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Racing Rules of Sailing

Racing Rules of Sailing

Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. The International Sailing Federation (ISAF), in conjunction with US Sailing, produce this governing document known as the Racing Rules of Sailing. They are updated every four years after the Summer Olympics.

In this electronic age it is easy to obtain a copy. The preferred method is with your Membership to US Sailing, an organization which we encourage you to join. You can also purchase a copy from US Sailing, you can download them or you can view them here.


In this diagram two boats sailing towards a leward mark which they are both required to round to port. The Red boat has just entered the zone.

- Is the Red boat Clear Astern, Clear Ahead, or Overlapped with the Green boat?

- Which boat has the Right of Way?

- Is the Green Boat entitled to Mark-Room?

- Can the Green boat on Starboard sail past the mark and force the Red boat to jibe?

- Are either of these boats required to sail their Proper Course?

This is a common scenario that happens frequently in races. In the next three boat lengths the safety of these boats and their crews are dependent on both skippers knowing all the rules that apply at every moment between the one shown above and the moments to follow. The rules that apply can change frequently, a boats requirement to Keep Clear can change and the requirement of a boat to sail their Proper Course can change depending on the actions of the skippers.

If you are not 100% confident that you know all the correct answers to the above questions, and the rules that support to the correct answers, it may be time to study the rule book again.

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