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James Ripley Blog - The Finish

This month, I have been working on writing a Club Race Management talk which I am to present at Paignton Sailing Club. One section is on ‘The Finish’ in which I discuss, amongst other things, the definition of Finish within the Racing Rules of Sailing. This is probably the most complicated definition within the rules and has a number of lesser known implications. For those of you who don’t know, the definition of Finish is:

A boat finishes when any part of her hull, or crew or equipment in normal position, crosses the finishing line from the course side. However, she has not finished if after crossing the finishing line she

(a) takes a penalty under rule 44.2,

(b) corrects an error under rule 28.2 made at the line, or

(c) continues to sail the course.

Definitions are Rules within the RRS and cannot be changed by the Sailing Instructions.

The first implication of this definition, is that so called ‘hook finishes’ can never occur since the definition clearly states a boat must cross the ‘finishing line from the course side’. Therefore thought needs to be taken over laying courses which may have a finish line not perpendicular to the previous leg.

Another implication of this rule is that, a boat has finished, and must be recorded as such, regardless of whether she has sailed the correct course. In other words, a Race Committee has no right to simply score a boat DNF, or DSQ, is she has sailed the incorrect course, as long as she has finished correctly. Instead, the Race Committee should protest said boat. Similarly, a boat has finished if she was OCS and her position should be recorded in case she later wins a redress hearing.

It is also important to note that a boat need not completely cross the line to finish, and there is no penalty if she crosses it again, in either direction. Country to common assumption, she cannot ‘re-finish’ or ‘un-finish’. However, according to the definition of Racing and Rule 28.1, a boat is still governed by the rules until she has ‘cleared’ the line (in either direction) and finishing marks and so must still take a penalty if she has finished and then hits a finishing mark or infringes another boat. She has then not finished as she has taken a penalty under Rule 44.2.

Care must also be taken over part c of the definition if the finish is at the opposite end of the course as the start, or the harbour.

Hopefully this article helps both Race Officers and sailors understand this tricky rule. To check out what services I can offer, or to see what I am up to, check out my Facebook page (


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