Wednesday, March 2, 2011

America's Cup Racing Rules Released (Updated)

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America’s Cup Race Management has released the first draft of the Racing Rules of Sailing for the America’s Cup (RRSAC). I’ve just taken a quick look through and jotted down some notes, which are by no means comprehensive. 

My first impression is that this document represents a significant change to the ISAF racing rules. These are major changes not minor tweaks.

Many of the changes, of course, are geared to racing in high performance catamarans. I wonder whether other high-performance classes will seek permission to use these rules as well. I’m also not certain that it is good for the sport to have a parallel set of rules develop, but only time will tell whether that is a real problem or an illusory one. That said, I think nearly all of the changes are very well thought out and positive improvements to the RRS.

I’m curious that the term “yacht” is used throughout rather than “boat.” At the ISAF level, there has been a clear push over the years to use the latter term. Was this a conscious change, or just the stylistic preference of the drafters of the RRSAC?

Below are my very rough notes after a quick read through. Please share any omissions or errors you notice. I’ve ignored some small changes and focused on the ones I think are most interesting.

  • Bowsprit / Bowsprit Overlap: different from the typical definition of overlap. The distinction is used in rules 10, 11, 12, among others.
  • Clear Astern and Clear Ahead; Overlap: modification to deal with the situation where a boat’s bow is between the other boat’s hulls.
  • Continuing Obstruction: more specific than the RRS definition
  • Mark-room: much shorter definition than the RRS; also provides more protection and freedom to a boat entitled to mark-room, allowing her to sail her proper course to the mark, rather than merely sail to the mark as in the RRS.
  • Penalty line: this is new; more on this later.
  • Proper Course: the RRS uses the phrase “a course…”. Here, we have “a reasonable course…” I think the intent of this is to give more flexibility to boats where apparent wind sailing yields a broader range of high-VMG angles.
  • Terminate: a new definition; compare “abandon”
  • Zone: increased to 6 hull lengths for all marks except mark 1, where it is 3 lengths. Also the zone at an obstruction is 3 lengths (under the 2009 RRS, there is no zone at obstructions)

  • The Match Race Callbook and ISAF Casebok are no longer binding authority. Only calls approved by the ACRM apply, of which there are none to date.
  • Basic Principle: There is no “basic principle” stating that boats are required to take a penalty when they break a rule; instead, all decisions are made by the umpires. This applies in both fleet and match racing.

