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Interpretation of Racing Rule changes 2013 - 2016


by SWSC Sailing Secretary  Mike Deane


Every 3 years, ISAF release some changes to the rules of sailing – the rules that govern our sport. All our races and governed by the rules, so it’s important to have a good understanding. Although the changes are small, it’s important to know what's new, so I’ve put in a few notes. Full details are available form the web site, downloadable in PDF format. A little winter reading?


The rules for 2013 – 2016 are here found below


# Title Download Description Size Hits
Racing rules Download Racing rules for SWSC 889.06 kb 349

Other useful information about the rules is here:


My summary of the important changes: (but don’t rely on my interpretation in a protest, go read it yourself!)


“Finishing” has been defined to clarify what happens if a boat takes a penalty after crossing the finishing line, or corrects an error, or continues to complete another lap. This has no obvious impact on our racing.


racemap“Keep Clear has been defined, a boat keeps clear if the right of way boat can continue her course without altering course. When overlapped, a boat keeps clear of the right of way boat, if the right of way boat can alter course without immediately making contact. This can impact us when two boats are overlapped and on the same course. The windward boat must keep clear of the leeward boat. This clarification means that the windward boat must avoid a situation where the two boats gradually come closer together, such that the leeward boat cannot alter course and luff up, without immediately causing a collision. In essence, this rule change means the windward boat must ensure the leeward boat has enough room to luff up, which then creates a collision course, which means the windward boat must alter course too. In essence, the windward boat here must keep sufficiently clear to allow the leeward boat room to manoeuvre.


“Mark Room” has been defined. This means you must leave enough space for a boat to leave a mark on the correct side. You must allow a boat to sail to the mark, and to round the mark.


“Environmental Responsibility: Participants are encouraged to minimize any adverse environmental impact of the sport of sailing. The penalties are not specified. I take this to mean that you could protest a competitor who threw rubbish into the lake. Personally I vote for hanging, but suspect I’ll only be allowed to get away with disqualification. Keep the lake clean.


“Zone” is now defined as the area defined by three boat lengths around the mark. Remember a boat is in the zone when her bow crosses this distance, and thus the zone is defined by that boat’s length. This is important when you ask yourself if another boat is inside the zone. It’s their boat length, not yours..... Including the zone in definitions, means that it cannot be varied by a local rule. This shouldn’t affect us too much....


Rule 18.3 is clarified to ensure it is clear that a boat tacking in the zone does not acquire rights over a boat that is fetching the mark. The boat that tacked inside the zone must keep clear.


Rule 42.3 covers exceptions to the rule prohibiting propulsion. A new exception has been added to allow pumping of the sail, where battens are inverted. this may be repeated until the batten is no longer inverted. This action is not permitted if it clearly propels the boat. This clarifies the situation that has become more common with fully battened sails. You can sort it out, by pumping but not so vigorously that is propels the boat.


Rule 44 covers penalty turns. The clarification here mean that if you infringe several rules, in one ‘incident’, then two turns are required. (One turn if you touch a mark (rule 31)). The ‘incident’ may mean you broke several rules in succession. Only one penalty is required per incident.


There are many other changes, but these do not significantly change the rules of sailing, they clarify detail, or impact on the way races are organised or protests are heard.


I hope you’ve read to the end, taken note, and look forward to some debate – in this case the Sailing Secretaries views are neither definitive or final! All criticism will be welcomed and debated.


Mike Deane