Simplified Racing Rules
Below are some simple right-of-way rules for racing in a very brief and simplified format. These are only intended as a quick simple guide until beginners to racing become more familiar with the Racing Rules of Sailing.
The RYA has produced some helpful videos to explain the primary rules at rya racing rules youtube - Bing video
This document is not a substitute for the official rules.
When boats on opposite tacks meet (i.e. their booms are on opposite sides of the boat), the port tack boat must keep clear. The starboard skipper may (but can choose not to) assert their right of way by calling "Starboard". If he has right of way you must take action to keep clear (i.e. pass astern or tack/jibe).
The tack is named for the windward side of the boat, i.e. the side opposite the boom. If you face forward and the right hand side of the boat is windward, you are on starboard tack. Otherwise you are on port.
(Diagram shows right of way boat labeled starboard tack)
When boats are on the same tack, i.e. booms on same side the following applies:
Windward boat shall keep clear (boat B),
A boat clear astern shall keep clear (boat C)
This rule also covers upwind downwind boats meeting.
While you are tacking, you must keep clear of other boats that are not doing so. If you acquire the right of way over a boat near-by with a tack or jibe, you must give that boat reasonable room and time to react. You cannot force a nearby boat to tack because you have no rights until you have completed the tack.
Even when you have the right of way, you must try hard to avoid any collision.
The buoy room rule does not apply at the start line. Do not barge in there trying to squeeze between a boat to leeward of you and a mark. Note that a Committee Boat that marks the end of a start or finish line is considered a mark.
A luffing boat (A in the diagram opposite) may not pass beyond head to wind if there is another boat there.
If any part of your boat or equipment is across the start line when the start signal is made, you must re-start. You will not be told that you were over the line by the Race Officer and if you believe you were over it is best to re-start. While returning to the start line you must keep clear of the other boats that are not returning.
DEFENDING AGAINST OVERTAKING BOATS:
If a boat tries to pass you to windward, you are entitled to defend your wind by luffing up but must do so in such a way was to give the windward boat room to keep clear. A luffing boat may not pass beyond head to wind while the other boat is there.
If a near-by boat tries to pass you to leeward on a reach or run, you are not allowed to make life even more dificult for that boat by sailing below your proper course to the next mark.
TOUCHING A MARK:
If you touch a mark, you may continue to race only after getting out of the way of other boats and sailing a complete circle (a 360 o turn).
You are officially racing and therefore bound by the racing rules from your preparatory signal (4 minute signal) until you have cleared the finish line.
If you break the rules you are required to do two complete circles (720o). You may continue to race after getting out of the way of other boats and completing your turns.
If there is a collision, the rules (usually) require there to be a protest or a 720o Sometimes minor fouls may be forgiven but not if there is damage. If you are fouled and intend to protest you must hail "protest" you do not need to display a red flag unless your boat is over 6m long. If the offending party does a 720 then the matter can be forgotten otherwise inform the Race Officer at the finish line whom you are protesting and once ashore fill out the protest form with in the time period specified in the Sailing Instructions.
If you capsize and are separated from your boat and are rescued by the safety boat you can return you to your boat and continue to race without penalty provided your boat does not gain advantage in the meantime.