Sailing rules

By telleropnul, February 21, 2021


  • “Is there any Red Port Left ?
  • The boat that is on a starboard tack (= sails are out to port) has right of way over boat on port tack (sails are out to starboard).
  • (Overlapped on same tack) Windward (= upwind) boat must stay clear of leeward (= downwind) boat at all  times. Especially at start line of a race: no barging (= no worming your way in there upwind and then drifting downwind pushing boats out of the way).
  • No ‘mark room’ if outside three boat lengths zone, not overlapped, on opposite tacks and sailing close hauled (= beating into the wind), on opposite tacks and gybing to go around the mark.
  • Keep to your right when approaching another boat head on (courtesy, not a rule).  Better make sure you are the leeward (= downwind) boat when on same tack or the starboard tack boat when on opposing tacks just-in-case.

Basic terms

Source File: BasicRacingRules.pdf


Basic right of way situations



Buoy room (Mark room)


Boats converging at a mark in more detail

18.1. When Rule 18 Applies

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

Example of rule 18.1b: The ‘kiwi’ drop.

Boats are on opposite tack but the red line boat is gybing to go around the mark (not tacking).  So can’t call ‘buoy room’.  However, before gybing the red line boat is on starboard tack and has right of way over blue.  The red line boat can use this to create room for itself to round the mark.   After gybing overlapped windward boat (red) must stay clear of leeward (blue).

Note the gybing boat (red) has to gybe as soon as practically possible and not delay:

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 sail not further from the mark than needed to sail that course. Rule 18.4 does not apply at a gate mark.