January/February 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules of Sailing I

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January/February 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules of Sailing I

My articles started here in the Kwasind in 1997, when the Racing Rules of Sailing were completely rewritten. Every four years since then, they undergo some smaller changes. This year is no different. As far as the right-of-way rules for fleet racing are concerned, the changes this year are very minor. Almost all of the new rules mean what you thought they meant last year. As is often the case, someone has found some loopholes and World Sailing is trying to fix them. If you never found the loophole, these tweaks won’t change anything for you.

The biggest changes this year are the “behaviour” rules, Rule 2 Fair Sailing, Rule 3 Acceptance of the Rules and Rule 69 Misconduct. There is a wider variety of penalties available under these rules and they now apply to a “support person” as well. A support person includes parents, coaches etc. I will cover these in a later article.

Before I get to the detailed changes in the rules, I should mention the change in the name. The organization formerly known as the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and before that the International Yacht Racing Union is now called World Sailing.

Within the book we will start with the right-of-way rules or as the rulebook calls them “Part 2 – When Boats Meet”. The first change is in the preamble.
The rules of Part 2 apply between boats that are sailing in or near the racing area and intend to race, are racing, or have been racing. However, a boat not racing shall not be penalized for breaking one of these rules, except rule 14 when the incident resulted in injury or serious damage, or rule 24.1.

A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room

(a)  need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and
(b)  shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury.

In the past, two boats could get into a collision resulting in serious damage either before they started racing or after they finished. Under the previous rulebook, the boat that was damaged could be granted redress, but there was no penalty for the boat that should have avoided the contact. Now in the case of injury or serious damage, a boat can be penalized for a collision in or near the racing area.

The next changes are in the rules about mark rounding. I will leave those for another month. Rule 21 used to be in Section C, “At Marks and Obstructions”. It is still rule 21 but it is now in Section D, “Other Rules”. The words “under a rule of Section C” have been deleted. The exoneration now applies to any boat that was sailing within the room to which she was entitled. For example, rule 16.1 entitles a give-way boat to room to keep clear. A boat that was not given that room would be exonerated under rule 21, for breaking another rule. Previously they would probably have been exonerated, but under rule 64.1(a). This probably has the same result but the standard “was compelled to break” is a slightly higher standard that no longer applies.

Rule 22 used to include the title “Moving Astern”, now replaced by “Backing a Sail”. It now applies if you are moving to windward by backing your sail as well as when you are moving astern by backing your sail. This often applies at starting lines with small boats.

Rule 24.2 seems to be a longer way of saying what it used to say. It is now clearer that it applies between a boat that has started correctly and a boat that is returning to restart (“subject to rule 22.1).
16.1 When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear.
When a boat is sailing within the room or mark-room to which she is entitled under a rule of Section C, she shall be exonerated if, in an incident with a boat required to give her that room or mark-room,
(a)    she breaks a rule of Section A, rule 15 or rule 16, or
(b)    she is compelled to break rule 31.

(a)    when as a consequence of breaking a rule a boat has compelled another boat to break a rule, the other boat shall be exonerated.


22.1    A boat sailing towards the pre-start side of the starting line or one of its extensions after her starting signal to start or to comply with rule 30.1 shall keep clear of a boat not doing so until she is completely on the pre-start side.

22.3    A boat moving astern, or sideways to windward, through the water by backing a sail shall keep clear of one that is not. 

24.2    Except when sailing her proper course If reasonably possible, a boat shall not interfere with a boat that is taking a penalty, or sailing on another leg or subject to rule

22.1 However, after the starting signal this rule does not apply when the boat is sailing her proper course. 

© Copyright 2017 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 1/1/2017 1:50:03 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
After You Cross The Finishing Line I
Tacking III
Tacking II
Publication Changes and Tacking
How to Finish
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