Decoding the Racing Rules of Sailing - Part 3

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 3

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, good news, we have two more posts for you.

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 the absence of other boats.

Related: Decoding the Racing Rules of Sailing - Part 2

ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing - Section C: "At Marks and Obstructions"

Section C rules do not apply at a starting mark or at its anchor line.

Rule 18: Mark-Room

18.1: When Rule 18 applies

Rule 18 applies between two boats when they are required to leave a mark on the same side and at least one of them is in the zone.

It does not apply:

a. between boats on opposite tacks on a beat to windward,

b. between boats on opposite tacks when the proper course at the mark for one but not both of them is to tack,

c. between a boat approaching a mark and one leaving it, or

d. if the mark is a continuing obstruction, in which case rule 19 applies.

Rule 18 does not apply between boats when mark-room is given.

18.2 Giving Mark-Room

a. When boats are overlapped the outside boat shall give the inside boat mark-room, unless rule 18.2(b) applies.

b. If boats are overlapped when the first of them reaches the zone, the outside boat at that moment shall thereafter give the inside boat mark-room. If a boat is clear ahead when she reaches the zone, the boat clear astern at that moment shall thereafter give her mark-room.

c. When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b),

1) she shall continue to do so even if later an overlap is broken or a new overlap begins;

2) if she becomes overlapped inside the boat entitled to mark-room, she shall also give that boat room to sail her proper-course while they remain overlapped.

d. Rules 18.2(b) and 18.2(c) cease to apply if the boat entitled to the mark-room passes head to wind or leaves the zone.

e. If there is reasonable doubt that a boat obtained or broke an overlap in time, it shall be presumed that she did not.

f. If a boat obtained an inside overlap from clear astern or by tacking to windward of the other boat and, from the time the overlap began, the outside boat has been unable to give mark-room, she is not required to give it.

18.3: Passing Head to Wind in the Zone

If a boat in the zone of a mark to be left to port passes head to wind from port to starboard tack and is then fetching the mark, she shall not cause a boat that has been on starboard tack since entering the zone to sail above close-hauled to avoid contact and she shall give mark-room if that boat becomes overlapped inside her.

When this rule applies between boats, rule 18.2 does not apply between them.

18.4: Gybing

When an inside overlapped right-of-way boat must gybe at a mark to sail her proper course, until she gybes she shall no farther from the mark than needed to sail that course. Rule 18.4 does not apply at a gate mark.

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