Racing Rules Weekly Quiz

Each week this season, we will offer a “quiz” question regarding the Racing Rules of Sailing.  Read the scenario below, formulate your answer, then move your mouse over the box to reveal the correct answer.

Need further explanation?
something we can discuss on the porch on Sunday.

This Week's Question

Boats W (a windward boat) and L (a leeward boat) are reaching towards the gybe mark on converging courses. L becomes overlapped with W from clear astern within two of her lengths of W. They are both sailing proper courses and are on a collision course. As they near each other, W hails, “You came from clear astern and I’m on my proper course.” L replies, “I’m on my proper course.” W’s boom then touches L with no damage or injury and both protest. You are on the protest committee; how would you decide this?


Boat W is penalized under rule 11, On the Same Tack, Overlapped, for failing to keep clear of a leeward boat, and rule 14, Avoiding Contact, for failing to avoid contact when it was reasonably possible to do so. When L first becomes overlapped with W, she is required to give W room to keep clear by rule 15, Acquiring Right of Way, which she does. Because L overlaps W from clear astern within two of her hull lengths, rule 17, On the Same Tack; Proper Course, requires L not to sail above her (L’s) proper course. L is sailing on her proper course (not above it) and W fails to keep clear. L could have avoided making contact with W, but didn’t; therefore she breaks rule 14. But a right-of-way boat is exonerated (freed from penalty) for breaking rule 14 when the contact does not cause damage or injury (see rule 43.1(c), Exoneration).
This quiz was excerpted from Dave Perry’s 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes available from US Sailing. For a comprehensive explanation of the rules, read Dave Perry’s Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing through 2024, which is also available from US Sailing. Permission to reprint this quiz for non commercial use is granted by the author.