Sometimes you’re the meat in the sandwich, with nowhere to go. That’s how John Stefancik, boat captain of Rosalita, described a pileup at one of the mark (buoy) roundings during the fifth race in the first Round Bay Sailing Association (RBSA) Series. Winds were light on Round Bay on May 20 and with 18 starters, the race committee set a short course. Despite or perhaps because of the light winds at one mark rounding, there was a bit of a kerfuffle.
Here’s how it set up. According to Gary (Patsy) Patenaude, skipper of Seamma, three boats were flying their spinnakers, approaching the downwind mark. All were in or near the “zone.” As they approached the mark to round it to port (keeping the buoy to the left), there were questions about who had rights to round the mark and not give room to the others. Stefancik recalled that the wind was low at 2 knots. Patrick Hylant, skipper of Pegasus, thought there was an overlap in the zone. Regardless of the racing rules, all three boats were near the mark, trying to round, in close proximity. There were questions of whether one of the boats made contact with another during the attempted rounding. Finally, only one boat, Seamma, rounded the mark successfully on the first pass. Rosalita and Pegasus had to make a second attempt and were successful then.
According to the “Racing Rules of Sailing 2021-2024” (“Racing Rules”), the “zone” is “the area around the mark, within a distance of three hull lengths of the boat nearer to it. A boat is in the zone when any part of her hull is in the zone.” The zone is important because it basically governs who has rights around the mark. Another governing rule that helps determine rights is “overlap,” whose definition is difficult because it is defined by what it is not. An overly simplified definition is - one boat (B) overlaps another (A) when B’s “hull and equipment in normal position” are not “behind the aftermost point of the other boat’s hull and equipment in normal position” (racing rules). The rules are dense, sometimes making real-time decisions on the water difficult!
As is usually the case, there were no protests lodged by any of the three skippers. Tom Lloyd, skipper of Rosalita, summed it up, saying there are not a lot of protests in the RBSA club. Hylant quoted the “Corinthian spirit” of the club, which emphasizes polite conduct within a competitive environment, while Patenaude explained that the three boats thoroughly discussed the rounding after the race after passing the finish line.
According to Lloyd, “Hopefully next time we’ll have a little more breeze and a little less drama,” and RBSA is a “uniquely fun group.”