January 01, 2015

RRS 43.1 - Clothing Weight

by Pam
As a follow up to one of our most commented on series of posts:

Hypothetical Facts

Case 1:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that has been specifically designed to allow for the insertion of lead weights and weights are inserted, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7.5 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which was strategically calculated to be just below the 8 kg limit imposed by RRS 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 2:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet solely for the purpose of adding weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 3:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet for the primary purpose of warmth with the added benefit that it also adds additional weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 4 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 4:
Sailor A, due to financial limitations, wears technical sailing gear that is old and outdated and made of heavier materials, therefore the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 8.5 kg as measured according to Appendix H, which is in violation of the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Applicable Rules

RRS Rule 43.1(a)
Competitors shall not wear or carry clothing or equipment for the purpose of increasing their weight.

RRS Rule 43.1(b)
Furthermore, a competitor’s clothing and equipment shall not weigh more than 8 kilograms, excluding a hiking or trapeze harness and clothing (including footwear) worn only below the knee. Class rules or sailing instructions may specify a lower weight or a higher weight up to 10 kilograms. Class rules may include footwear and other clothing worn below the knee within that weight. A hiking or trapeze harness shall have positive buoyancy and shall not weigh more than 2 kilograms, except that class rules may specify a higher weight up to 4 kilograms. Weights shall be determined as required by Appendix H.


Opinion of a US Sailing Judge:
Cases 2, 3 - Legal
Case 1, 4 - illegal

Opinion of senior Laser Class Representative:
Cases 1, 2 - DSQ
Case 3 - Legal
Case 4 - was not presented for opinion

Interpretation by ILCA, ISAF and US Sailing:
No response


I attempted to find an official interpretation of RRS 43.1(a) and (b) by going both up and down the chain of command and learned the following.  Individual members of US Sailing and ISAF are not entitled to ask for an interpretation of the rules. ISAF will only acknowledge an International Judge or a national authority on such matters. US Sailing (a national authority) will only acknowledge a club or organization on such matters. A US Sailing Judge can apply the rules, as he/she understands them, to a protest situation but cannot provide an official interpretation of the RRS (only the Appeals Committee can do that).

I asked a senior Laser Class representative to submit the hypotheticals, on our behalf, to US Sailing's Appeals Committee (RRS 70.4) and the request was refused, saying this was a non-issue and there were more important things for the class to be focused on.  I begged and pleaded and even threatened to sign up for the 4.7 Worlds in Canada and test out each hypothetical each day and encourage someone to protest me so I could appeal and get an official interpretation. The representative didn't budge.  Non-issue … move on. 

Since neither the US Sailing Judge nor the Laser Class official can render an official interpretation of Rule 43.1, I have not named them since I felt they gave me their opinion merely as a courtesy and not in an official capacity. 

However, the Laser Class representative is presumably entitled to some official capacity regarding Doug's issue in Hyeres and I am of the opinion that I was told to quit wasting the time of the Laser Class on this non-issue. Doug will not seek to withdraw from the two races (one of which was dropped anyway) where he wore an extra shirt for warmth that was also heavy when wet. Specifically, because he would see it as a nuisance to do so and also because he feels he's been told by a Laser Class representative that it's a non-issue. 

Rooster Sailing has an interesting write-up about the changes to the rules over time regarding the weight of a Laser sailor's clothing and the challenges of staying within the weight limit and also staying warm:

I am unsatisfied with the answers I received and will probably continue to seek an official interpretation but it appears this is going to take some time and effort. I challenge anyone with the time and desire, to press your class or club officials to seek an official interpretation from your national authority and then from ISAF on the hypotheticals above. I didn't want to stop at receiving the answer I wanted, but rather when I received the official answer, so one day (or year) I will update this post. 


  1. Case 3 is legal, others aren't. Case 1 is so bad the sailor should be suspended from racing.
    A judge who thinks cases 1 (especially) and 2 are legal should be suspended from judging.
    Some sort of punishment would be fitting as well for a class official who turns down a proper question as a "non-issue".

    1. Oh heck ... my bad ... had to edit the post ... the US Judge said 1 was illegal but 2 and 3 were not. Said 43.1(a) was meant to ban weight jackets and other clothing modified for the purpose of adding weight. He said 43.1(b) was meant to limit intentional layering up to add weight.

      I was pleased the class official took the time to respond multiple times and give an opinion even though still not prepared to pass on the hypotheticals to US Sailing for an official interpretation. It seemed like a reasonable request but maybe there are reasons I don't understand that would make it problematic.

    2. The US Judge's interpretation is nonsensical, as with all rules interpretation is inevitable but his interpretation of 43.1b totally contradicts the spirit of 43.1, which prohibits the wearing of clothing for the sole purpose of increasing weight.

