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Taking a penalty Rule E4.3

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An incident occurred recently in a RC race,at a distant gate, where confusion reigned and one boat,in a bunch, was accused of hindering another to such an extent that the wronged boat emerged from the gate area in last place whilst the supposed offender was third.The accuser insisted that not only should the offender complete a penalty turn but should drop back behind the impeded boat.

Rule E4.3 b states "if the boat gained a significant advantage in the heat or race by her breach despite taking a penalty,her penalty shall be an additional One-Turn Penalty."

I understand that it has become common practice for Race Officers to rule that an offending boat MUST drop behind the wronged one but I cannot find a Rule in the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020 book that defines this ruling.

If there is such a Ruling in print when does it state that the offender be allowed to overtake the offended? Supposing that the offender is a better skipper than the other and would have normally be ahead of the offended in any heat or race.

You have to stay behind for the remainder of the race?

Further,what time period is allowed to elapse between an offense and a protest call? Don't you have to protest immediately stating the number of the offended boat and the offender or are you allowed to think about it for a bit. Gamesmanship is definitely not allowed!

Help please.

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Hello Garry,

Thanks for your reply.

However,the Case B2 that you quote does not apply to the incident I have in mind as there was a protest from just one boat.Though other boats were in the melee none of them made a protest therefore the offender had to do a only a second penalty to satisfy Rule E4.3.The distance to the gate marks was so great that I doubt that any observer could have made a fair judgement.

If you consider an incident where a Port tack boat touches the stern of a crossing Starboard boat so that the S boat is pushed above close-hauled and is slowed so much that the P boat gains an advantage,Rule E4.3 states that he exonerates himself by doing second Penalty-Turn.

Again,I ask,what is the time interval allowed between the event and making a protest?

There ia an incident shown on a YouTube video taken at Fleetwood where a P tack boat crosses a S tack boat,which ducks to avoid collision and as no protest is immediately called the P boat completes the course and wins. At the protest hearing the decision was that too much time had elapsed before a protest was called and also that it was not properly called!


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IRSA Case B2 may apply to any incident as it is about when to stop taking penalty turns. The selected incident just provides an example where multiple boats are involved due to the infraction.

My article on The Penalty Turn Chapter 9 and see page 2 may help.


The key phrase in E34.3(b) is (b) if the boat gained a significant advantage in the heat or race by her breach despite

taking a penalty,

Note that it says 'despite taking A penalty' and NOT despite taking THE penalty. So you need to test for the advantage after taking A penalty, and if the advantage still exists, take another penalty and again test for the advantage. Repeat until the advantage no longer exists.

It only needs the protest from the infringed boat to start the penalty cycle, and not a protest from each of the boats in the incident.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Remember that Rule 44.1 is replaced in whole by:-

E4.3 Taking a Penalty

Therefore any case notes or interpretations applicable to Rule 44.1 are IRRELEVENT.

Penalty Turn

There is one important word within the Rule E4.3 that is overlooked is:-


The word is to a degree subjective but can in no way be construed as:-


.....her penalty shall be AN ADDITIONAL One-Turn Penalty

The operative words are :-

AN ADDITIONAL i.e a SINGLE penalty in addition to the prescribed penalty, some breaches of rule require/d two turns.

The RULE by no means states or implies that the boat continues to do Penalty Turns until behind the boat/s fouled in the incident. Or that the turns SHALL be CONSECUTIVE.

If the Rule Writers, WSF, intended it to mean this they wold have written it and conversely if the Rule Writers, WSF, believed the rule to be deficient they surely would have amended it in subsequent revisions. Given it has remained unchanged one must apply the Rule in its entirety and not be selective as to which words to apply or ignore.

Race Officers

Race Officers or Observers MAY not make any rulings either during or after a Heat. Competitor MAY accept advice from a Race Officer as to who has breached a rule and what an appropriate penalty might be. It depends upon the nature of the Event. They may give evidence at a Protest Hearing.

Clearly if they are Judges they MAY give immediate Judgment with respect to an incident.

Race Officers and/or Observers making ruling CAN in themselves be Protested:-

a) Selective Hailing i.e. seeing only the incident they want to see and ignoring the incident preceding it.

b) Non-compliance with Part 3,4 etc

and so on


Rule (Appendix) E6.5 limits the time between the FINISH of the heat and the lodging of the Formal Protest.

E6.5 Time Limits

A protest, request for redress or request for reopening shall be DELIVERED to the race officer no later than ten minutes after the last

boat in the heat finishes or after the relevant incident, whichever is later.

