Decoding the Racing Rules of Sailing - Part 2

In this post we will explain the most basic and essential Racing Rules of Sailing (2021 - 2024) from the World Sailing.

Decoding the Racing Rules of Sailing - Part 2

Hi there!

Are you into regattas and want to learn the Racing Rules? Here we are for you. We will explain the most useful rules in a very accessible manner.

If this is the first time you read the Racing Rules of Sailing, we recommend starting with these five rules. In that post, we go through definitions and the most basic rules, you will use on every race.

Let's refresh some definitions:

Boat: A sailboat and the crew on board.
Competitor: A person who races or intends to race in the event.
Port-tack: A boat is on port-tack, when its sail is on the left side of the boat.
Starboard-tack: A boat is on starboard-tack when its sail is on the right side of the boat.
Clear Astern & Clear Ahead: A boat is clear astern of another when her hull and equipment in normal position are behind a line abeam from the aftermost point of the other boat's hull and equipment in normal position. The other boat is clear ahead.
Overlap: Two boats are overlapped when neither is clear astern.
Leeward: When two boats on the same tack overlap, the one on the leeward side of the other is the leeward boat.
Windward: When two boats on the same tack overlap, the one on the windward side of the other is the windward boat.
Zone: is the area around a mark within a distance of three hull lengths of the boat nearer to it. A boat is in the zone when any part of her hull is in the zone.
Proper course: the fastest way to the next mark in absence of other boats.

ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing - Section B: "General Limitations"

Rule 14: Avoiding Contact

A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible.
However, a right-of-way boat, or one sailing within the room or mark-room to which she is entitled, need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room.

Rule 15: Acquiring right of way

When a boat acquires right of way, she shall initially give the other boat room to keep clear, unless she acquires right of way because of the other boat's actions.

Rule 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 of the port-tack boat must change course immediately to continue keeping clear.

Rule 17: On the same tack; proper course

If a boat clear astern becomes overlapped within two of her hull lengths to leeward of a boat on the same tack, she shall not sail above her proper course while they remain on the same tack and overlapped within that distance, unless in doing so she promptly sails astern of the other boat.

This rule does not apply if the overlap begins while the windward boat is required by rule 13 to keep clear (While tacking). Rule 13 explained here.


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This is the first of many posts explaining the Racing Rules of Sailing. We have the complete PDF for you to download and learn them all.