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Regattas Rules, Tactics and Strategy

The Racing Rules of Sailing (often abbreviated to RRS) govern the conduct of yacht racing and any other form of racing around a course with more than one vessel while powered by the wind. A new revision is published every four years (after the Olympic Games) by World Sailing

Racing Rules of Sailing 2021-2024 Download here Sail races are governed with flags and sound signals to indicate flag changes. The flags used are taken from the International maritime signal flag set. During a race and for any signal concerning the race, these flags are defined in the Racing Rules of Sailing but the signal can be modified by the Sailing Instructions. The raising (hoisting) or removing of a visual signal is accompanied by the emission of a sound signal to draw attention to the new signal. The type of the sound signal (one short sound, two short sounds, one long sound, etc.) is described by the rule according to the type of signal. The usual meanings of these flags are as follows:

5 minutes to start: A flag and horn to signal the start of the countdown. Engage your regatta timer on a five minute countdown.

4 minutes to start: A second flag and horn sounds. This is both a second timing reminder as well as a flag displaying starting rules of the race. If one didn’t start their 5-minute countdown, they can begin a 4-minute countdown now.

1 minute to start: Flag change and final preparatory signal.

0 minutes to start: Starting flag and signal.

Below are some simple right-of-way rules for racing in a very brief and simplified format. These are only intended as a quick simple guide until beginners to racing become more familiar with the Racing Rules of Sailing.


When boats on opposite tacks meet (i.e. their booms are on opposite sides of the boat), the port tack boat must keep clear. The starboard skipper may (but can choose not to) assert their right of way by calling "Starboard". If he has right of way you must take action to keep clear (i.e. pass astern or tack/jibe).


The tack is named for the windward side of the boat, i.e. the side opposite the boom. If you face forward and the right hand side of the boat is windward, you are on starboard tack. Otherwise you are on port.


When boats are on the same tack, i.e. booms on same side the following applies:

Windward boat shall keep clear,

A boat clear astern shall keep clear

This rule also covers upwind downwind boats meeting.


While you are tacking, you must keep clear of other boats that are not doing so. If you acquire the right of way over a boat near-by with a tack or jibe, you must give that boat reasonable room and time to react. You cannot force a nearby boat to tack because you have no rights until you have completed the tack.


Even when you have the right of way, you must try hard to avoid any collision.


The buoy room rule does not apply at the start line. Do not barge in there trying to squeeze between a boat to leeward of you and a mark. Note that a Committee Boat that marks the end of a start or finish line is considered a mark.


If any part of your boat or equipment is across the start line when the start signal is made, you must re-start. You will not be told that you were over the line by the Race Officer and if you believe you were over it is best to re-start. While returning to the start line you must keep clear of the other boats that are not returning.


If a boat tries to pass you to windward, you are entitled to defend your wind by luffing up but must do so in such a way was to give the windward boat room to keep clear. A luffing boat may not pass beyond head to wind while the other boat is there.

If a near-by boat tries to pass you to leeward on a reach or run, you are not allowed to make life even more dificult for that boat by sailing below your proper course to the next mark.


If you touch a mark, you may continue to race only after getting out of the way of other boats and sailing a complete circle (a 360 o turn).


The start of a sailboat race is certainly an exciting, and critical, moment. With the entire fleet forced to sail through a very small area, the potential for gain or loss is huge. While you don't have to win the start to win the race, it certainly helps to be in the front row. And doing this consistently requires a good deal of tactical skill, boathandling expertise, sense of timing and strategic planning.

Do practice to analyze and measure the line and the starting area: how far is your boat from the line? Do you notice trends in the sailing of the boats you see around you? Do you see gaps and hot spots? Sail on the racing area - and on the starting zone particularly, in time to collect the information you need to define your plan.

In sailing regattas, the strategy and tactics play a decisive role in addition to the given course. In the races, the boats sail like on invisible lines, which represent the optimal course in relation to the wind. The direction of the line on which the boats are moving, changes with the direction of the wind. In order to have the advantage over the opponents and to control them, it is important to keep an eye on the tactics and strategy of the opponents and to react within seconds to their maneuvers as well as to changing wind directions. The sailor must be able to predict how the wind and the other boats will behave in order to take advantage out of it.

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