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A beautiful day yesterday and we , that is the wife and I, went down to the pond to watch the IOM boats sail. They are always exciting. Thanks to you fellows we are getting a good idea of what is taking place.

But A new one …

Hold your Course

Two boats were converging on a beat, One Starboard-Tack and the other Port-Tack.

When the two were about 2 boat lengths apart the Port-tack Boat called ‘ Hold your Course ‘ . Clearly the Port-tack Boat was intent upon passing across the Bow of the Starboard-Tack Boat and took NO avoiding action.

So we read the rule which we believed applicable Rule 16

Rule 16.2

……., when after the starting signal a port-tack boat is keeping clear by sailing to PASS ASTERN of a starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not change course if as a result the port-tack boat would immediately need to change course to continue keeping clear

So this is clear to us that the Starboard Tack boat has no obligation to the Port Tack Boat in terms of Rule 16.2

Rule 16.1

When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

The wind freshened a little speeding-up the boats and Lifted the Starboard Tack Boat a few degrees ( maybe 3 ..5) and conversely heading the Port Tack Boat. This took place with at least 1 boat length between them but the Port Tack boat still took NO AVOIDING action. CONTACT

So we are confused

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I talk about this R 16.1 situation in Chapter 1 The definitions - Racing 101. and see Page 10.


and the direct link is


Think of it this way - if Port was passing clear ahead, and at the last moment, stbd altered course (for any reason, such as a lift) such that Port cannot now get out of the way, then stbd breaks R 16.1.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Is "course" a compass bearing?

Our boats are both designed and trimmed to take into account small differences in wind shifts, which can mean that a "course" up a lake is a constant arc where the wind bends around the surroundings and shifts can lift the boat before the skipper can respond.

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Again John, thank you,

Sadly there is always a but and this is the purpose of debate.

After most careful reading, there is no actual definition of Course.

As Darin points out, a Yacht on a beat is sailing on the wind i.e. Close-Hauled it's course is set by the wind not by compass bearing. One could reasonably state that by sailing on the wind Close-Hauled the boat is Sailing a Proper Course as defined.

One sincerely believes that altering course would be to alter course/ heading dramatically i.e. to Lull up hard to the point where the Headsail flapped, Tacked or Bore-Away. Not to Head-up by a few points to Starboard, sails Fully Drawing.

As Dave Alston has wrote on another Rule, the whole sentence must applied not selected bits of it. So what does rule 16.1 state:-

Rule 16.1

When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

Nowhere does it state that the Right-of-Way boat shall Hold-Course does it ?

So all that one has is the definition of Room and Keep Clear to work with.

Keep Clear

A boat keeps clear of a right-of-way boat

(a) if the right-of-way boat can sail her course with no need to take avoiding action AND,

(b) when the boats are overlapped, if the right-of-way boat can also change course in both directions without immediately making contact.

Part (b) ,the boats were never overlapped. So (b) is irrelevant


The space a boat needs in the existing conditions, including space to comply with her obligations under the rules of Part 2 and rule 31, while manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way.

And most certainly an approaching Port–tack boat has and in this case had room both to port and to starboard and also the option to slow down two to three boat length before in a moderate breeze. He simply did not have the willingness to do either but chose to Hail. If he had born-away to Keep Clear then the Starboard-Tack Boat would have been obliged not to alter course.


Would you like to have another stab at this. One has little wonder that there is so much needless aggression, not that we don't enjoy watching it and then taking it apart afterwards ;)

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Hi Erick,

if you read the Terminology Topic in the Introduction to the RRS, pg 9, you will find the distinction between defined terms and general usage and below the grid, it says -

Other words and terms are used in the sense ordinarily understood in nautical or general use.

So the when R 16.1 says ' a ROW boat changes course' you may use a common nautical understanding of that expression - and that would be 'deviates from its current heading' or any other similar expression.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Again thank you .

However you are avoiding the central issue.

Let us go through it step by step for my benefit.

Is Rule 16.2 relevant... the boats are orthogonal, at 90 degrees to each other - NOT overlapped

So the answered must be NO

Rule 16.1 has relevance

And the question must be; did the port-tack boat have room to tack, pass astern or slow down in order to take avoiding action

- Yes

Once the two have fully converged there is NO room left for either


By heading up a few point did the Starboard-Tack boat impeded the Port-Tack boat's ability to duck the starboard -tack boat

One could hold that by going up slightly the passage way astern was opened wider

The incident started long before the boats collided in that the port-tack boat was on port approaching a Starboard-Tack long before and could have taken avoiding action long before thy finally converged.