    3. Well the Judge indicated that the rules were made for two different purposes. One for weight jackets and the other for layering. Don't know if he's right and I can't find anything about the history of the rules or why they came into being. I would assume a Judge would know. Especially since he was probably sailing and a Judge when they made the rules and weight and layering is an issue in his class.

      If only those who are supposed to serve and support us would do exactly that (I'm talking US Sailing and ISAF more than ILCA - although they didn't bother to respond either). I wonder if I can dress Doug for the Worlds in Canada and encourage someone to protest him before he leaves the dock so he wouldn't have to take a penalty (if any) and would simply be told he was or was not compliant with 43.1. At least we might get an official combined ILCA and international Judge answer. Perhaps I can convince him to try a suggestion Tillerman made where we can ask the question in advance of the measurer and get a ruling and interpretation.

      We filed an appeal on a matter in 2014 where there were quite a few qualified people who were insisting they were right and we were wrong. We won the appeal and still those people insist their interpretation is correct and that the the entire panel of Judges on the Appeals Committee at US Sailing got it wrong. Go figure.

    4. Sounds a very good idea to pose the question in advance of the measurer - at Kingston if not before - and get the clarity so obviously required as a result of your admirable industry in following this up.

    5. A rule that require ‘interpretation’ or which depends on the ‘personal intention or purpose of a sailor’ and hence is not based on ‘objective and measurable facts’ will always give problems!
      In completely different fields we are used to fix ‘objective and measurable’ limits (think to a quality control in industry: for example, a turbine blade is acceptable if dimensions are within the tolerances required in terms of dimensions, weight, composition of material, etc…: these things are measurable and can easily decide if the piece respects or not the ‘rule’).
      Hence it could be very easy to define what is allowed and what is not if the only rule would be related to the extra weight which is carried, whatever type it is and for whatever purpose.
      On the contrary, the present rule 43.1 ‘Competitors shall not wear or carry clothing or equipment for the purpose of increasing their weight’ together with the limit in total weight will always give some interpretation doubts because it is not based only on ‘objective and measurable facts’(only the second part fixing a weight limit is measurable). In fact the consequence of putting more layers to stay warmer often has the consequence of also adding weight. And it is difficult to define the personal intention that brought a sailor to wear extra layers…
      Of course a lead part does not give any interpretation doubt…

      My synthetic interpretation of your cases:
      Case 1 and 4: illegal
      Case 2 and 3: legal

      Case 1 is relatively simple because the sailor is wearing lead parts which are high density and not floatable parts. Hence it is clear that this sailor is in violation of the rules, whatever weight you are adding.
      But a clear definition of these ‘portable weights’ should be done otherwise different interpretations could still be present in some ‘border’ cases.

      On the contrary, additional shirt layers (case 2 and 3) that can have both function but respect the weight limit are not in violation: it could be hard and probably a nonsense to really try to know for what purpose the sailor decided to wear these layers!
      For example, I like in general to be over-dressed (I suffer more cold than hot). Generally when it is windy it is also colder (water spraying, etc.), hence I put more layers. I am also light so I know that this can also help me, even if my hiking position with extra weight is not as good as without this extra weight. Until I respect the weight limit I feel myself not in violation of the rule.
      Case 4: we shall put attention not to use inefficient and heavy warm clothes that can increase our weight above the fixed limit!

    6. You bring up an interesting point and perhaps support for the interpretation offered by the US Sailing Judge. As it was explained to me, 43.1 is objective, measurable and quantifiable.

      43.1(a) banned the use of any type of clothing (regardless of weight) that was specifically designed or modified to carry weight (i.e. weight jackets).

      But then sailors got creative and started adding weight by, among other things, wearing multiple layers so 43.1(b) set a maximum total limit on the weight of gear with an entire Appendix devoted the precise method of weighing the gear.

      If the rules are used the way it was explained to me, there is no subjectivity and there is never a question about whether someone is legal or illegal. Weight jacket - illegal. Gear weighing over 8 kg - illegal.

      It makes sense to me and the Judge didn't hesitate for a minute to explain that there were two different rules for two different purposes and that the rules don't work together. If what he says is true, it's clean and simple and there is no controversy.

      It's so logical that I'm a little doubtful that ISAF was that forward thinking.

    7. Of course it's next to impossible to know the true intentions of people. However, cases 2 and 3 are hypothetical ones where we somehow actually do know what those sailors were thinking. Given that knowledge, it's very clear that case 2 isn't legal.

      But I understand what you're both (Roberto and Pam) getting at. In practice, probably very few protest committees would disqualify anyone under the weight limit, unless the sailor was wearing something decidedly outrageous (as in case 1).


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