Racing Rules:
  • Rule 6: A new rule incorporating the umpiring principle of “last point of certainty” into the rules. This replaces some other rules, such as 18.2(d).
  • Rule 11, 12: Note that these rules apply only to an overlap and not to a bowsprit overlap.
  • Deletion of Rule 13: I really like this change. I think that the combination of rules 10, 11, 12 on one hand and 15 and 16.1 on the other carries the load. A very good simplification.
  • Rule 14: Slight editing here (evidenced by the fact the rule ends in a comma…)
  • Rule 16.2: Typically deleted in match racing; here, it is replaced with the content of Call UMP 20.
  • Rule 17: No rule 17. This is a major change; no “proper course” restriction. I think this is a great change for fast boats that sail a broad range of angles up and downwind.
  • Rule 18: Some changes here. Frankly, I’m surprised not to see a more extensive re-write of rule 18 (or its deletion outright!).
  • Rule 18.1: Rule 18 will apply in more circumstances than under the RRS. For example, when boats are approaching a windward mark on opposite tacks, rule 18 applies under the RRSAC.
  • Rule 18.2(b): tweaked slightly to reflect that the boats are almost never in the zone without rule 18 applying.
  • Deletion of Rule 18.2(d): Presumably not needed in the face of new rule 6?
  • Rule 18.2(e): slightly broader than the RRC fleet racing version of this rule.
  • Deletion of Rule 18.3: I think this is a good thing. The rest of the rules carry the load. Also, 18.3 might be incompatible with the new RRSAC version of 18.1.
  • Rule 18.4: Unlike the RRS, applies to tacking as well as gybing.
  • Rule 18.5: Elimination of the mess that is RRS 18.5(a) and (b); since mark-room is much simpler under the RRSAC, 18.5 can be too.
  • Rule 19.1: Adds the “zone” back into the rule as in the pre-2009 RRS.
  • Rule 19.3: Adds an exoneration provision to rule 19, which isn’t present in the RRS
  • Rule 20.1: Hails made via “RO Comms” rather than hail/hand signals… presumably essential given the size and speed of the boats in question. Also includes room to gybe; apparently this additional protection operates in conjunction with rule 19, which under the RRS includes room to gybe (although perhaps relevant since rule 19 is limited to the zone under the RRSAC?).
  • Rule 20.1(a): Deletes the “you tack” hail. I’m not sure I fully understand the difference between the two responses; presumably “giving” will be interpreted to include non-action when no action is necessary to give room.
  • Rule 20.3: What does it mean to be “fetching” a mark that you gybe at? This is a small bug in the rule; perhaps they need to tweak the definition of fetching.
  • Deletion of Rule 21: Some big things here; in the RRS, rule 20 requires that a boat returning to start properly keep clear of one that has started, one that is taking a penalty to keep clear of one that is not, and one moving astern to keep clear of one that is not. Perhaps the deletion of the last part is designed to protect boats moving backwards when the flow reverses on its wing, which the capsize of the AC45 a couple weeks ago demonstrates is a real threat…
  • Rule 23.2: No longer prevents a boat from interfering with a boat on another leg of the course. International change? Would be interested in the rationale for this.
  • Rule 27.4(a): Changes the entry procedures for match racing. Allows the port tack boat to enter first. I think this is this another attempt to prevent dialups, similar to the intentional-skew in the line during the AC33?
  • Rule 29: Requires the RC to identify which boats are OCS via RC Comms, and also to notify the boat when she has returned fully to the pre-start side.
  • Deletion of Rule 31: This rule prohibits hitting marks. Apparently, there is no longer a rule against doing so. Interesting especially since marks include start boats! [Edit: thanks Presuming Ed]
  • Rule 32.2: Scoring for boats in races which are “terminated.” Boats that have not finished either get no points (match racing) or are scored DNF (fleet racing).
  • Rule 41: A bit more liberal about use of safety boats to assist in the event of an emergency.
  • Rule 42: Far simpler. The “basic rule” of RRS 42.1 is retained, but none of the specific prohibitions (42.2) or exceptions (42.3).
  • Rule 44: Penalties are one of the biggest changes. The one/two-turns penalty is deleted. So to is the option to take a voluntary penalty, even in fleet racing.
  • Rule 44.2: Boats that are penalized before the start cannot take their penalties until after starting, in both fleet and match racing. After the start, a boat must take her penalty “immediately”. This is different from the “as soon after the incident as possible” requirement in the RRS. Of course, boats no longer need to sail well clear, they just need to slow down (see below) to take a penalty.
  • Rule 44.2(a): The basic idea of the penalty system is that your penalty is to slow down so your position is behind a “penalty line” four hull lengths behind the position of the other boat in the incident that was not penalized. (Where the boats are not either on the same leg of the course or within the zone of a mark, the penalty is only 2 hull lengths. A pre-start penalty requires you to be two hull lengths behind the starting line.) There is a scheme in 42.2(b) such that once applied, the penalty line moves up course at half the “universal VMG / VNC speed based on the wind speed and course to the next mark.” It doesn’t appear this applies to 42.2(a) penalties, so I could imagine some gamesmanship where the leading boat stops forcing the penalized boat to sail backwards to the penalty line. All of this is quite dependent on technology; the AC is not that far away, so I suspect there is a lot of work to be done on this front to be ready.
  • 44.3: I think this rule needs clarification. If a boat breaks multiple rules (e.g., rule 10 and 14) in a single incident, does she have to take two cumulative penalties? Or does the rule mean that is the case only if you break rules in separate incidents?
  • 44.6: Unlike the case in match racing currently, a boat must take its penalty right away rather than waiting to try to draw an offsetting penalty. This is a huge game change.
  • 47.3: A technical rule to prevent (I think…) a reverse-cambered windward daggerboard being used to generate righting moment by pulling down on the windward hull. However, the exceptions (e.g., when a boat is “sailing at less than 90% of its performance relative to other yacht(s)”) seem very hard to enforce. I suspect that, if not modified, this rule would only be enforced in egregious cases.
  • 49: New rule on hiking.
  • Deletion of rules 51 (movable ballast), 52 (manual power), and 53 (skin friction): However, there are restrictions on these things in the AC 45 and AC 72 class rules.
  • Rule 62.1: Some small changes to the grounds for redress. Eliminates redress based on Protest Committee actions. Limits 62.1(b) redress to actions of a boat that breaks rule 14.
  • 64.1: Allows the jury to disqualify a boat that broke a rule when that breach had a “significant effect on the outcome of a race.”  This seems like an extremely broad clause. Not sure why the rule moved away from the “gained significant advantage” standard in the RRS.
That's it for now. I'm going to try to do some more substantive posts about the individual changes later once I've had a chance to game them out a bit. In the meantime, what are your thoughts?


  1. No 31. Touching a mark permitted?

  2. Another thing I thought was curious is that there isn't a procedure in the rules for what happens when or if the electronic umpiring system goes down during a race. Would a race simply be abandoned if this happened?

  3. Do you want to "touch" something at 35kts?

  4. Wondering if these changes are going to have an impact on viewership. Now even the guys that know the rules......wont know the rules ;-)

    On second thought if it was like the last cup, it wont matter (except at the start) because there was never an opportunity for a foul!