Following is a selection of probably the most common rules encountered on the race course













RACING RULES OF SAILING (RRS) – Simplified Rules - By Geoffrey Oliver
Australian Sailing Accredited Racing Instructor and Coach

I wrote this article initially for Radio Sailing Members who are new to the sport. Yes they will get you around the race
course just, and to that end would be good starting point for juniors who are ready to start racing or anyone else
new to the sport, as a beginning point. These simplified rules are just that, “Simplified”, they relate to Part 2 only -
when boats meet.
There is no substitute for Reading the complete Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), and all the other rules that apply to the
sport, at least once each season. Persons in charge of a racing yacht should be very familiar with the RRS. Ignorance
is no excuse and dangerous.
Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A
fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty,
which may be to retire.
You should know you can get into racing without feeling like your getting in everyone’s way. Learn these rules and
ask plenty of questions. Don’t worry about asking questions, that’s how we all learnt and your fellow competitors,
experienced or not will be learning as well.
Below are simplified summaries of the basic rules that apply when 2 boats meet. When one boat has the “right of
way”, that means that the other boat is required to “keep clear”, in other words stay out of the way of the right of
way boat.
1 If you are on opposite tacks (booms on different sides), the boat on starboard tack has the right of way over the
boat on port tack (just as at an intersection, the car on the right gets to go first. (Rule 10)
2 If you are on the same tack (booms on the same side), the leeward boat has right of way over the windward boat;
and a boat coming up from behind can’t hit the boat ahead. (Just as on the road) (Rules 11 and 12).
3 If you are tacking, you have to stay out of the way of a boat sailing in a straight line (just as you can’t pull onto a
road immediately in front of a car driving down the road, (Rule 13)
4 Before most races, the race committee will give each competitor a copy of the sailing instructions (Sis), which
contain specific information on how the races will be run. There will be an imaginary line between two marks called
the “starting line,” and a timing system to tell you when you can start the race (explained in rule 26 or the Sis). You
must be completely behind this line at your start. If you are not, simply turn back and get behind the line. However,
while you are returning, you must stay clear of all boats that started correctly. (Rule 21)
5 Anytime you have right of way you may turn toward another boat, but you must be sure that the other boat has
enough time and space to get out of your way. That’s why windward boats must be very careful when they pass
close by leeward boats. (Rule 16)
6 When you are 3 boat-lengths (4 for Radio Sailing) from a mark, or are passing an obstruction on the same side as
another boat, you have to give any boat between you and the mark or obstruction room to round or pass it.
(Rules 18 and 19)
7 One large exception to number 6 (above) is at the starting marks, where you do not have to give a windward
/inside boats room to pass between you and the starting mark. If a windward / inside boat tries to squeeze between
you and the starting mark (like a race committee boat), they are “Barging”, which is definitely illegal but
unfortunately very common. (Rules 18 and 11)
8 You must avoid collisions if possible. (Rule 14)
9 If you make a right of way boat have to change their course to avoid hitting you, you must take a penalty. Normally
the penalty is to simply get away from the other boats immediately and sail two circles in the same direction. When
you’re done, get back in the race. (Rule 44) (RC E4.3, one turn)
10 If you touch any mark, the penalty is just one circle. (Rule 44)
If you have right of way and another boat makes you change your course to avoid hitting him, he as broken a rule.
You can tell him this by “protesting” him. To do this, immediately hail the word “Protest”. You must also immediately
put up a red flag after the incident. Then at the finish tell the race committee/ controller which boat you are
protesting. They will tell you what you must do from there.

Don’t feel bad about protesting another boat, it’s a way of sorting out who should have taken a penalty (if any), and
a way for everyone to learn the rules. In the end it’s fundamental to Fair sailing and Acceptance of the rules (Rule 2
and Rule 3).Indeed protesting is so important is been written into the beginning of the rulebook as a Basic Principle
and responsibility in a self regulating sport as a competitor to enforce the rules.
For the love of Sailing.
GO Sail and Sail Better
Geoffrey Oliver
Australian Sailing Accredited Racing Instructor and Coach



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