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By Russell Hardie


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Welcome to “Russell’s Rules” Page.   This section has been created to address questions and issues about the racing rules of sailing as they apply to RC sailing. Please examine the presentations and discussions on this page to help you avoid collisions and sail by the rules.   You are welcome to email rules questions to me at rhardie@woh.rr.com.  I’ll do my best to respond (possibly by adding pages to this area).

Sailing Ethics

Know and adhere to the rules, even when it hurts, and not just when it favors you.  Take tactical advantage when the rules favor you and take your medicine without complaint when they don’t.  If you do this faithfully, you will gain and keep the respect of your fellow sailors, which I believe is far more important and rewarding than a few ill-gotten positions in a race.   Note that a responsible skipper is also expected to protest when he or she observes an infraction.  Protests should be polite, respectful, and devoid of hostility (as should the response).

"You haven't won the race if, in winning the race, you have lost the respect of your competitors." - Paul Elvstrom (four-time Olympic gold medalist). 

Rules Discussion Table

Racing Rules of Sailing--Simplified

Study these rules for the basic rules of sailing. Good for new and old skippers.

Mark Room

Addresses the repeated, and sometimes heated, discussions concerning Mark Room (Rule 18)

Missed Mark

Who has the right-of-way when a boat misses a mark?

Room to Tack

Give tacking room to a boat avoiding an obstruction (Rule 20). This rule also applies when two port tack boats are about to collide with a starboard tack boat.


Resources and Links

With all the discussion and literature on the racing rules of sailing, one might get the impression that the rules are so complex that they require a law library to document.  In fact, the full list of rules is amazingly compact and concise.  The entirety of Part 2 When Boats Meet can easily fit on one sheet of paper!  It Includes 10 Rules, Rules 10 – 20 (although with many subsection rules).   Thus, one should NOT be afraid to consult the original source.  Sometimes that is easier to study the original rules than to wade through case studies and reading someone else’s logic for making sense of the rules.  The trick is to have the list of term definitions handy when reading them.  The definitions are provided in the rules document, usually as the last or second to last page.

Links to RC Sailboat Rules of Racing Sites

The full official racing rules of sailing 2013-2016 AMYA Rules Tutorial, Parts I and II An animated racing rules quiz
  US Sailing Animated Handy Guide  


Here is a book I recommend for understanding the how the rules apply.  This book contains nice illustrations of many common situations and a corresponding clear analysis of the rights for each boat in the situation. It is relatively small and easy to bring to the pond and it includes the complete set of rules at the end for reference.

Search with "The Rules In Practice" at Amazon.com

One of the best ways I gained insight into the rules is by playing the multiplayer online sailing simulator at www.sailx.com.  Here you play against other people in a tactical sailing simulation (not against a computer).  The system has a rules engine that helps to enforce the rules immediately - no “cheating” allowed.  It is like having a US sailing judge watching every move.  However, a computer is not always able to successfully apply some of the subjective and nuanced aspects of the rules correctly.  Thus, there is the option to protest to override the rules engine and have your protest heard by an online forum and protest committee.  The great thing about the virtual protest room in sailx.com is you (or anyone) can replay video of the exact event (something you can’t usually do in real sailing).   This way, the protest committee has the exact event to review and comment on (no original witnesses required).  It is interesting just to go into the virtual protest room and watch the video of some cases to see the decisions and justifications (more fun to watch an incident that you were in, if you think you were in the right). 

May you always be starboard, leeward, and have mark-room too!


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