One change that has significant ramifications for Team Racing is a change to Rule 16 "Changing Course." We had been expecting some sort of change to 16.2 since having already been the Guinea pigs for the new rule: the Sailing Instructions at the 2019 Opti Team Cup Berlin and 2020 USODA Team Race Midwinters included different test versions of 16.2.
Here's the new rule as written:
16 CHANGING COURSE
16.1 When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.
16.2 In addition, on a beat to windward when a port-tack boat is keeping clear by sailing to pass to leeward of a starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not bear away if as a result the port-tack boat must change course immediately to continue keeping clear.
When words are italicized in the Racing Rules, it means they have a specific definition in the "Definitions" Section at the front of your rule book. Here's the relevant definitions to Rule 16:
Room: The space a boat needs in the existing conditions, including space to comply with her obligations under the rules of Part 2 and rule 31, while manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way.
Keep Clear: A boat keeps clear of a right-of-way boat (a) if the right-of-way boat can sail her course with no need to take avoiding action and, (b) when the boats are overlapped, if the right-of-way boat can also change course in both directions without immediately making contact.
Leeward and Windward: A boat’s leeward side is the side that is or, when she is head to wind, was away from the wind. However, when sailing by the lee or directly downwind, her leeward side is the side on which her mainsail lies. The other side is her windward side. When two boats on the same tack overlap, the one on the leeward side of the other is the leeward boat. The other is the windward boat
Tack, Starboard or Port: A boat is on the tack, starboard or port, corresponding to her windward side
Ok, so what's new? The phrase "sailing to pass to leeward" in new 16.2 instead of "sailing to pass astern" in old 16.2.
Why does this matter? Lets look at the Call Book for Team Racing (which is currently based off the 2016-2020 Rules) for an explanation. Here's the Call that explains 16.2 and likely won't change:
Ok, no problem. But its the 2nd question on this call that likely will change:
At Position 3 the Call notes that Y is no longer sailing to pass astern of B - because B has headed down so much can we say that Y is sailing to pass "a-bow" of B?!
But Y at Position 3 is sailing to "pass to leeward" of B. So under the new Rule, Y3 will be protected by 16.2, and B will be penalized for her "bear away [where] as a result the port-tack boat must change course immediately to continue keeping clear. "
Simply put, the new wording increases the protections for a port boat that is trying to duck a starboard boat. It limits the starboard boat's ability to 'hunt' down at the port boat.
When does this situation come up in Team Racing? There are situations in a team race where a member of one team wants to dramatically slow down a member of the opposition, and would like to use the starboard advantage to make her tack or jibe away from the windward mark or finish line! In the past, if the port boat started to duck the starboard boat too early, the starboard boat was allowed by D2 question 2 to bear off sharply and make her jibe. This aggressive maneuver resulted in a lot of collisions and animosity! It was also always a tricky call for the umpires to determine if (a)both 16.1 and 16.2 applied (based on both boats course) or if just 16.1 applied, and (b)then determine if the starboard boat had broken a rule. Now in any situation where the port boat is sailing to duck a starboard boat 16.2 applies!
For the sailors, the strategy will now change: now Starboard boats looking to slow a port tack opponent will have to either dial down early, then up to make the port boat tack, or they can just tack to port in a leebow position and use rule 11 (Windward - Leeward) to luff up the opponent.
Does this apply before the start? No, 16.2 only applies "on a beat to windward."
Does this effect fleet racing? No, the maneuvers described by Call D2 and above are 'Team Race Tactics', which are prohibited in a fleet race! 16.2 can come into play in a fleet race, but usually it is when the starboard boat decides to tack at the last second and swings her stern into the ducking boat's path. Bearing off at someone in a fleet race that is trying to duck you is a &%#* move!
Final Thoughts: Sailors need to consider 16.1 at all times: "When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear. " Just because you are right of way does not mean you are right! When you change course other boats must be given the opportunity and ability to keep clear. While 16.2 is very specific, 16.1 applies to any situation on any leg of the course and start.