However if the Port-tack boat had or was taking avoiding action , not simply ignoring the situation as it manifested, and the Starboard-Tack boat changed heading then there MAY be some validity to your hypothesis.

( it would be useful if you numbered your chapters / figures )

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All very interesting bandying about rule definitions etc but I think most of us know exactly what it means.

If a row boat deviates from its straight course she must give non row boats room to keep clear.

If a boat is allowed to lift on a windshift which prevents the other boat from keeping clear it makes the rule nonsense.

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Barry a good commonsene interpretation, we can bandy rules and definitions about quite liberally but if a yacht changes course she also momentarily alters speed and if this combination makes a port tack yacht unable to keep clear when previously she could the the starboard tack yacht is wrong.

We could also apply this to other circumstances but common sense must prevail if you are really in doubt do a turn and also take it to a protest

Mike Ewart

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Thanks Barry and Mike.

From other questions that Erick has posted, I think he is struggling with the concept of keeping clear and room to keep clear, rather than the wording of the rules, and this may take more experience to develop.

Here is a diagram, and at P1 and P2, it looks to Red, on port, that she may cross safely. When Green on stbd alters course between P2 and P3, there is no way that Red may now avoid Green. At P1 and P2, Red is not required to anticipate that Green may alter course. Red sees that she is crossing safely.



John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Mike Barry John. Thank you

I am reminded of my student years and no doubt some of yours where horrible Greek and Latin terms were use, one being:-

post hoc ergo propter hoc, which means "after this, therefore because of this."

This refers to a fallacy in which the thinker confuses order with causality.

Simply stated, just because one incident precedes another it does not logically follow the one caused the other.


I am not struggling with the concept of Room or Keep Clear. I however am struggling with what might be described as a Fallacious Argument presented by John on the basis of a believe that :-

If a Starboard-Tack boat alters coarse he is obligated to Keep Clear. Rule 16.1 in no way states or implies this.

The sketch posted is grossly misleading. The point under discussion is :-

Port-Tack Boat is NOT taking any form of avoiding action but hails HOLD YOUR COURSE attempting to apply a ROCK PAPER SCISSORS approach.

Below are three REAL TIME SIMULATIONS. The boats start from the same point have the same constant speed. The circles are 2 boat lengths

Rule 10 obligates the Port-Tack boat to Keep Clear. This places the obligation firmly on the Port-Tack boat to be alert and to continuously evaluate the situation when attempting to cross the Ahead of the approaching boat.

The Starboard-Tack boat did not at any time restricted Port Tack boats ability to Keep Clear i.e. the

Port-tack boat has at all time room to alter Couse to avoid the collision but does not.

One concedes that if the Port-Tack boat altered coarse so as to pass Astern and the Starboard -tack boat Tacked , altered Coarse Bore-Away then Rule 16.1

However the ROCK PAPER SCISSORS approach i.e. R16.1 trumps Rule 10 and so one believes is a fallacy and dangerous

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I know that you know the answer to this DErick, but for those who aren't quite as knowledgeable, it is worth pointing out that the rules are written predominantly for full-size boats, where the implications of collisions can be significantly different.

The whole idea of "hold your course" - whichever rule you are applying- is that a 100ft long port tack boat may have made a decision of how it is going to pass another 100ft stbd boat based on the course of that stbd boat, this it can do only if it is sure that the other boat is not going to do anything "odd".

If the stbd boat changes course the port boat may not be able to avoid it. The obligation of the stbd boat is to at least give the port boat a "reasonable" chance of missing it.

Like the Jasper Carrot insurance sketch, "the man swerved several times before I eventually hit him" :)

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My comments on the diagram that I posted above are supported by the RYA Case 1975/5 which says in part

Before the starting signal, or if P and S are already on a

collision course, or if P is sailing to keep clear by

passing to windward of S, S may change course at any

time in response to a wind shift, unless she is so close to

P that S's change of course would not give P room to

keep clear. Room is defined as the space P needs in the

existing conditions while manoeuvring promptly in a

seamanlike way


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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Far too many years ago, when I first took to the water in an Enterprise crafted with my very hands in my Fathers Garage there were but the Racing Rules of Sailing. You read them whilst you were waiting for the glue to set, you read them in between coats of paint and varnish and you read them again in the week in anticipation of the race on Saturday.

You did NOT read them to find loopholes, new way to undermine them, you read them so you would understand your OBLIGATIONS to other boats competing.