The last bit

or after the relevant incident, whichever is later.

Really adds nothing but it is there !

Simply Hailing PROTEST in no way constitutes DELIVERING a formal Notification of Protest or a Request to Convene a Protest Hearing.

If it did we would never get any sailing done would we?

The HAIL constitutes the skippers intention to lodge a Formal Protest unless the other boat takes a voluntary Penalty and is NOT mandatory as it is NOR mandatory to Hail Starboard at an approaching Port tack boat. It is advisable

Port / Starboard Ducking

That a Starboard Tack Boat ducks i.e. changes course to avoid a collision is very difficult to take to Protest. In radio sailing it is a judgment call of the Skipper.

Clearly if he turns 30 degrees to Port at a closing distance of 1 metre and this is witnessed by the Bishop of Canterbury who was competing in that Heat then it will fly.

But 2 degrees to Port at a closing distance of 3 metres might be questionable!

Review E6.8.

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Unfortunately, the rule makers have interpreted that the penalty turns should continue until the significant advantage has been removed. The rule whilst clear in its wording is being interpreted differently; you can understand why, as a boat could quite easily come into a mark, cause carnage and then do two turns and be exonerated whilst the boats behind are still sorting themselves out. I understand that the rule was brought in to attempt to stop skippers diving in at marks, or barging in on port. Whether it actually makes any difference now is debatable, but at International events, it is used and gives skippers and race teams a mechanism to punish a boat that creates mayhem without the need for a lengthy protest. However, what constitutes significant advantage is very subjective and variable in its interpretation and at club level probably causes much debate.

I often hear, "do another turn, you are ahead of me" but this may not be a significant advantage.

With reference to the original post:

1. once the initial incident is resolved and the boat has completed its turns they are free to race - so no need to stay behind anyone.

2. the time to protest o the water would I suggest need to be reasonable, so if a stbd boat ducks a port boat to avoid a contact then this would be pretty much instantly, but if there was a contact going around a mark where boats were at a distance and difficult to identify clearly then a short pause is acceptable. Obviously, the on water protest has to be clear and correct and can then be followed up by a written protest after the race.

3. the first thing a protest committee will check is if a protest is valid and if a boat has not hailed the protest on the water they are not going to get very far

3. if there is a contact and you are not sure who is in the wrong, or it could be debatable then the conservative approach is to do a penalty turn yourself whilst also protesting any other parties.



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The use of the term 'significant' in E4.3(b) has bothered me since that rule appeared, and I have written pages of notes debating what constitutes 'significant'. In common usage it would suggest a number bigger than one - else why is it there at all.

I have had discussions with a number of National and International Judges and their opinion is consistent and matches the description in IRSA Case Book P4. Essentially if after doing the penalty, you are in front of the boat infringed, take another penalty and test again for advantage. They use this standard in Umpired races (see Addendum Q for RC), and in team racing.

One Judge wrote ' After the foul, if you are in front, you have an advantage. If you are in front after taking the penalty, the advantage is significant'.

I think it would help if the Appendix E review committee (which is now in session), considered removing the word 'significant; from E4.3(b). Or possibly do a complete rewording so say something in simple plain English like - If after the incident, you are in front of the boat(s) that were affected by your breach of a Rule of Part 2 or R 31, then take one or more penalties until you are behind the boat(s) so affected.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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The simple approach in Specification and Rule writing is to be clear and concise in the first place . Half the words in that Rule are meaningless and add nothing e.g. in an incident while racing.

The word Advantage is in itself subjective :-

1/ You finished ahead of me

2/ You got to the next mark before me

3/ You got me Port / Starboard on the next tack

being Significant Advantage in terms of the outcome of a Heat

The Rule need only to state:-

When a boat breaches a Rule of Part 2 her penalty SHALL be to sail to a point Line Astern of ALL the boat/s she infringed upon in the incident and continue to Race from that point on.

The Penalty Turn should be reserved for Rule 31

And everybody is happy Yes ? because this is what we actually wanted, the bugger behind you.

It is worthwhile reviewing :-


(b) require her to take one or more One-Turn Penalties that shall be taken as soon as possible after the starting signal of her next heat that is started and not subsequently recalled or abandoned.

Realistically the transgressor should not be disqualified for the original breach since she has taken two penalties in terms of E4.3. i.e. the maximum prescribed.

E7 empowers a Protest Committee to be the arbiters of what constituted a SIGNIFICANT Advantage and in terms of Section b MAY prescribe a set number of penalty turns in the following Heat

This is the correct usage of the Rules E4.2

Somehow we have lost the intent and sight of rule E4.2 by ill-considered published articles and the spreading of miss-information by people who really should know better and should read ALL the words and All the Rules because in truth as a SET of rules they work.

