Collision on the race course - what to do afterward

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Postby Guest » Thu May 31, 2001 9:41 am

I need some advice from you more experienced racers. I got hit by a much larger boat on the race course last night. The other guy was clearly at fault. Lots of witnesses. Fortunately, no damage to my boat (although the other guy took a pretty good scraping). The other driver is member of my Yacht Club. I'm not sure how to handle this.

Here is what happened. The other boat is a C&C 40'. He sailed in the JAM fleet, which starts 5 minutes before the spin fleet, which I am in. We were on a port tack headed for the windward mark. The C&C had rounded, and was on a port tack headed for the leeward mark. I had rights as the leeward boat. To our right was a starboard tacker who, like us, was headed for the windward mark. The starboard tacker was going to clear my bow and pass between me and the C&C. We, of course, gave the starboard tacker room, all the while keeping our eyes on the C&C. As soon as the starboard tacker passed, it was clear that the C&C had not altered its course and appeared to have no intention of doing so. By this time, she was nearly on top of us. My crew yelled, "She's going to ram us, Mike, tack this #*#^%@$ boat." We threw in an emergency tack, narrowly avoiding a head on hit. Our starboard side scraped along the starboard side of the C&C. We let a few cuss words fly, and they said only that they thought they would have missed us (which is poppy-cock). They never changed their course one bit.

My crew thinks the skipper of the C&C just froze. He had two boats off his bow with rights and he didn't know what to do. So he just hung in there until it was too late. He should have headed up to port early but didn't. The PHRF fleet here is hit-and-miss when it comes to knowledge of the rules.

So what do I do? There was no damage to my boat, so do I just drop it? Should I go talk to the guy? It is a very scary experience when you learn that rights means nothing if the other boat doesn't know the rules or refuses to observe them. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Postby Guest » Thu May 31, 2001 10:42 am

You probably should have filed a protest, but since you are in different classes and it was a "casual" type race I think most people would not bother with one unless there was damage and it was important to establish fault. Whenever I have an "incident" on the water with another boat, I try to approach the other driver off the water in a non-confrontational atmosphere and discuss what happened and try to establish the facts and rights. The best approach, in my experience, is to say something like "I hope that if we find ourselves in a similar situation again we will both know how to react in order to avoid contact". Depending on his personality he will either be receptive to the discussion or will blow it off because he is embarrassed by his behavior.
Good luck!

Postby Guest » Thu May 31, 2001 2:58 pm

Strictly from a safety perspective, it might be better to bear off than tack at a 40 footer. I realize that you lose more ground but stand a better chance at living to sail another day. Any collision that might result would do less damage and there would be much less doubt as to which boat is at fault.

Postby Guest » Thu May 31, 2001 7:20 pm

I agree with the advice you've gotten, I don't race as much as I used to for this exact reason. You probably did it, but only thing I would add, my crew would always make a point of shouting out "starboard", "leeward", "room" or whatever well in advance of a situation to make sure the other driver is conscious and has time to think a little. Most hits can be avoided by early verbal warnings. Good luck...

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 04, 2001 12:31 am

Mike, I sail in mixed fleets. Always remember: Mass & Velocity = Right of Way (otherwise known as the "big boat" rule). I have yielded to big boats before when they had no rights. The skippers were less skilled, and bigger boats can be difficult to control. I know it is tough to do, particulalrly if you're in a tight battle in your own fleet, but you'll finish better if your boat's not cut in half. This is the same reason I don't pick fights with 230lb. bikers.

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 04, 2001 7:20 am

Dear Mike,
I just had an collision with a 7.5ton 34 ft boat.
I do sail in mixed fleet. What do do afterwards?
Most important in my opinion, walk up to the other boat regardless of you perception of right and wrong, remember rule 14......
Talk it over with the othter skipper and hopefully next time you are in the same situation you both know what to do.
And do not forget to have beer afterwards, very imortant so you both have a clean slate....
Despite all you efforts this may not be you last collision.....
We say you do not make a friend till you go through a crisis talk it over, agree on who is doing what repair and whether to involve the insurance or not. By all means talk about rules, but most important is that you and you crew learn from it, so next time you better prepared to AVOID a collision despite you rights.
(rule 14 again)
And don't forget to give him a big wave and smile next time you see him on the water...



PS: of course you could protest, but unless you in a national, worlds or america cup, what to you really gain. A enemy and a poor reputation. Not worth it in my opinion, use the situation to gain a sailing friend, much wiser....

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 04, 2001 7:40 am

Dear Mike,
I also agree with Craig, to have one of you crew doing the spotting and make sure you cleary and louldy communicate you reading of the situation.
Like starboard, windward boat must stay clear, overlap, or water....

