't think of one item where we disagreed.
    One the other hand… I know there were exhaustive discussions after many races on certain rules points, how to handle them, and if we did it right.

    It's a boat race… 🙂
    Everybody does their best. Maybe it could have been better, but…
    SL-VT had some pretty great judging,
    Anyone disagree?

  3. I think it is a particular case indeed, but also at least 3 other parameters have some importance and could take part in this discussion:

    1- polar of the ACA 2.53 : this boat has the particularity to sail at the same speed (+-5%) in a range of TWA from (about) 120 to 160°… and is even faster with a 180° TWA on a running with wing on wing. (exactly what Amy and Taka do, according to your pictures)

    2- Wind as chosen by RC: it seems that the choice of the course didn’t take in account at all the characteristics of the boat (polar/size). As well as that, according to your drawing or pictures, the unique line to pass the nav buoy then the race mark, is strictly parallel to the wind = 180°.

    The 2 conditions match to raise potential issues already.

    3- A third point, again, is the lack of rule 20 in RRSSL.
    While 19 deals with “Room to pass an obstruction”, rule 20 deals with “Room to TACK at an obstruction”. And it is really different.
    My understanding is that the “Hail and Responding” procedure, is ONLY defined with rule 20, not with rule 19, no need. It is a common mistake by SL Sailors, and you also write about the need to hail for room about rule 19. It is confusing and I am not sure it contributes for a better understanding/learning. Also, when rule 20 applies, rules 18 and 19 do not.
    All this is perfectly explained at the Sailing Academy, with text+drawings+animations in viewers at disposal of all.

    So clearly, with a partial set of rules (and strange a mix of RRSSL and RRS Annex C) creating unresolvable cases (except RD’s mood), courses designs and WWC settings by RC who doesn’t care about scripts and boats characteristics, we can find plenty of questionable cases. I remember one day Liv raised a case with 2 boats face to face, one upwind the other downwind and both … on a starboard tack ! (scripts). Even full RRS can’t help in such case…

    I am afraid there is no clear answer to your question without considering all aspects.

    My 2 pences.

  4. I recall that in the first minutes of the first hour of the opening of Dire Straits I leapt into my ACA and pretty soon came to grief in Rachael sim and whilst muttering a few choice words of endearment under my breath the episode brought to mind an event that occurred 42 years ago when as diving officer aboard one of Her Majesty’s ships I was dispatched with my team and a motor boat full of choice explosives to “see to” a problem close by to a well known sailing club in the Solent!

    It appeared that the then Commodore, a retired Rear Admiral, was fed up of the rantings aprés race that occurred with monotonous regularity regarding a very similar obstruction that confounded and confused the racing rules pundits of the time – and the rules were a lot simpler in those days I can tell you. So he pulled a few strings and hence my task for the day!

    Suffice to say that within half an hour the obstruction was reduced to less than its atomic structure and our boat was full of sufficient fish to feed the ship’s company for a week – fish do tend to surrender quickly when you detonate a sensible amount of explosives in their domain!

    I could always be persuaded to get my “how to blow things up” notes out do a bit of revision and do likewise in Rachael sim if needs be although it has to be said whether by design or accident the obstructions there do make for some interesting sailing and of course scintilating postings here!!

  5. Digs out a knife and fork and orders a “sensible amount of explosives” for a fish feast.

  6. Pingback: Risks, Rules, and Rachel

  7. Another question…what was the course change required for Tak to pass the other side of it? to count as an obstruction you need a substantial change in course when your one boat length away (definition of obstruction in RRS) – that depends on expected approach direction for a long thin obstruction like a shipwreck, along with wind and the specifics of the boats. If Tak only had to pull out a little, then it dosn’t count and Amy could have used leeward rights to force Tak to take the long way. If on the other hand it required a tack or major course change (approaching a wreck side on or for a small island) then I’d expect Amy to have to give way.
    Personally I think this should have been defined by the judges before the gun went off and included in the Notice of Race.

    • I think the shipwreck qualifies as an obstruction. It is longer than an ACA boatlength (24m) and the course correction needed to clear it passing CCW depends on the angle of approach. Is that a ‘substantial change in course?’ I’d assume so, since both Kaz and Tak hit the wreck when they made ‘less than substantial’ course changes . 🙂
      I understand your concern that the the wreck should be included in the NOR, or at least better indicated on the race charts. You’ll remember we had similar discussions about maps showing shallow areas in Round 2 of the J-CLASSIC last year.
      I think that level of detail is probably up to the regatta organizers and race chart makers, however. As soon as I saw it was an issue in SLVT, I posted about it:
      The real issue you raise is an important one: should the wreck or race mark be moved? Since most of the wreck is submerged, is it an unfair and inappropriate obstruction on the race course?
      I dunno!

  8. IMHO shipwrecks usually occur as a result of an act of God or through the crass stupidity of (usually) a drunk Phillipino crew! They are not usually easily moved afterwar as my posting above bears witness.
    I would say a much less drastic course (sic) of action might be to alter the bloody course you set for races if you are that worried about the inability of SL racing crews to avoid well known hazards… Otherwise as Alain so correctly says, warn all in time honoured fashion in the NOR and agree a protocol amongst RDs as to what ruling to adopt in the event of a confrontation whilst under race conditions.

  9. Reading all the comments above, my understanding is that is rather first a question of Race Management than a pure question of rules.

  10. I couldn’t agree more Bea !

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