Often, we focus our rules discussions only on Part 2 of the rules – “When Boats Meet.” This winter, I plan to explore the rules of Part 3 – “Conduct of a Race.” They may appear to only matter to the Race Committee, but they have significant importance to the racing sailor too.
– Steve Harris, US Sailing National Race Officer
Rule 30 - Starting Penalties
30.2 - Z Flag Rule
“If flag Z has been displayed, no part of a boat’s hull shall be in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark during the last minute before her starting signal. If a boat breaks this rule and is identified, she shall receive, without a hearing, a 20% Scoring Penalty calculated as stated in rule 44.3(c). She shall be penalized even if the race is restarted or re-sailed, but not if it is postponed or abandoned before the starting signal. If she is similarly identified during a subsequent attempt to start the same race, she shall receive an additional 20% Scoring Penalty. “
– Overheard on a Race Committee Boat several years back.
Remember: Just as with the previous rules we’ve discussed, this rule changed slightly in 2021. It used to refer to any part of the boat’s hull, crew, or equipment. In order to clarify both the start and the finish, these definitions were changed to just the hull as it is easier to define and less potentially subjective.
Just as with Rule 30.1, Rule 30.2 applies to the last minute of the starting sequence. It’s primary function is also to help the RC to control aggressive starts.
So... What's Different?
Let's Break it Down...
“…no part of a boat’s hull shall be in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark during the last minute before her starting signal…”
This is different and certainly requires more attentiveness (and personnel) on the part of the race committee. Now, instead of only being concerned with the starting line (or the line and it’s extensions), the “No-Go” area encompasses a large area of the course. Ideally, the RC has people on the RC signal boat looking both at the pin end of the line and upcourse at the windward mark, others on the pin end of the line watching the RC end of the line and upcourse at the the windward mark, and still more at the windward mark sighting down to both ends of the starting line. It can get quite cumbersome. For these reasons, typically – certainly for club-level racing – the RC would go to Rule 30.1 first and if that doesn’t work, maybe escalate to Rule 30.2 (or a combination of the two).
But… remember it is the competitors’ responsibility to start properly! This “No-Go” area is even more difficult (if not impossible) to properly sight on a moving boat – especially during the hectic last minute of the starting sequence.
“…If a boat breaks this rule and is identified, she shall receive, without a hearing, a 20% Scoring Penalty calculated as stated in rule 44.3(c)… “
Another major difference is that if you are guilty of breaking this rule, you cannot avoid the penalty. (although you are still required to start properly even if you violated the rule). “Shall” is prescriptive. Even if the RC wanted to “let it go,” the rules require them to apply the penalty. (See WS Case #111)
“… as stated in rule 44.3(c)… “
Calculating the penalty can get tricky. The important thing to know about it as a racer is to know where to look to see how it was calculated – mistakes sometimes happen.
“… She shall be penalized even if the race is restarted or re-sailed, but not if it is postponed or abandoned before the starting signal… “
Again, the rules remind us that a boat breaking this rule shall be penalized. It also tells us that the penalty “sticks” – “…even if the race is restarted or resailed…”
In other words, a boat breaks this rule and…
- There is a general recall and the race is restarted. She still retains the 20% penalty “earned” in the first start attempt on her score for that race.
- The race is abandoned – for any reason – and the race is resailed. She still retains the 20% penalty “earned.”
“… If she is similarly identified during a subsequent attempt to start the same race, she shall receive an additional 20% Scoring Penalty. “
WOW! The rules are serious about this penalty!
Imagine the following situation…
During the starting sequence, Boat A is identified as being “in the triangle” in the last minute of the sequence. Following the start, the RC cannot identify all boats that were OCS and signals a general recall. Boat A carries a 20% penalty into the “restart”
The race is restarted and, once again, Boat A is identified as being “in the triangle” in the last minute of the sequence, earning another 20% penalty Following the start, the RC cannot identify all boats that were OCS and signals a general recall. Boat A carries a 40% penalty into the “restart”
And then things get strange...
Very often, race committees will use both 30.1 and 30.2 together!
But, WHY? As mentioned previously, race committees will often start with the I-Flag rule (30.1) when going to a penalty start. If they determine that 30.1 alone isn’t working, they’ll “add” the additional restrictions of 30.2.
What's my responsibility as a competitor?
Simply put, you have to comply with both rules. More specifically, under Z-flag alone, you could still “dip” the line if you were in “the triangle” in that last minute. Certainly, if you were in the triangle with 60, or maybe even 45 seconds to go, this may be a safe, even preferred option – you’d still have that 20% penalty, but you could do it.
But… for the race committee – trying to properly manage the start and also be concerned about safety – keeping the I-Flag rule in place is typically preferred. They don’t want to set up a situation that is sure to result in additional rules breaches and may also be unsafe (fair racing is a primary concern of the race committee, but safety is also their responsibility and should always take precedence!)
So, what about the Individual Recall?
Remember, Rule 29.1 only applies when “… at a boat’s starting signal any part of her hull is on the course side of the starting line or she must comply with rule 30.1…” Therefore, it is entirely possible that a boat could have been in the triangle in the final minute before the start, but not on the course side of the starting line (or one of its extensions if I & Z are both used) at the start. She will get the 20% penalty, even if she otherwise starts properly. Again, like with the I-Flag Rule, the Z-Flag helps to prevent “dip starting” as you can’t be in the triangle in the final minute to do that without incurring a scoring penalty. It also prevents a number of other start line tactics that may be effective under P, but are definitely not worth the 20% penalty under Z.
Why is the rule so Harsh?
Well, actually when we look at Rules 30.3 and especially at 30.4, it really isn’t. Remember what I said in the post on Rule 29 – Recalls… Sailing is somewhat unique in that if you fail to start properly, you get to correct it and try again. In football, it’s a 5-yard penalty; in soccer, the other team gets a penalty kick – a “free” chance to score; at the highest levels in track, it’s an automatic disqualification.
The point of starting penalties in sailing is to encourage sailors to “do the right thing” and start properly. Remember, in most cases, we are a self-policing sport (no “referees”) and good sportsmanship should always govern our actions on the water. Starting properly isn’t an exception to that ideal.
But, Hey! At least you aren’t disqualified, right?