Remember where we came from in terms of Penalties and Protests.

There was no such thing as a penalty – you were required to retire from the heat and take a DNF or be possibly disqualified DNF+1 by a properly formulated Protest Committee. The good old days of Mast Abeam. But this was abused to the degree that some competitors deliberately tagged a boat.

Just Take a Penalty !

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the wrong boat take a penalty for a quiet life or because he was bullied into doing so whilst the actual transgressor disappears into the distance smug in the belief that he is correct.

It is the Duty of the Observer to note the incident and what he saw of it even if the Incident was resolved E5.1

It is the duty of the Race Officer to address incident where the incorrect boat took the penalty and penalise the actual transgressor.

Why not too long ago a boat who was never in a million years going to fetch the Weather Mark simply went Head to Wind moving forward on its own momentum, Jib flapping and called for Water !

In the process luffing the outside boat that was fetching the Mark out of the way. (I wonder who that was )

His response .. I am allowed to shoot through

So if you think you are correct , you probably are. Let it go to protest and hope this ends the bulling

And ..Terry .... You did not go around that mark, I was watching. It was Bob who went to the Race Officer.


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  • 2 months later...

1. I believe the intention of the original proposers of this rule was that only one extra turn would be required. Unfortunately judges only take account of the words of a rule not the intention. The rule is clear,if after taking A penalty a boat has gained a significant advantage her penalty shall be an additional One Turn Penalty. Having taken an additional turn the same test applies and additional turns may be required.

2. The rule does not refer to any disadvantage suffered by the infringed boat. The rule refers to gaining an advantage in the heat or race. It has been argued that a boat that was 6th in a race before infringing the rule and is 8th after taking a penalty has gained no advantage IN THE HEAT even if they are still in front of the infringed boat

3 The advantage must be due to the infringing boat's breach of the rule. Not subsequent poor boat handling by the infringed boat, or her inability to get out of irons because she decided to sail with a rig that is too big for the wind.

4 What constitutes an advantage? There are many possible answers.

To sum up - this rule is a good idea, but requires re-wording and/interpretation. I am not convinced that proposed changes currently in the pipeline will solve these issues.


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  • 1 year later...
  • Administrator
On 11/12/2019 at 20:39, Donald Cave said:

Don't worry, Terry, I have yet to learn or be told how to include pictures.

Just below where you type a post you can see "Drag files here to attach, or choose files..."

So just drag you image over that message and drop it or click "choose files", or to the right click "insert other media"

add images.jpg

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  • 1 year later...

An update to this discussion might be appropriate as both the rule and the call have changed.


The relevant part of the rule reads:

E4.3(b) if the boat gained an advantage in the heat or the race by her breach despite taking a penalty, her penalty shall be additional One-Turn Penalties until her advantage is lost.

One point that is often lost in discussion on this rule - in the main body of the rules RRS 44.1(b) states :

if the boat (...) despite taking a penalty, gained a significant advantage in the race or series by her breach her penalty shall be to retire.

The Appendix E is intended to allow boats to continue racing!


Answer 2 of Call P4 addresses the issue of what constitutes an advantage:

A boat still has an advantage in the heat or race when, having taken one or more one-turn penalties, she has gained by her breach a place or places in that heat or race, or has not lost a place or places that she would have done if she had not broken a rule .  See rule E4.3(b). 

Advantage should be measured from a time and position immediately before the boat broke the rule for which she is taking the penalty, until the completion of her last one-turn penalty.  If the boat's position in the heat or race after taking one or more penalty turns is better than it would have been if she had not broken a rule, she has not completed her penalty and needs to make one or more further turns.

If she fails to do so until she no longer has an advantage, she may be further penalized for her breach either following a hearing or, in umpired racing, by the umpire.

Any advantage gained is to be measured relative to the whole fleet. A boat may, after taking one or more one-turn penalties, be in a better position than the boat she infringed, but in a worse position than if she had not broken a rule. In this case she has completed her penalty.

As a result the current situation is that :

- the advantage has to be gained by a breach of the rules;

- if, despite taking a penalty, a boat has gained a place or places, or has not lost a place or places that she would have done if she had not broken a rule then she should take additional penalty turns; 

- advantage is to be evaluated relative to the whole fleet not to the boat she infringed.

It would be interesting to receive feedback on how this rule and interpretation works on the water.

Gordon Davies


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