Too often two boats approach each other you can not hear a word, and both skippers try to read each others mind, and freezeing.

Communicate, communicate, communicate, loud and clear because of the background noise.
I avoided collision because I DID COMMUNICATE, AND because I communicated I noticed that my understand of the rules was wrong.
I tell you what I will come back in split second,
and suprise suprise, you COMMUNICATE AND AGREE on a course of action which will AVOID a collision.

Tell the other boat what you want, tell him what you expect him to do, "you tack" or STARBOARD. IF he does not 100% agree with you starboard call, he will let you know immediately, he may tack or bear awary. If you challenge "STARBOARD", the other boat will respond, he will acknlodge you with a hand or sometings, and if he ignores you completey at leat you know YOU TACK IN TIME.
Call Starboard early, watch for reaction and if no reaction call again, if still getting ignored tack. Make sure you have enough time to call twice and still do a proper tack to avoid a collision.
I sail in very crowded conditions, and I would call on any boat which remotely could come close.
A lot of the experieced skippers would just confirm you call may be with a raised finger or so. NOW I know he plays by the rules and I do not have to worry.
Good practice, and makes for save racing.


Bob von Felten

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 04, 2001 8:19 am

Thanks for all the great advice. I'll keep the "big boat" rule in mind. I'll also keep my crew talking - a lot - to other boats. And, per Bob, I'll buy the skipper of the 40 footer a beer and talk it out with him.

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 04, 2001 10:03 am

Dear Mike,

Do not just buy him a beer afterwards, make sure you also ask for a vol. penalty ( 360 or 720)
We use vol. peanlties a lot in club racing. Works very well and it is all over and done with once you are in the pen..(Leaves you more time for the beer and much less hassle, no form no meeting ect) and also seems to build mutual respect for each other .

Bob von Felten

Postby Guest » Mon Jun 04, 2001 10:11 am

While I hope to never have it happen to me again, I was involved in a collision several years ago. Under a minute to go in the starting sequence, a C&C33 on port tack sailing a reciprocal course to my perfectly timed starboard approach to the line.
Wind 15-20, driving rain. The C&C had just gone to the committee boat to inform of their retirement, having had insufficient crew to handle the conditions. (father/son 10yr old) Father left son at wheel, went forward to take down headsail. We have boats on either hip, and it's not very likely he'd squeak through, so we are all screaming into the maelstrom. At the last second the other boat turned hard to port, parking directly in front of us 1-2 boatlengths away. We were unable to take any further avoiding action, and T-boned him full on at the cockpit winches. Son thrown into coaming, but ok.
My wife, coming from below to see about all the shouting, was summarily launched through the boat, somersaulting into the head. Thank God she's 90 lbs and missed the compression pole! Other injuries included some facial lacs from kissing the cockpit bulkhead. His boat sustained moderate damage including fiberglass damaged at toe rail, and toerail was sliced through. Luckily for us (maybe) we struck him with the SS tang of the forestay where it wraps over the bow. We broke 2 of 5 1/4" bolts, and had some bilateral gelcoat scrapes.
In the aftermath, we did not file a protest. We were too concerned about injuries/damage, and returned to the dock.
In talking to the (most unreasonable) owner of the C&C, he was of the mind that since he was no longer racing, he could not be held accountable under the RRS for any damage, and I should just chalk it up to "one of those sailing experiences" and forget about it. To this point the responsibility for damages was of second thought, but now what do I do? I attempted to file a protest, but the time limit had expired. I consulted an attorney, who advised we could gain satisfaction through the ROR, and USCG, if we wanted to go that route.
Bottom line, was a can of gelcoat and 2 bolts worth the hassle, no. Did I want to punish the guy for being a prick, yes. Was I angry for the potential catastrophic loss? yes.
In the end I did nothing, but word spread of this dude's actions, and we haven't seen much of him for years now.
My advice- if you have a collision, file a protest. I believe contact between boats breaks a rule, and finding fault using the RRS is more assurance that a satisfactory resolution can be achieved at the end of the event.

Postby Guest » Thu Jun 07, 2001 8:37 am

I talked with the C&C skipper last night. He admitted that he was at fault. He said he formulated a plan that involved ducking the starboard tacker and then ducking me. But when he got into it, the boats were too close and he couldn't thread the needle. He admitted that if I hadn't tacked or if I bore away, he would have T-boned me. So he assured me and others there that in the future he would bear away sooner to give room to the boats with rights. It was really a very good conversation and I think everyone felt much better afterward . . . and safer too. By the way, Bob, he chuckled when I suggested a voluntary 720. We'll see if he does it. Thanks everyone for the great advice.

Postby Guest » Sat Jun 09, 2001 8:49 am

Good outcome Mike, well done!

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