In fact one of the first things the rules state is that you accept the rules as they are. One should also note that the rules concentrate of defining the OBLIGATIONS of a Skipper not the RIGHTS of the Skipper.

A few really famous skippers, Paul Bert Elvstrøm in particular comes to mind, wrote good books explaining some aspects of the rules and provided really good diagrams transforming the written word into a three dimensional world. Crucially these publications were CRITICALLY reviewed by other famous skippers and then may have been reviewed by a panel elected by the International Sailing Federation. The names of the reviewers were proudly printed on the inner jacket of the book, I hold one such book in my hands as we speak.

THEN and ONLY then did it see the light of day. Care was taken NOT to attempt to extend what are relatively simple rules. Care was taken NOT to undermine the Rules or to attempt to cloud simple rules in mystique or to, most importantly, NOT to seek new meaning to what is written in the Official Publication.

Sadly with the advent of internet publishing is so easy to place work into the public domain, and even more sadly the body of much of work published in this way is flawed and has NOT been critically reviewed.

Darin makes the wise observation that the Racing Rules of Sailing were written for real Yachts with real people on board, the lives of which together with the safety of both cargo and vessel are in the hands of the skipper. But FAILS to explain that the skipper of 100 foot boat would never cross the bow of an approaching Starboard-Tack boat without a lot of sea between them.

These Rules were born out of the days of Clippers where owners would place heavy wagers on their boat docking first together with the International Collision Regulations.

If you examine the Port Starboard Rule 10, Rule 15 and Rule 16 you will note the fundamental that a vessel passing from your right to your left has right of way.

The Racing Rule of Sailing have developed over the past 150 years and the rule writers have been at pains to amended a lot of the Rules in the interest of safety.

The Rules do NOT support a game of Rock Paper Scissors.

The other half of the story of ‘ Hold You Course ‘ !

We asked the fellow why he hailed and why he believed implicitly in his right to collide with a Starboard Tack boat…

His reply was ....

OH that happened to me yesterday so I thought I would try it on someone else, who did it to someone else and on and on and on.

Fallacious Reasoning promulgated most likely from dubious Internet publications that have NOT been Critically Reviewed.

Sorry John.. Rule 16.1 and 16.2 are not HAILS they are REASON TO PROTEST AFTER you have avoided a collision.

In the Example I posted the Port-tack Boat HAILED when they were CONVERGING with Room to take avoiding action .

Your carless and misleading sketch shows the boats on a point of DIVERGENCE. You then applied Fallacious Reasoning in stating that a Port-tack boat is not required to Keep Clear if a Starboard-Tack Boat does anything but sail in a straight line.

That is NOT what is written in Rule 16.1 post hoc ergo propter hoc

Yachts do NOT sailing in Straight Lines, some make leeway some go to weather depending on the angle of heal and wind strength.

Deliberately tagging the Stern Quarter of the Port Tack Boat, your first example, is correct in term of Rule 16.1 IF and only IF the Starboard-tack boat goes above Close Hauled whilst on a Beat to Windward

Make sure there is a good/ generous margin to pass the bow of an approaching right of way boat. In the Example sketch I posed there was never any margin, they were always going to collide or at least a High Probability that they would.

The hail of HOLD YOUR COURSE is used by a Right of Way vessel

Sorry for the long and rather laborious post, and well done if you got this far.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Does the same apply to this situation?

Two boats one line astern of the other by two boat lengths on port tack close hauled.

The boat ahead tacks away onto starboard but the following boat luffs up.

Had the following boat held it's course there would have been no problem.

Who is wrong here?

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If the lead boat was clear ahead, then she should be able to tack to stbd without breaking R 13 tacking.

While she is tacking, she is subject to R 13 and has to keep clear, and so the other boat briefly becomes ROW. So as you describe it, the following boat that altered course would break R 16.1 ROW alters course.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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  • 1 month later...

I have just read this thread.

RRS are far simpler than they were before 1997. There was a substantial re-write published then.

In comment I would remind readers that the rules of Part 2 are divided into 4 Sections. Section A Right of Way defines which boat must keep clear. Section B sets out General Limitations which limit what right of way boats can do.

In this case:

- Port has an obligation to keep clear of Starboard;

- every time Starboard changes course she must give Port room to keep clear. Please note that this does NOT mean that Starboard cannot change course

- as Port is hoping to cross ahead of Starboard rule 16.2 does not apply.

- both boats must avoid contact if reasonably possible.

