Sailboat Racing Rules
There are three main sailboat racing rules that we use in dinghy racing.
The rules are used in club racing and so if you want to start getting into the club racing then you should know these rules.
They are not just there to create tactics (although that is one use), they also are there for safety reasons and for something that old-timers can talk about.
"Port gives way to Starboard"
Port boats must give way to starboard boats.
Like when you are at a roundabout, you always give way to the right, it is the same here.
This is important as it means that starboard is better to be on (as it does not give way) and so boats want to be on starboard.
But in club sailing there will always be times when you are on port and so you will have to give way to them.
This creates more tactics especially on the start line where on a completely unbiased line, port is the worst option, but on a port bias suddenly starting on a port tack.
The starboard rule also means that on head on collisions one boat has to change course, like shown in the picture above.
Being on starboard means that the wind is coming over your back (or the wind is coming on the starboard side of the boat and the sails are on the port side).
This is the most important rule in sailing and is applied at all times even when not racing as it is so important that one boat must be in the wrong.
To enact the starboard rule, call out STARBOARD to oncoming port boats.
"Windward boat must giveway"
This is also an important rule in sailing and racing, but not as life threatening as the starboard rule.
Windward is basically a way of giving the leeward boat something of an advantage.
The leeward boat is getting loads of dirty air from the windward boat, so it is only fair that it should be able to do something, isn't it?
The windward rule is that a leeward boat with an overlap may push a windward boat to windward.
However it is not allowed to push the boat so far that it has to tack, which would be unfair.
So just like in the picture the leeward boat has lots of dirty wind and so has invoked its right of the windward rule by calling out WINDWARD to the windward boat.
On the start line this is also an important rule as the boats below you will be pushing you up on the line and so you must be careful as to not cross the line before the race starts.
"A boat with an overlap within 3 boat lengths from a buoy may ask for water"
Quite a mouthful!
This is a racing rule, but is important when rounding marks.
This racing rule applies to all marks except the windward mark where the windward rule is applied instead.
This rule states that if a boat has an overlap of at least one boat's bow overlapping another boat's stern within 3 boat length of a buoy can call for water.
This means that the overlapped boat must let the other boat come between it and the mark before rounding it itself.
This is another tactic that gets used very often.
As shown in the picture, one boat has an overlap over the other and so is calling WATER so it can round the mark.
This is also for fairness, because otherwise the boat calling for water would smash into the buoy.
Those are the main sailboat racing rules. You may come across some others, but they are usually class specific, whilst these are general rules for all sailing boats (and the starboard rule also applies to powerboats).
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