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Safety at Sea - Baltic - 2

Prescription to Rule 51, Moveable Ballast Withdrawn

by Glen Stanaway on 8 Nov 2013
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Yachting Australia recently issued a prescription modifying RRS 51 Moveable Ballast, so permitting the stacking of sails in Category 1, 2 and 3 races held under the Yachting Australia Special Regulations.

The change followed extensive consultation with the offshore keelboat community and a clear message that not only is the practice widespread, despite it being a breach of Rule 51, but that owners and sailors were also in favour of it being allowed.


Prior to issuing the prescription, Yachting Australia carried out an extensive investigation, particularly in relation to any safety implications.

Yachting Australia commissioned an independent expert to examine the issues. The resulting report found that the potential safety risk to crew as a result of sail stacking was negligible. The Yachting Australia’s National Safety Committee supported the change.

The Yachting Australia Board agreed to the issuing of the prescription during a scheduled meeting on 18 October. Subsequent to this meeting, concerns voiced by the Yachting Australia Racing Rules and Officials Committee when considering wording of the prescription, were communicated to the Board.

Recently, well after the prescription was issued, Mike Urwin, Technical Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), owners of the IRC Rule, wrote to Yachting Australia stating that, in his opinion, sailing stacking may contravene IRC Rule 2.5. This was despite previous informal discussions during which no concerns were raised.

Many category 1,2 and 3 races held in Australia have IRC fleets. Yachting Australia recognises that the position taken by Mike Urwin, although not necessarily the RORC, creates a possible conflict for sailors and protest committees.

On the one hand the Racing Rules, as altered by the prescription, allow sail stacking, on the other, the IRC Rule, based on the opinion of Mike Urwin, may not allow it.

Accordingly Yachting Australia has resolved to remove the prescription agreed on 18 October pending clarification of this possible conflict and any other issues raised by the Racing Rules and Officials Committee.

‘We will be working on this matter over the summer sailing season’, said Phil Jones, CEO of Yachting Australia. ‘If the offshore community that participate in these races want this change, and the practice is already widespread, the administrators of the sport should listen and facilitate it accordingly. What we don’t want to do is create conflict and confusion for those racing in IRC. That is why we are withdrawing the prescription today.'

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