A Question of Morals?

Many years ago I took part in an Optimist regatta, and an incident happened. I've never been sure of the rights and wrongs of what happened - not just the rules (I think I know whether it was legal or not), but more the etiquette. Let me describe the incident and then see what you think (I won't tell you which of the three boats was me, because I don't want to influence your opinion):

Here's the background to the scenario:

  • This was an Open Meeting, meaning it was an open, national regatta.
  • The Open Meeting was a one-day event. There were 3 races, with 1 discard (which would be used in the event of a tie).
  • This was the second race of the three, and Green had won the first race (meaning that if Green won this race then they would win the regatta). Red was second in the first race.
  • Neither Red nor Green had ever won an Open Meeting before.
  • The incident happened about two-thirds of the way through the race, and about half-way up a beat.
  • Green had been leading Red (just) at the start of the beat.
  • Yellow was a back-marker, and was about to be lapped.

(By the way, I used this boat scenario drawing tool to create the below images. You can create gifs too. I found it through this blog post on Laser Salience).

Regatta Scenario Part 1 - Moral or not?

Figure 1

As you can see, Green was on starboard, and Red on port. They were on collision course.


Regatta Scenario Part 3

Figure 2

Rather than duck Green, Red decided to tack on Green's lee bow.


Regatta Scenario Part 5

Figure 3

Green then sailed right up to Yellow's stern (Yellow was a back-marker being lapped, and therefore much slower than Red and Green). As they approached, Red asked for room to tack. Green declined, on the basis that Red didn't need to change course to avoid Yellow, and that he wouldn't be sailed off the course by Yellow (although there was no guarantee that the back marker wouldn't take Red off the course)


Regatta Scenario Part 6

Figure 4

Green then tacked off onto port (and a lift), leaving Red stuck to the lee of Yellow.


Regatta Scenario Part 8 - Moral or not?

Figure 5

When Red and Green eventually crossed again, further up the beat, Green was clear ahead and went on to win the race, and therefore the regatta.


So. My questions are these:

  1. Is this all ok rules-wise?
    Was Green right to deny Red water to tack?
  2. Is it (morally) ok to use a backmarker in this way?
    Would it make a difference if it was a club race? Or a Championship?

4 thoughts on “A Question of Morals?

  1. Oh god! I’m going to have to consult a rule book to really know the answer, but off the top of my head (as it would have to be in the middle of the race) I would say it was perfectly legal for Green to deny Red water to tack. And I would also say that there is nothing morally wrong in what Green did, in any level of competition.

    You didn’t ask, but I would say Red made a big tactical mistake. Lee-bowing Green might have been the correct move if no other boats were near, but Red should have thought ahead and realized how the situation would develop.

    You also didn’t ask, but if I were Yellow I think would have tacked away from the other two boats. There he was giving dirty air to the two race leaders and likely influencing who would be the winner of the championship, when he was a lap behind them. I don’t think he broke any rules, but morally I think that if you are a lap behind you should keep out of the way of the leaders.

  2. Also without looking at a rule book…. So probably wrong…
    Red had no right to ask for room to tack so green was correct in denying it. He sailed himself into the wrong side of an non-continuing obstruction (yellow) so had decided which side he wanted to pass? He sensibly should have headed up or slowed to be astern of yellow earlier. Or just squeezed yellow up to be in green’s way and then tacked. That would be a bit mean in my book.
    All seems fine to me, and not bad compared to what we see each week here.
    Maybe it’s just as well I normally crew rather than have to think.

  3. I think Green’s actions were morally and legally OK. Red could have ducked to avoid the situation. Having said that if I had been Red I would have been frustrated.

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