I recently got asked for advice on a rule situation. The interesting thing was the way that critical facts were missing and terms were used without the normal precision judges expect. For example the statement "the protest was thrown out" means that it was dismissed.
My answer rambled on and I suspect that stating that the powers that be are looking once again at Rule 18 or are not happy with it will probably land me in some trouble. Anyhow tis all below and I am very grateful to Trevor Lewis who had a quick look at it and seemed to think it wasn't totally wrong.Here is the Question:- The situation was a leewards mark in open water, with three boats on starboard overlapped on entering the zone (wind gusting 6+). Near the point of rounding, the inside boat touched the one in the middle; the latter touched the outside boat. These collisions (no damage) happened in that order within one or two seconds of each other. The inside boat protested the one in the middle of the sandwich for not keeping clear. No capsizes and no penalty turns were made.
Protest was thrown out under RRS 2009-12 - Rule 18.2e.
Rule 18.2.e states
" If a boat obtained an inside overlap from clear astern and, from the time the overlap began, the outside boat has been unable to give mark-room, she is not required to give it."
I was on the protest committee, but still have a little niggling doubt over the word "She" - the protest committee took it to refer to the boat in the middle (protestee) ?? Also, i'm unsure whether 18.2.e over-rides 18.2.a
Did we get it right ?What I replied
Short answer is NO. I think you got it wong
Your facts give no indication of when an overlap was established from astern or by whom. You state that they were overlapped at the Zone. You also fail to state which way they were rounding the mark - presumably to starboard - if it was to port then outside boats were to windward and have failed to comply with rule 11
Assuming a starboard rounding as they were overlapped at the zone, the inside boat was entitled to Mark Room. This is "room to sail to the mark" it does gives a narrow corridor where the inside boat can be exonerated for breaking rules of Section A (probably 11). You might consider whether the inside boat took more room than she was entitled to - tis seen all the time in fleet racing, where the inside boat still thinks she "owns the circle" as was the case once upon a time.
The middle boat's case would have been better if she had touched the outside boat before making contact with the inner boat. One or two seconds is a lot of time in Force 6. Page 153 of the RYA rule book has some useful tables - at 6kts a 4m boat will advance 1 length in 1.3 seconds. However, timeframes become distorted in stressful situations - but you seem certain about the order of contact.
It is possible that the whole situation resulted because the outside boat failed to give room, as soon as this became clear they should have been made a party to the protest, so that they could hear the evidence and defend themselves, as they are now at risk of being disqualified. 60.3(a)(2) & 61.1(c)
If the middle boat obtained an overlap from astern, to leeward of the inside boat then a number of other rules come into play. Outside the Zone she was subject to rule 15. 18.2(d) must also come into play - the onus provision. Makes it very sticky for her if this was the case.
The facts of the build up are not clear and may influence the decision
18.2e stands on its own - there is a team racing call which requires a boat to give room even when it can't - the overlap being obtained instantaneously on a tack.
Rule 18 no longer removes rules - all other rules still apply at marks - it just provides exoneration for breaking some of the rules.
There is an expectation that boats will be sailed in a Seamanlike Manner and no consideration should be given for different skill levels.
The interpretation you have put on 18.2(e) appears to conflict with RRS15.If you read as far as this you must be as sad as I am!!