racing rules

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When taking part in a boat race, the participants agree to be subject to the racing rules which take the place of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. The racing rules are produced by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), in which each country is represented by its national authority, and are revised every four years. No changes are envisaged until 2009. They are largely based on the Collision Regulations but differ from them in several important respects, particularly when boats are rounding marks or obstructions. When a boat that is racing meets a boat that is not, the Collision Regulations apply to both of them.

There are 89 racing rules divided into seven parts: (1) Fundamental Rules; (2) When Boats Meet; (3) Conduct of a Race; (4) Other Requirements When Racing; (5) Protests, Hearings, Misconduct, and Appeals; (6) Entry and Qualification; and (7) Race Organization. These are accompanied by sixteen appendices which cover such matters as the racing rules for sailboards, and match and team racing; Appeals Procedures; Identification on Sails; Banned Substances and Banned Methods; and Recommendations for Protest Committees. When the rules of an appendix apply, they take precedence over any conflicting rules in parts 1–7.

(1) Fundamental Rules; (2) When Boats Meet; (3) Conduct of a Race; (4) Other Requirements When Racing; (5) Protests, Hearings, Misconduct, and Appeals; (6) Entry and Qualification; and (7) Race Organization

A yacht engaged in a race is bound by the racing rules from the time she intends to race until she has left the vicinity of the course. However, she can normally be penalized for breaking a rule only when the incident occurs after the preparatory signal (which is almost invariably four minutes before the start of the race) and before clearing the finishing line having finished the race. To be eligible to race in any event under the racing rules a yacht must have on board, as the owner or his representative, a member of a yacht club recognized by the appropriate national authority.

The basic ‘when yachts meet’ rules are similar to those that apply to sailing vessels in the Collision Regulations. Thus, when on opposite tacks, a yacht on the starboard tack has the right of way over the yacht on port tack. When yachts are on the same tack, an overlapped yacht to windward keeps clear of the yacht to leeward, and a yacht clear astern must keep clear of the yacht ahead.

Yachts racing have to manoeuvre in close proximity to each other, so the racing rules are designed to place clear obligations and rights to enable them to do so in safety. If during a race one yacht is being overtaken on her windward side by another, the leeward yacht has the right to luff right up until she is head to wind if she likes. However, she must do so in such a way as to allow the windward yacht an opportunity to keep clear. The windward yacht must keep clear. When a yacht establishes an overlap to leeward of another yacht she becomes the right-of-way yacht but she must initially give room to the windward yacht to fulfil her new obligation to keep clear. However, the leeward yacht must sail no higher than her proper course while the overlap exists and they remain within two lengths of each other. (This situation would be different under the Collision Regulations, where the overtaking boat would be required to keep clear.)


Subjects: Maritime History.

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