January 2013 - Rules Changes I

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January 2013 - Rules Changes I

Every fourth year in the year after the summer Olympic Games, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) issues a new rule book.  As I start into my seventeenth year of writing these articles, this will be my fifth cycle of these changes.  There are many very minor changes this year.  Most of them will make no difference to the way most people sail.  For some, I will say the same thing that I said four years ago, “To know why the rule has changed, you sometimes have to recognize some loophole or confusing part of the older rule. If you didn’t understand the old loophole, it is a bit late to learn it now. As I go through the changes in the rules this year, I will try to not to concentrate too much on the older rule, but I will have to highlight the changes for those of you who understood the old rule.”

The new book should be out from Sail Canada (the new name for the Canadian Yachting Association) by the time you read this.  New editions of the explanatory books from various authors should be out as well.

I think the biggest change is a brand new concept in the rules.  ISAF has gone green.  We have a new basic principle and a new rule 55.

Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.

Participants are encouraged to minimize any adverse environmental impact of the sport of sailing.


Part 4 rules apply only to boats racing. However, rule 55 applies at all times when boats are on the water.

A competitor shall not intentionally put trash in the water.

(note underlined words are new in the  2013-2016 RRS.  Struckout words were in the 2009-2012 RRS but are no longer there in the new book.)

Sailing should be a clean sport.  Environmental Responsibility is now a basic principle.  Some sailing instructions have put in a restriction against putting trash in the water.  It is now in the rulebook as rule 55.  This rule applies at all time when a boat is on the water. We have not yet seen interpretations of the word trash.  I don’t think that I would include easily biodegradable materials such as apple cores, pieces of sandwiches etc. as trash, but that is a personal opinion.

There are several changes in the rules on outside help and propulsion.
A boat shall not receive help from any outside source, except:

(a) help for a crew member who is ill, injured or in danger; ill or injured crew member;
(b) after a collision, help from the crew of the other vessel boat to get clear;
(c) help in the form of information freely available to all boats;
(d) unsolicited information from a disinterested source, which may be another boat in the same race.

However, a boat that gains a significant advantage in the race from help received under rule 41(a) may be protested and penalized; any penalty may be less than disqualification.


42.3 Exceptions

(c) Except on a beat to windward, when surfing (rapidly accelerating down the front leeward side of a wave) or planing is possible, the boat’s crew may pull the sheet and guy controlling in any sail in order to initiate surfing or planing, but each sail may be pulled in only once for each wave or gust of wind.

(e) If a batten is inverted, the boat’s crew may pump the sail until the batten is no longer inverted. This action is not permitted if it clearly propels the boat.

(h) To get clear after grounding or colliding with a vessel or object, a boat may use force applied by the crew of either boat her crew or the crew of the other vessel and any equipment other than a propulsion engine. However, the use of an engine may be permitted by rule 42.3(i).

(i) Sailing instructions may, in stated circumstances, permit propulsion using an engine or any other method, provided the boat does not gain a significant advantage in the race.

Rule 41(a) allows help to be provided to a crew member who is ill or injured.   It now also allows help to be provided to an entire crew who are in danger.  The line at the end of the rule provides an opportunity to provide some fairness in the case where some boats may be given assistance ahead of others.  The first boats helped may be given a small penalty to equal it out.

Rule 41(b) has changed from “boat” to “vessel”.  This change is also in rule 42.3(h).  A boat wherever the word is used in the rules means a sailboat and the crew on board.  A vessel means any boat or ship.  You might be colliding with a race committee vessel, a coach vessel or any other vessel.  The change from “the crew of either boat” to “her crew or the crew of the other vessel” was made to be consistent with this change as well. 

Most races do not allow the use of an engine.  Sailing instructions can in stated circumstances allow engines to be used.  The final change to 42.3(h) makes it clear that sailing instructions could allow engines to be used to get clear of a grounding or a collision. 

Rule 42.3 has a few other changes.  42.3 (c) used to refer to accelerating down the leeward side of a wave.  This made sense if the wave and the wind were going in the same direction.  Sometimes the waves and the wind are not in line with each other or the wave is a wake from a large vessel.  Now you can accelerate down the front of the wave. Later in the same rule changes have been made to clarify that you can pull a sail in by any means, not just the sheet and guy, and that each sail may be pulled in once per wave.

42.3(e) allows something that many people did not realize could be illegal.  If your batten is inverted (as seems to happen in light wind on my boat quite frequently) you can pump the sail to clear the problem as long as it does not clearly propel the boat.

Next issue we will look at some of the changes in the right-of-way rules. 

© Copyright 2012 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 1/1/2013 1:55:46 PM by Andrew Alberti

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This page provides links to a set of articles original published in Kwasind magazine. The versions here include animated diagrams. The original articles can be found within the original magazines which are available online back to January 2007. 

Articles before December 2020 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 or 2017-2020 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2021 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2021-24. A copy of the new rules can be found on sailing.org.
Andrew Alberti has been writing these monthly articles in the Kwasind since early 1997.  They explain the Racing Rules of Sailing. Andrew is an International Judge and National Umpire. He is a member of the Sail Canada Rules and Appeals Committees. The interpretation of the rules contained in the articles is Andrew's and not that of the RCYC or any of the committees he sits on. 

Send your questions to Andrew at [email protected].


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
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Tacking III
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Publication Changes and Tacking
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