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STARBOARD! Why are they yelling at me?

STARBOARD!!!!!   Why are they yelling at me??????

Do I need a lawyer or a politician to interpret why this is happening?

Most sailing occurs as we head out to open water, hoping to catch the sunset later in the day and occasionally encountering another boat heading in the same direction or crossing tacks.  No problem as we change course and wave to the other boat, continuing to relax and talk about the freedom of sailing offshore.  No yelling here.

However, simple physics tells us a number of objects approaching each other in a small space may result in two or more of the objects colliding.  Racing changes the paradigm from lots of space for two objects (cruising mode), to several objects occupying a small space (course between two marks), heading in the same direction towards a common site, (a turning mark in racing lingo).  Obviously, the potential for close encounters of the sailboat type have a higher likelihood of occurring.  However, these situations do not require a lawyer or a degree in racing rules to ensure a safe encounter.

The US Rules of Sailing provide the basis for understanding who must get out of the way (burdened boat) when two boats have intersecting courses or desires to go into the same space (physics tells us two objects cannot occupy the same space).

But I only want to go out and have a little fun competing with my friends, not spend the winter studying rules of engagement.  Not a problem.

The US Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) govern the sport of sailing on the water.  Understanding five Basic Navigation Rules (PART 2 WHEN BOATS MEET, SECTION A – RIGHT OF WAY) will apply for most situations and keep you safe.  Although situations can occur which require a deeper understanding of the rules, they apply to special situations and primarily will occur during those wonderful approaches and rounding of a racing mark.  It is easy when you begin racing to just stay away from the mark, give all the hot shot EXPERTS space, and listen to the loud conversations taking place and learn some new words.  You may not win the race, but you will certainly enjoy the scene.

So what are the basic rules you need to understand? Let’s start with the two most basic rules to keep you out of trouble.

First rule,  When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.  This rule applies when you are sailing upwind or downwind.  A basic assumption is all sailors know starboard and port????

How do I know what tack I am on??? Face into the wind and feel the beautiful fresh breezes.  If the wind is blowing over the starboard side of the boat, Ahhh, you are on starboard tack.  Wind in your face from the port side of the boat, you are on port tack.  (Of course the boom will be on the opposite side as your trim to take advantage of the wind direction).

If you are facing the wind coming from the starboard side when approaching another boat on the opposite tack, you are the in luck, you can yell “STARBOARD” to the other boat as they approach and continue on your course. Of course, you planned it all along.  This is not necessarily a bullying move, just being sure the other boat sees you and can take appropriate actions to prevent two objects attempting to occupy the same space (CRASH).

Of course, if you are on port tack, you will need to avoid another boat on Starboard tack.  It is not appropriate to yell PORT!!!!  You will not have right away no matter how much or how loud you yell.  I have to admit, this was a tactic used by someone I sailed with to confuse new racers.

A second rule relates to two boats on the same tack.  OK so now what do I do when I want to go towards another boat and we are both on the same tack.  One boat will usually be upwind or windward of the other boat.  If you are looking into the wind to see the other boat, you are in luck.  The other boat is upwind of you (burdened boat) and must not prevent you from continuing in its direction.  Ahhh that fresh air feeling of power and control.

If you are looking at the other boat and the wind is not blowing in your face and blowing the back of your hair (if you have any) into your face, you are the windward boat, better stay away from that other boat or you may hear some warnings as the other boat yells, leeward boat, I have rights.  Sometimes it is difficult when sailing downwind to feel the wind on your face, so just look at your main (assuming it is properly set), the boom will be on the leeward side.  Any boat approaching on the same side as the boom will be in control, you become the burdened boat.

Other terms you may need to know are “stand on” boat, you have control, maintain your course and speed.  Or you may be the “give-way” boat, and must avoid the other boat.

Just remember, that sometimes another boat may not see you and the most important move is to avoid a collision and plan ahead.  Everyone on the crew should understand the basic rules, keep watch and help you see a boat coming from another direction.  Hail the other boat in a close situation, make your intentions known.  You may have right away, but collisions are not going to benefit either boat.  If someone yells starboard to you, wave back and let them know you are aware of the situation and perhaps a response of “Maintain your course” as you steer your boat away from the other boat.  Communication is important.

It is always good to have someone on board familiar with the rules when you begin racing.  They can continually ask you about whether you think you have “rights” or must change course to comply with a rule.  This interaction will soon have you thinking about every boat around you and whether or not you have “rights” or if you must begin to plan an escape route.  Very soon you will be automatically checking out every boat and planning ahead, as your crew informs you of crossing situations and you can plan on your next move.

Once you become familiar with the basic rules, racing will be more fun as you gain confidence in your decisions of “who has rights”!!!!

The sailors will again be getting together in the near future to continue this discussion for those beginning racing (and sailing).  Some other racing situations; Starts, Mark Roundings and Finishing, have additional rules to increase safety at these parts of the race course.

The new casual series of boat races this summer will have a new start process in which boats will start over a period of time and avoid the mass attack on the starting line which creates anxiety and fear for new racers.  Come out and test your skills.

The next meeting of the sailors will be moved to a Friday, May 12,  since we are all working on our boats during the weekends.  Anyone who would like some assistance with completing the forms for the Wednesday beer can races or other weekend races sponsored by MORF and CASRA should attend and we will work through the registration process.

In the near future we will also be establishing a crew pool access through the BPYC website (boat owner as crew is a great way to start learning racing) for friends who would like to join a boat for a race.

Is your bottom smooth?  Your topsides shining?  Gotta look good even if you do not win!!

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