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Racing rules of sailing


Sailing is both exciting and exotic. It’s a sport that requires a lot of its players but offers tons of satisfaction. If you are curious about the behind the scenes of this game, how it’s played and who it is played by, we compiled a comprehensive list for you to study.


General considerations

Sailing is a sport that combines various competitive sailing formats; each is regulated by their respective federations or clubs that make up the rules of sailing racing.

Each competition can focus on a different aspect. Some contests want to set speed records, while others have more classic formats. There are also ones that include closed courses or point-to-point racing.

They can take place on the open ocean or a coast or even on sheltered waters. The competitions, usually, have the same type of sailing craft competing, to ensure uniformity and equal chances.


What you need

A sailing competition that comprises of multiple vessels is called a regatta. It has individual races, and the crew that has the best results in a series of them is declared the overall winner.

The type of race differs as does the kind of boat. It is usually done around buoys and other marks of this type, while the events that last longer typically compete across the open water.

Some types of boats that can be used to race with are yachts, dinghies, boats designed for cruising, catamarans and custom-made boats. Any other type of boat can make the object of a race if it’s powered by the wind.



These are the racing rules of sailing explained. One of them states that even if you have the right-of-way, you have to avoid collisions if the other boat is doing nothing about it. This is in place so accidents will be prevented.

Another important rule says that if a boat changes its course, even if it has the right-of-way, it should not make things harder for a burdened boat to keep clear.

Other rules mention starting over, moving astern and taking penalties, but these are the most basic one you need to know as a beginner. In total, there are around 91 rules.



Sailboat racing is a type of self-regulated competition. And the Racing Rules of Sailing state anyone that breaks the rules should take a penalty and in extreme cases, be eliminated from the game.

But that depends on what kind of infraction it is. One penalty can be performing a combination of a tack and a gybe, or another one can consist of two turns made of two tracks and two gybes.

If the competitor does the penalty, he might be excluded from disqualification. But, if the infraction caused damage or any injury, the sentence is retirement.


Race signals

The signals are done with flags and sounds. The flags are inspired by the international maritime signal patrimony. And all the allowed flags and signs are stipulated in the rules for sailing.

If you remove or raise a visual sign, you should accompany it by its respective sound, so you draw attention to the new one. Each sound and its flag are described in the instructions.

There are many types of signals, that include the postponement signal, preparatory and start ones. They make for an uneventful ride and help avoid confusion while facilitating non-verbal communication.


Event disciplines

Fleet racing is one attractive event. They can have five boats or even a hundred in a single race. A regatta must consist of at least three races to be validated. All the places in the races are added to result in a final score.

Match racing consists of only two boats that compete against each other. One famous competition of this kind is America’s Cup, and its objective is to arrive at the finish line before the opponent.

Team racing happens between two teams that have three boats each. It resembles a match racing, but the scoring is a bit different and a harder to win.


The unofficial rules

The unofficial rules usually revolve around sportsmanlike behavior and respect for the other competitors. They state that fair play should be almost like a religion and you should not sabotage others for your own gain.

Other help with avoiding long waiting lines and bureaucracy. Because just like any other sport, even sailing has a dull side with a lot of approvals to wait for and documents to sign.

And they also state that safety is above anything else, just like the official rules. No one should take lightly serious injuries or accidental deaths that can happen while competing.



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