Latitude 38’s Basic Racing Guidelines

Since sailboat racing is a recreational sport, we think the number one rule should be to have fun. Beyond that, some basic guidelines help prevent collisions and ensure that racing is both fun and fair. Below is an outline of the 10 basic rules which cover most racing situations. For completeness and total accuracy, refer to Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020, published by US Sailing. See for details.

1. Port tack keep clear of starboard tack.

2. If boats are on the same tack and overlapped, the windward boat must keep clear of the boat to leeward.

3. If boats are on the same tack, a boat clear astern must keep clear of a boat clear ahead.

4. When tacking or jibing, keep clear of boats on a tack.

5. Avoid collisions. If you have the right of way and hit the other boat, causing damage or injury, you will both be penalized.

6. Don’t obstruct. Don’t make it hard for the ‘keep clear’ boat to do so. (No hunting allowed.)

7. Sail the course prescribed. You have to round the marks in the directions specified in the Sailing In structions and can’t touch a mark.

8. Proper Course (same tack, within two hull lengths). If the leeward boat came from astern, leeward boat shall not sail above its own proper course during the overlap. (Remember that the windward boat still has to keep clear, even if windward is forced above what it believes is windward’s proper course. Leeward still has right of way.)

9. Give room at marks and obstructions to yachts over lapped on the inside, except:

a. When the overlap did not exist before the lead boat reaches the three-boatlength zone.
b. When approaching a windward mark on opposite tack.
c. At a starting mark surrounded by navigable water. That is, you don’t have to let a barger in at the start except to avoid collision (then protest).

10. Acknowledge your fouls and protest those who don’t.

A free rule book comes with US Sailing membership. See

This article is provided with permission and courtesy of Latitude38