Rule 14, avoiding contact, is a rule that always applies, anywhere on the racecourse.

A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room (a) need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and (b) shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury.

The rule’s intended message is, put simply: “Sailing is not a contact sport.”

Linda and Wally are converging as they approach the line to start. Neither changes course and they collide with damage to both boats. Linda protests Wally.

At Position 1, Wally must keep clear of Linda (Rule 11) and he also must avoid contact (Rule 14). Because the starting mark is surrounded by navigable water, Rule 18 doesn’t apply (see the Preamble to Section C of Part 2).

Wally is barging and Linda is under no obligation to give him mark-room.

Wally could avoid breaking any rule by luffing and leaving the mark to port. But he doesn’t, and just before Position 2, Wally commits to sailing between Linda and the mark. At that moment, it becomes clear that Linda needs to take avoiding action in order not to collide with Wally, so Wally is not keeping clear (see part (a) of the definition Keep Clear). At the same moment Rule 14(a) begins to require Linda to act to avoid contact, which she easily could do by bearing off a few degrees.

The protest committee disqualifies both boats—Wally for breaking Rules 11 and 14 and Linda for breaking Rule 14.

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