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Yacht Racing - When Two Boats Are Converging

( Originally Published 1911 )

ONE of the most common occurrences during a race, and perhaps one of the most important incidents, which calls for the nicest handling is when two boats are coming together, or converging, either on different tacks or on the same tack, or when one boat (the windward one) is not able to hold as high a course as the leeward one, al though going through the water at the same rate of speed, or a little faster. Of course the right-of-way here plays an all-important part ; the craft with the starboard tack (both boats sailing to windward) has the right-of-way over the craft on the port tack. The question then arises if boat "A" (see diagram No. 2), holding the port tack, can get across boat "B's" bow, holding the starboard tack with right-of-way, if "A" can cross "B," "A" should do so by all means and tack immediately to windward and ahead of "B," thereby forcing "B" to tack or sail along with his wind badly cut up. "B" on the other hand should swing about on the other tack when "A" swings to block him, thereby losing nothing.

Take another case. If "A," on the port tack, cannot not cross "B's" bow without being fouled, "A" should tack A under "B's" bow just to lee-ward and ahead, thereby giving "B" a dose of back wind that will force him to come about or lose distance. This latter trick should be executed when in exactly the right position, because when tacking "A" loses head-way and "B " may slightly luff and then bear down on "A," finally covering him and passing to windward, badly spoiling "B's" wind and dropping him well astern before he can get his wind clear again. "B," however, cannot drive "A" off to leeward, if you are sailing under the rules of the leeward boat having the right-of-way when two boats are converging on the same tack for the reason of holding a better wind, but can pass having bow, close to "A" without "A" being able to touch "B."

When two boats are sailing on a reach, "A" catching "B," "B" can luff until "A" has an overlap then "B" must hold his course and should not change it, believing that he holds the right-of-way, being the leeward boat.

The rule used by some clubs is that the leeward boat shall have the right-of-way over the windward boat on account of holding a better wind, and being unable to tack when close aboard the other boat. The only chance then of not striking is to bear away. This is a much better rule. The other rule is that the windward boat has the right-of-way over the leeward, but has got to hold her course when passing another boat.

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