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Old 13-05-2024, 05:41   #1
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Why does the windward boat give way?

If two sailing boats on the same tack are at risk of collision, the rules state that the windward boat should give way.

This makes no sense to me. It means the windward boat must point even higher, which may be impossible if it is already pointing as high as it can. It would be much easier for the leeward boat to fall off the wind.

Most rules have a logic I can understand, but this one has me beat.
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Old 13-05-2024, 05:48   #2
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

Well the windward boat always will have clean air and thus should be more manoeuvrable. Plenty of options remain even if the windward boat is hard on the wind. E.G. slow down by luffing; tack; fall off and take the stern.
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Old 13-05-2024, 05:49   #3
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

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Originally Posted by GILow View Post
If two sailing boats on the same tack are at risk of collision, the rules state that the windward boat should give way.

This makes no sense to me. It means the windward boat must point even higher, which may be impossible if it is already pointing as high as it can. It would be much easier for the leeward boat to fall off the wind.

Most rules have a logic I can understand, but this one has me beat.
If the boats are already pointing to their limit, the windward boat could always tack. I think the idea is that the windward boat has cleaner air to work in and less chance of becoming shadowed and losing speed or maneuverability. Of course that's only a concern if the boats are fairly close. The other thought is that in confined waters you don't want to force the leeward boat to turn towards a lee shore.
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Old 13-05-2024, 06:53   #4
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

You have to pick one or the other. And the leeward boat might well be closer to the rocks. The windward boat can tack while the leeward cant do that if the windward boat is in the way
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Old 13-05-2024, 08:03   #5
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

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the leeward boat might well be closer to the rocks. The windward boat can tack while the leeward cant do that if the windward boat is in the way

This.


When sailing along a hazard to lee or around a point to lee, the leeward boat cannot bear off safely, and so is the stand-on vessel. If the windward boat is unable to sail to weather as well as the leeward boat, they can tack.



When the hazard is to weather the situation is less fraught. If boat to weather ends up "pinned" between the hazard and a boat to lee they can bear off and pass by the stern of the leeward boat. If on a run they can either gybe or luff up to make room.
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Old 13-05-2024, 08:04   #6
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

The rules are old. Think about old time vessels, square riggers for example. Not necessarily hard on the wind. The leeward boat may have almost no way on, and very little ability to adjust. Pretty much all they might be able to do is fall off, or stop. The vessel to windward has an extra store of windward potential energy that gives them more maneuvering options.
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Old 13-05-2024, 08:09   #7
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

Sitting at the tiller the leeward skipper doesn't see the the windward boat because it is in his back.
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Old 13-05-2024, 08:39   #8
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

I was in a race where I was the middle boat of three boats all on a starboard tack crossing the starting line. The boat leeward to me pinched and forced me to head up to avoid a collision. Unfortunately that forced me towards the windward boat. The windward boat then threw a red flag because they were the stand on vessel and I was not yielding. I guess I should have had a red flag to throw.
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Old 13-05-2024, 10:16   #9
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

Makes perfect sense from a racing perspective. The windward boat can influence and disrupt the leeward boat's wind. The leeward boat is disadvantaged and therefore has the right-of-way.
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Old 13-05-2024, 13:48   #10
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

Saying the same idea in different words, if you're in a mast-abeam situation, the leeward boat is in the dirty air. The windward boat has more options.
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Old 13-05-2024, 15:20   #11
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

The windward boat to you should have luffed up to avoid you. I assume if you went to the protest room, you would have prevailed.
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Old 13-05-2024, 15:41   #12
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

Ok, so my lack of racing experience is revealed by my question. I would NEVER get so close to another sailing boat that I’d have to consider clean and dirty air.

I was looking at this purely from a rational perspective of a couple of hundred meters between boats, if not, half a nautical mile or more.

I don’t race. Full stop. Too much risk of spilling the G&T.

Protest room? Seriously. People have time for that kinda rubbish?

Thanks all for the answers.

It came up last night as the Admiral is preparing for her license. Normally I can offer an explanation for why some rule is the way it is, but that one had me stumped.
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Old 13-05-2024, 16:53   #13
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

Off Trail (post #6) has it nearly right :-)

The rule goes back to square-rigger days, and it reflects the fear of stranding when "embayed". "Being embayed" means being within a bay in such a position that you cannot clear either headland by cleaving to your highest point of sail on either tack, i.e. you have no option but to "beat" out of the bay into open water.

You will all know that "beating to weather", i.e. frequently changing tack by "coming through stays" in a square-rigger is a difficult and potentially dangerous business, and because changing tack by "wearing ship" (your only other option for changing tack) requires a lot of sea room to leeward. When embayed you don't have that!

To minimize the very real danger faced by the leeward ship, which was closer to stranding than the weather ship, the rule very sensibly requires the weather ship to keep out of the way of the leeward ship so as to give her room to "come through stays", i.e. to bring her head through the eye of the wind. Americans call that maneuver "tacking".

"Coming through stays" was particularly difficult in a high wind. Being "taken aback" when attempting to do so could result in your being dismasted, and even if that didn't happen, you could "miss stays" so your head fell back onto the same tack you were on.

If you missed stays, you'd likely go dead in the water and have to fall off to gather way and start the procedure for going through stays all over again. This would require even more sea room than that required for wearing ship. "Missing stays" twice in a row might very well doom you!

Some ships would become intractable if they missed stays. They would not readily fall off on either tack while dead in the water. That is what is called "going in irons" or "being in irons". The ship would eventually make sternway, and deft work on the rudder and on the braces would then cause her to fall off onto one tack or the other. Good skippers in good ships could deliberate bring the ship "in irons" and then force her to fall off on the desired tack without losing significant ground to leeward.

So, to be blunt: "Weather ship; Keep the Hell outta the way!"

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Old 15-05-2024, 19:05   #14
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

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Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
Saying the same idea in different words, if you're in a mast-abeam situation, the leeward boat is in the dirty air. The windward boat has more options.
Mast-abeam was deleted from the rules a good while ago.
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Old 15-05-2024, 21:28   #15
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Re: Why does the windward boat give way?

I've also scratched my head about this and it does really only make much sense in a racing context. I have used this to my advantage (and disadvantage) while racing. Outside of that setting, it is almost a moot point because if you come across another boat under sail, it would not be wise to assume they (a) know which boat is windward, (b) know the rules, and (c) care.

In my experience, even sailors tend to be sketchy on this rule. So, I never assume the other boat knows/cares. Same with the starboard tack rule. If I have the right of way, I will stand on only if the other vessel changes course EARLY, signalling they know what to do.
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