In the new edition of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017 - 2020, there are few changes that directly affect the on-water sailing of sailors. Two changes that may affect Maroochy sailors are outlined -
A. THE "U" FLAG
The "U" Flag has been employed in Starting procedures at a number of Regattas ( notably Laser and Optimist) for a number of years but has been included as part of the Sailing Instructions. In the latest set of rules, the "U" Flag is included in the RRS themselves, so is available to be used at the start of any Sailing Race.
The U Flag is displayed when there are some difficulties in starting the fleet, and would normally be flown following a General Recall on the previous Start. It forces sailors to be less aggressive in their sailing tactics, by restricting their movements and severely penalising an early start.
30.3 U Flag Rule
If flag U has been displayed, no part of a boat’s hull, crew or equipment shall be in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark during the last minute before her starting signal. If a boat breaks this rule and is identified, she shall be disqualified without a hearing, but not if the race is restarted or resailed.
The U Flag rule has been inserted just prior to the dreaded Black Flag rule which has been renumbered. to 30.4.
The U flag may be thought of as a "soft" Black Flag ie the application of the rule is similar, but the penalties for breaching the rule are not quite as severe.
Essentially, it states that a boat over the Start Line, anywhere in the Course triangle, during the minute immediately prior to her Starting Signal, will be automatically disqualified.
There is no Individual Recall Flag for a U Flag Start, as a boat breaching the rule is simply marked UFD (U Flag Disqualification). There is no necessity to inform them of their UFD, but a support boat may do so, allowing them to pull out.
If there are a number of boats breaching the rule, and they cannot all be identified, the Race Officer will display the General Recall Flag, and recall the Fleet for yet another Start. If this is the case, any identified boats may restart the race- most likely under a Black Flag.
There are no changes to the Black Flag except a renumbering to Rule 30.4
The application of the Black Flag Start is exactly the same as for the U Flag, but the penalties are even more severe. Any identified boats are excluded from any restart or re-sail and must leave the entire sailing area. Failure to do so, will make the BFD (Black Flag Disqualification) non-excludable from their Series Results. The Black Flag is the "Flag of Last Resort" in starting a flighty fleet!!
With the inclusion of the U Flag within the RRS, it is likely that during a restart following a "P" Flag General Recall, Race Officers may opt for the U Flag in order to get the Fleet away in a timely manner. The U Flag will not be regularly used on our course, but is likely to make it's appearance several times over the season.
B. SHORTENED COURSE
Rule 32 dealing with Shortened Courses, or Abandoned Races, has allowed the Race Committee greater latitude in either shortening a race, or abandoning it because of conditions or error in the Starting procedure.
It also provides that a race may be shortened by Finishing at mark of the course, or a gate, and now by setting a Finish Line that every boat must cross - eg establishing a line across a River! Shortened Course signals are unchanged. This new option has particular relevance to our sailing situation in the Maroochy River.