This means that if Port hails 'Hold your course' this is essentially a meaningless hail. NO rule obliges Starboard to hold her course, however rule 16.1 tells us that she must give Port room to keep clear if she does change course. If Starboard does change course and Port either cannot avoid contact, or is obliged to make an un-seamanlike manoeuvre in order to avoid Starboard, then Starboard has broken rule 16.1 and rule 14. If Port could avoid Starboard but does not do so she breaks rule 10 and rule 14.

On the other hand if Starboard clearly indicates that she will let Port cross ahead (usually for tactical reasons) she must allow Port to cross. If subsequently Starboard changes course in such a way that Port cannot keep clear then the PC should consider if Starboard has broken rule 2 Fair Sailing.


PS RRS are not really suitable for 100 foot yachts. Which is why there is now an Appendix SY for super-yachts over 100 foot. Keeping clear means being over 40 metres away, mark-room is being 80 metres away and the zone (I believe) is 300 metres. Boats remain in constant radio contact. Mistakes can cost millions and lives!

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  • 1 month later...

Here’s an alternative viewpoint.

In the port starboard situation where port hails hold your course, if starboard immediately hails NO, that surely gives port theunderstanding that starboard might not hold his course and sufficient warning that they will need to do something in order to keep clear. Otherwise the hail of hold your course seems to burden starboard tack over port. It implies that starboard might have to bear away to give port the opportunity to keep clear - surely that is starboard giving way, not port. If it is that close then I suggest port has not made sufficient effort to keep clear.

Alternatively, what if starboard replies NO, YOU TACK. That also informs port of his intention to stand on and should help port with his dilemma.

The point is really that port is seeking to gain an advantage over starboard as any collision would require starboard to justify them self.

If it’s close, port should be certain to keep clear.

Perhaps the rule needs adjustment, requiring starboard to give sufficient room if the boats are not close hauled.

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The shout from a port tack boat to "hold your course" is being used more and more,usually to browbeat the right of way boat.

This along with the bickering at marks - always by the loudist voices- is certainly dampening my enthusiasm for the sport. although there are still some classes and events that are still sailed in a sporting manner.

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The rules are clear - a hail of 'Hold your Course' from a port tack boat has no meaning under the Racing Rules of Sailing. The port tack boat must keep clear (RRS 10) and the starboard tack boat IF she changes course must give a keep clear boat room to keep clear (RRS 16.1).

Repeated hails that are meaningless or misleading are a clear breach of recognised principles of sportsmanship and fair play and breaks rule 2, Fair Play. Protest!


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Another beautiful day two weeks ago and we , that is Doris and I, went to a different pond to watch the IOM boats sail in an open competition. These tend to be far more exciting and well worth the drive up the A##. Thanks to you fellows we now have a better idea of what is taking place.

And true to form the Hold you Course popped up from the same person we first encountered using this call some months ago but this time as a Post-incident CALL

1/ Boat A - Starboard -Tack running to the Mark about 20 metres away

2/ Boat B - Port-Tack beating away from the Mark.

3/ Boat B was on a collision course with Boat A ( or the converser )

4/ Boat A was sailing a reasonable course directly to the Mark

5/ Boat B, Port-Tack showed NOT inclination to avoid boat A, Starboard-Tack and

6/ When they had converged to about 2 metres between them Boat A swung to avoid what he clearly has determined to be an imminent collision.

7/ Boat B did not alter course at all during the whole sequence of events.

8/ Sadly and almost predictably they collided

the CALL from Boat B - Protest Boat A - You Altered Coarse.

Boat B even went as far as lodging a Protest convinced he was fully vindicated. We could not give evidence even though we were in the Control Area as we were not Racing.

I understand that in a magnanimous gesture Boat B withdrew his Protest - but was not penalised


We both thought - what a good tactic.

When in the wrong - Protest

Then in the spirit of Keeping thing going - Withdraw the Protest

The Race Officer is relieved had forgets that NO penalties were taken and the Incident goes Unresolved

Boat A was well put out of the Race and relegated to the next fleet.

Job done

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I noted a comment in this tread inferring that those sailing a 6 Metre were not prone to utilising such tactics and they were far more affable skippers.

Doris and I see the same faces appear at these Events sailing:-



6 Metre


And there is virtually no difference except for the speed and the ability to turn , tack and gybe.

Perhaps if the IOM Class was restricted to a 20mm wide rudder and half the sail area the approach might be similarly to a 6 metre


We are going to watch the 36" Nationals this coming Sunday. I understand the tea and cake is good there

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