The OP was running up a river.
Inevitably there were going to be RoW boats coming the other way.
The OP should have been proceding at a safe speed which allowed him to give way in good time.
That may mean not running under full sail etc, in the limit you don't go running into confined spaces if you cannot stop. Events like this point out how far ahead you must look, and that you must act in good time. Experience will help see such situations developing and an early gybe with maybe a hail will avoid any conflict. When running in crowded conditons, think about escape routes, perhaps in the event of shifts, actions by others or unforeseen obstacles.
No real harm done, a minor beginner's transgression, error we have all made. I too like to keep the sails up and the motor off, but you have to balance that against the reality of our crowded waters.
The fact that the other boat was racing is only relevant in that the skipper will be intense about it and emotions often come out at the instant. Partly he may be a bit angry with himself for mis-reading your situation, so don't worry so much about the outburst, it tends to be forgotten after the race. If he was any good he probably re-took the lead later anyway! At least a racing boat is more likely to be able to respond quickly than a short handed cruiser.
I did a YM prep where the instructor asked me to sail a not very manoeuvrable boat into Yarmouth IoW, in a NE F4. And a rising tide. I declined, pointing out several masts of yachts moving about. I never really worked out if that was the response he wanted, but it was chaotic enough when another student motored us in!
I suspect rules 2a and 6 are more pertinent than 2b.
Quoting Colregs in situations like this is really a bit pointless. Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. For a start anyone who goes on about "rights" under colregs, or worse still "right of way" clearly does not understand them since AFAIK colregs do not give any boats right of way in any circumstances. All obligations within Colregs are mutual to a greater or lesser extent.
In the case in point the OP was certainly navigating in a narrow channel, and it may be that the racing boats were too. Therefore the most applicable rule is Rule 9 (narrow channels) and the first observation that can be made is that the racing boats were certainly breaking 9(A) by not keeping as far to starboard as possible. That is not intended to be a criticism of them, but just pointing out that since they were not sticking to the rules, it would not be safe for any other vessels to stick blindly to the rules either.
In the case in point all parties behaved well and reasonably no one was impeded, no one had to take drastic action to avoid a collision, or indeed any action that would not reasonably have been foreseen under the circumstances (of course a boat heading towards the edge of the river is going to alter course).
The only point I would make is that I think the OP should perhaps have altered course somewhat earlier "might have been able to hold on" and "chickening out" are slightly concerning. From what I could tell of the situation, changing course earlier would have given the approaching race boats more time to assess and react to the situation
I don't know when a channel becomes officially 'narrow' it's not defined in my book. Perhaps when you can't beat up it? If you are beating up it, are you 'following along its course'? Perhaps being the 'vessel who should be kept out of the way of' should be described as a privilege rather than a right.
I, like a lot of people use RoW for 'stand on'. In common use it means much the same.
The colregs indeed do not give anyone right of way, they require them to stand on.
Semantics. But the rules are not just for the obedience of fools, that's a stupid glib quote, they are the framework by which we all get along on the water.
You are absolutely right that it's all about changing course in good time, to avoid a
close quarters situation if possible. Everyone wants a smooth passage after all.
I don't think you can say no-one was impeded if the leading boat lost the lead as a result of the Op's late action. People have done worse to me, it's what happens when you race in busy places, can be annoying at the time but does not stop me enjoying a race. I would not want the OP be to put off by me saying he should have acted sooner/thought further ahead, I respect that he is trying to learn from the incident by asking on here.
Perhaps practice makes perfect.
Keep an eye out for when the next race is due - and wait for them to enter the channel and try again . Maybe even bring a few other boats & make a sailing game of it - something a bit different from the usual sailing game of racing from point A to point B Call it "nautical dodgems"
Waiting for Dan to put me out of your misery since 17 Feb (2010 ).
I vastly prefer "stand on" to "RoW" because the stand on vessel is just as obliged under the rules to maintain course and speed as the give way is to keep clear. It much better describes the mutual obligations the colregs imposes than to use the word "right". Really the stand on vessel has no more rights than the give way vessel - both are equally obliged under colregs although their obligations are different. You could almost say that the give way vessel has more rights because he at least does have the choice of what avoiding action to take.
As you say when a channel becomes "narrow" is not explicitly defined because it depends on the size and capabilities of the vessel in question. For QM2 the entire Solent is a narrow channel. However it is certain that in this case the channel as "narrow" as it applied to the OP precisely because he was having to alter course to stay within it. Whether or not it was narrow from the perspective of the racing boats is less obvious, but not particularly relevant.
However within Colregs the word "impede" is explicitly defined (or more precisely the meaning of "not to impede" is explicitly defined). The racing boat clearly had "sufficient sea room for safe passage" and so was not impeded within the meaning of the rules. On the other hand had the racing boat not given the OP enough room to gybe to stay within the channel then he would have been impeding - but that didn't happen either.
What should I have done?[/QUOTE]
you did fine from what you tell us,...........
safety first despite others losing out on their fun.
You never get to where you want to go if you only travel on sunny days.