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James Ripley Blog: Rules

Most sailors know the basic Part 2 rules within World Sailing’s Racing Rules of Sailing regarding “When Boats Meet” but as a Race Officer, you get to know the rules a lot deeper. This month, I thought I would share some of the more useful rules that are buried a bit deeper within the rule book or case studies which can help your sailing – especially at larger events:

  • Rule 26 – most sailors understand the “5, 4, 1, Go” start sequence but did you know that times are taken from the visual signal, not the sound signal, and races may continue even in the absence of a sound signal? This will make a difference in a large event with a long line as the sound may take over a second to travel to the far end of the line (the speed of sound is approximately 343m/s and I have started races with lines of up to 500m long).

  • Rule 29 – in contrast to above, in the event of a recall, the applicable sound signals must be made. Furthermore, in the event of an individual recall, flag X must be displayed ‘promptly’. Case law tells us that ‘promptly’ means 4 seconds after the start. For a racer, if no signal has been made after 4 seconds, carry on sailing – you will be able to get redress you are scored OCS but no individual recall was signalled within this time.

  • Rule 30 – this regards the various starting penalties that may be used. The most common being P, U and Black. For large events, the RYA now recommend only using the latter of these two as it can be hard to correctly identify whether boats have restarted as required when using P. It is worth reading about what I and Z mean as well as they are occasionally used.

  • Rule 33 – it is amazing as a Race Officer how few people know this rule regarding procedures for changing a course. It is a very useful tool in a Race Officer’s kit to be able to move a mark after a wind shift or if the fleet are lapping too slow or fast but it is equally disheartening when the whole fleet sail the wrong way. If you are planning on sailing in any event this season, I would suggest you revise this rule.

  • Rule 34 – even less well know than the above rule is this one. If a mark has blown away, the Race Committee may replace it with a RIB or other object displaying flag ‘M’. Although this is less commonly used (well run events tend to like to keep hold of their marks!) there is always a chance it may come in to play.

If you recon you have a good grasp on the rules, here is a quick quiz question:

What does the following signal mean? (answer in the comments below)

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