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Racing Rules of Sailing Upwind

Racing Rules of Sailing

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What are the Racing Rules of Sailing?

The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) are updated and published by World Sailing every four years. The latest version of the Racing Rules of Sailing is 2017-2020. They are the foundation for all races in sailing around the world. It is described how the course shall be set by the race committee as well as how boats need to act in different situations like at the start, when they meet upwind etc.

The Racing Rules of Sailing include two main sections. The first section, Parts 1–7, contains rules that affect all competitors. The second, the appendices, provides details of rules that apply to particular kinds of racing, and rules that affect only a small number of competitors or officials. In this article I want to concentrate on the first section as this is the basis to compete in sailboat races.

Rule 1 is easy to understand but also most important: Helping those in danger. Hopefully you will never need to follow this rule.

Rule 2 is about fair sailing. I think this rule occurs pretty much in any sport.

Now let’s have a look on the most important, the basic rules.

Basic Rules

Overlap

Definition of Clear Astern and Clear Ahead:

Overlap One 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. They overlap when neither is clear astern. However, they also overlap when a boat between them overlaps both. These terms always apply to boats on the same tack. They apply to boats on opposite tacks only when rule 18 applies between them or when both boats are sailing more than ninety degrees from the true wind.

(World Sailing RRS 2017-20, p. 7)

Racing Rules of Sailing Overlap

3-Boat-Length-Zone

Definition of the zone: 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.

(see the black circles in the following diagrams)

Starting

Racing Rules of Sailing Starting11 ON THE SAME TACK, OVERLAPPED
When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

Bear in mind that if you are the boat furthest to the right the boat that is able to just hit the line next to the committee boat does not have to give you room. In this situation you will have to tack away or wait until there is room.

12 ON THE SAME TACK, NOT OVERLAPPED
When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.

Upwind

Racing Rules of Sailing Upwind

 

10 ON OPPOSITE TACKS
When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.

The next two are the same as at the start:

11 ON THE SAME TACK, OVERLAPPED
When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

12 ON THE SAME TACK, NOT OVERLAPPED
When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.

13 WHILE TACKING
After a boat passes head to wind, she shall keep clear of other boats until she is on a close-hauled course. During that time rules 10, 11 and 12 do not apply. If two boats are subject to this rule at the same time, the one on the other’s port side or the one astern shall keep clear.

This means if you want to tack under a boat to cover or control it (rule 10) you need both really good judgement of the situation and good boat handling. Practice it a lot before you permute this tactical call.

Reach

Racing Rules of Sailing Reach

 

11 ON THE SAME TACK, OVERLAPPED
When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

16 CHANGING COURSE
When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.

This means you cannot just go up very quickly, touch the other boat and then call “protest”. You must avoid contact at any time and you need to give the other boat time to react. Of course the reaction time might be different depending on the skills of the other boat’s crew.

18.2(b) GIVING MARK ROOM
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.

Run

Racing Rules of Sailing Run

10 ON OPPOSITE TACKS
When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.

This is a tricky one as it means a boat coming from behind sailing on starboard-tack is right of way!

12 ON THE SAME TACK, NOT OVERLAPPED
When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, a boat clear astern shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.

Rule 12 is how we know it. So if you are on a rule 10 situation with a boat catching up from being being on starboard-tack you can get right of way by just gybing.

18.2(b) GIVING MARK ROOM
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.

Be careful if you approach the mark from the left (red boat in diagram above) you really open up to everyone who is coming from the right and in worst case there are heaps of boats you need to give room at the mark.

31 TOUCHING A MARK
While racing, a boat shall not touch a starting mark before starting, a mark that begins, bounds or ends the leg of the course on which she is sailing, or a finishing mark after finishing.

44.1 Taking a Penalty
(…) She may take a One-Turn Penalty when she may have broken rule 31. Alternatively, sailing instructions may specify the use of the Scoring Penalty or some other penalty, in which case the specified penalty shall replace the One-Turn and the Two-Turns Penalty. However,

(a)  when a boat may have broken a rule of Part 2 and rule 31 in the same incident she need not take the penalty for breaking rule 31;
(b)  if the boat caused injury or serious damage or, despite taking a penalty, gained a significant advantage in the race or series by her breach her penalty shall be to retire.

Finishing 

Racing Rules of Sailing Finishing

18.2(b) GIVING MARK ROOM
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.

Unlike at the start (rule 11) you must give room to a windward boat when approaching the finish line and the windward boat needs to go around the finishing vessel.

31 TOUCHING A MARK
While racing, a boat shall not touch a starting mark before starting, a mark that begins, bounds or ends the leg of the course on which she is sailing, or a finishing mark after finishing.

For touching the mark you would have to take the same 44.1 one turn penalty before you are allowed to sail over the finishing line again. Keep clear of other boats that want to finish while doing your turn.

Interpretation

World Sailing publishes interpretations of the Racing Rules of Sailing in The Case Book for 2017–2020 and recognizes them as authoritative interpretations and explanations of the rules. It also publishes The Call Book for Match Racing for 2017–2020 and The Call Book for Team Racing for 2017–2020, and it recognizes them as authoritative only for umpired match or team racing.

In the Case Book you will find more interpretations on the different rules. Here I just tried to focus on the most important ones to give you a brief overview and give you a quick-start to be able to race. For the start there is nothing more you would need. You will find more tipps and deeper analysis of the Racing Rules of Sailing in the articles relating to tactics.

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