May 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules Of Sailing IV

placeholder image

May 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules Of Sailing IV

This month, we continue our review of the changes in the latest rule book, 2017-2020. The hard copy of the new book is now available and I believe that the pro shop has copies for sale. This month we are going to leave the right-of-way rules and cover some of the biggest changes in the new book. 

At the high end of competitive racing, there are more and more coaches and other types of support staff. And… at the beginning of junior sailing there are parents, lots of them. The changes to the rules now make it clear that the rules can apply to these people, as well as to the sailors on the boats. Most coaches and most parents are well behaved and contribute in many ways to regattas. As in any sport however, there are parents who get a little too involved (“hockey parent” and “Optimist parent” are terms that are sometimes compared). Coaches, whose careers can depend on how well their athletes do, can sometimes go too far in trying to achieve that success. 
Support Person is Any Person Who
(a)    provides, or may provide, physical or advisory support to a competitor, including any coach, trainer, manager, team staff, medic, paramedic or any other person working with, treating or assisting a competitor in or preparing for the competition, or
(b)    is the parent or guardian of a competitor. 


3.1 (a)    By participating or intending to participate in a race conducted under these rules, each competitor and boat owner agrees to accept these rules.
(b)    A support person by providing support, or a parent or guardian by permitting their child to enter a race, agrees to accept the rules.

3.2    Each competitor and boat owner agrees, on behalf of their support persons, that such support persons are bound by the rules.

3.3    Acceptance of the rules includes agreement
(a)    to be governed by the rules;
(b)    to accept the penalties imposed and other action taken under the rules, subject to the appeal and review procedures provided in them, as the final determination of any matter arising under the rules;
(c)    with respect to any such determination, not to resort to any court of law or tribunal not provided for in the rules; and
(d)    by each competitor and boat owner to ensure that their support persons are aware of the rules.

3.4    The person in charge of each boat shall ensure that all competitors in the crew and the boat’s owner are aware of their responsibilities under this rule.

3.5    This rule may be changed by a prescription of the national authority of the venue. 

64.4    Decisions Concerning Support Persons
(a)    When the protest committee decides that a support person who is a party to a hearing has broken a rule, it may
(1)    issue a warning,
(2)    exclude the person from the event or venue or remove any privileges or benefits, or
(3)    take other action within its jurisdiction as provided by the rules.
(b)    The protest committee may also penalize a competitor for the breach of a rule by a support person by changing the boat’s score in a single race, up to and including DSQ, when the protest committee decides that
(1)    the competitor may have gained a competitive advantage as the result of the breach by the support person, or
(2)    the support person commits a further breach after the competitor has been warned by the protest committee that a penalty may be imposed. 


69.1    Obligation not to Commit Misconduct; Resolution
(a)    A competitor, boat owner or support person shall not commit an act of misconduct. 
(b)    Misconduct is: 
(1)    conduct that is a breach of good manners, a breach of good sportsmanship, or unethical behaviour; or
(2)     conduct that may bring the sport into disrepute. 
(c)    An allegation of a breach of rule 69.1(a) shall be resolved in accordance with the provisions of rule 69. It shall not be grounds for a protest and rule 63.1 does not apply. 

The new rule book has a new definition, Support Person. This includes parents, coaches and all the other people who might be supporting a sailor, before, during and after competition. Rule 3.1(b) makes it clear that the support people are agreeing to accept the rules. Rule 3.2 states that the competitor agrees, on behalf of the support person, that they are bound by the rules. 3.3(d) says that competitors are responsible for ensuring that their support people are aware of the rules. Rule 64.4 makes it clear how either the support person or the competitor may be penalized. 

A support person is not going to break a right-of-way rule while racing, since they aren’t racing. This means that they are not going to break Part 2 of the Racing Rules of Sailing. They aren’t going to start early and they aren’t going to hit a mark. So, the obvious question is, “What rules might they break?” 
Most of the rules that the support person might break are going to be in the sailing instructions, which are part of the rules. The instructions might require support boats to stay a certain distance from the racecourse or not to interfere with the competition. The instructions might require coaches to wear life jackets while afloat. The instructions might have restrictions on towing. In the past, instructions sometimes tied these potential violations to the competitor, but not very consistently. Now it is clear that a coach, parent or other support person is bound by these rules and the competitors she or he is supporting are responsible for violations. At an extreme, a coach driving through the middle of the racecourse, could result in all of his or her sailors being disqualified. Parents motoring through the middle of the racecourse could cause their children to be disqualified. 

The final rule that parents and support people should be aware of is Rule 69. Rule 69 Misconduct, previously “gross misconduct”, makes it clear that support people shall not commit a breach of good manners, a breach of good sportsmanship, unethical behaviour; or conduct that may bring the sport into disrepute. This can cover bad behaviour anywhere near a regatta. It certainly covers bad behaviour near the people running the regatta, including the race committee and the judges. Just as a parent arguing with a referee in hockey can get them ejected from the arena, arguing with the race committee can lead to similar consequences. 
All coaches, parents and competitors should be clear in their minds that the new rules apply to all ages, all classes. On and off the water, sailors and their supporters should display behaviour that is a credit to our sport. 

© Copyright 2017 Andrew Alberti
Posted: 5/1/2017 2:13:43 PM by Andrew Alberti

Trackback URL:

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 on line back to January 2007. 

Articles before December 2016 are based on the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-12 or 2013-2016 and have not been updated to reflect the changes that apply as of January 2017 with the publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-20.  A copy of the new rules can be found on
Andrew Alberti has been writing these monthly articles in the Kwasind since early 1997.  They explain the Racing Rules of Sailing.  Andrew is a National 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


166 Years of Tradition | World-Class Sailing | Toronto Island & City Clubhouse
March 2015 - Three Boats At The Weather Mark
June 2017 - The 2017-2020 Racing Rules Of Sailing V
May 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules Of Sailing IV
April 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules Of Sailing III
March 2017 - The 2017 - 2020 Racing Rules Of Sailing II