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            Basic Rules of Sailboat Racing
 
There are three guiding principles that underlie the Racing Rules.  All competitors are expected to compete within the framework of sportsmanship, fair sailing and helping those in danger.  If youíre new to racing, you only need to know 10 basic rules that will handle most situations youíll encounter on the race course.  As you gain more experience, youíll learn more about the subtleties and limitations of these and other rules.

** Click On Pictures to Enlarge **


 
 

 
The basic rules are summarized below.  A boat has right of way when another boat is required to keep clear.  If you want to read the actual wording of the rule in the rules book, ďRacing Rules of Sailing,Ē just click on the rule number. 

There are some words in racing that have special meaning and they are identified in italics ( i.e., keep clear ).  Click on them and their definitions will be displayed.
 

 

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  • When boats are on the same tack and donít overlap each other, a boat that is overtaking from behind shall keep clear of the boat that is clear ahead ( Racing Rule 12 ).  It must change course to avoid running into the back of the other boat.  If the boat from behind continues to overtake the other boat and they become overlapped then the windward-leeward rule switches on where the windward boat must keep clear of the leeward boat.  

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Click on Picture to Enlarge

 

  • When youíre tacking, you must keep clear of all other boats from the time your boat passes head to wind until it is on a close-hauled course
    ( Racing Rule 13 ).  Look around before you tack to make sure you donít tack in the way of another boat.    Click on Picture to Enlarge


 
 



  

  • You must avoid contact with other boats if possible.  Even if your boat has right of way you must avoid contact, but you donít need to act until it becomes obvious that the other boat is not going to keep clear ( Racing Rule 14 ).
    Click on Picture to Enlarge

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  • Whenever you are the right-of-way boat and want to turn, you must give the other boat a chance to keep clear ( Racing Rule 16 ).  You cannot make an abrupt turn that allows no opportunity for the other boat to stay out of your way.  Click on Picture to Enlarge

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The Radius of the Zone is
Equal to Two Boat Lengths.

 

  • If you cross the starting line too soon before the start, you have to go back behind the line and start again.  While going back, you have to keep clear of all boats that have started ( Racing Rule 20 ).  If a boat starts prematurely, the race committee boat displays the code flag for the letter "X" and sounds one blast of a horn.   
    Click on Picture to Enlarge

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  • If you hit a mark while racing, you must take a penalty as soon as possible by making one turn, including one tack and one jibe (or one jibe and one tack) ( Racing Rule 31 ).  While doing your One-Turn Penalty, you must stay clear of all other boats.
    Click on Picture to Enlarge

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Red Boat Hits Mark and Does
Two-Turn Penalty
 

  

  • If you foul another boat while racing, you must take a penalty as soon as possible by making two turns in the same direction, including two tacks and two jibes ( Racing Rule 44 ).  While doing your Two-Turns Penalty , you must stay clear of all other boats.
    Click on Picture to Enlarge

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After you have completed and studied the two racing sections, take the Sailboat Racing Test.

Click on book titles to purchase:
"Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing"
"Dave Perry's 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes"

Note:  Be sure to click-on the words in italics and study their special meanings and definitions before taking the test.

 


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