Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing

When discussing the Racing Rules of Sailing, do you use terms or hails such as:

“Tacking too close”

“Gybing too close”

“Overtaking boat”

“Zone around an obstruction”


“You have to sail to the mark”

If so, your rules knowledge is out-of-date. None of these terms appear in “The Racing Rules of Sailing for 2017-2020”. Every four years, the rules are revised in lockstep with the Olympics. A major overhaul was affected in the 1997-2000 rules. Another major change occurred in the 2009-2012 rules with a complete re-writing of “Section  C – At Marks and Obstructions”. While the changes in the 2017-2020 rules are not as substantive, the language of some of the  rules  have changed, as well as the meaning of some.

Situations which were in days gone by described by terms such as “tacking too close” are still covered in the rules, but using different language and descriptions. This situation is now covered by Rule 13 “While Tacking”. If you think that a boat clear ahead cannot fall off to try to prevent you from establishing  an inside overlap, you are thinking rule 17.2 – which no longer exists as of 2009.

It is essential that competitors understand the Racing Rules of Sailing. This is especially true when racing Harbor 20’s. These boats are heavy and capable of doing severe damage in collisions. It is no fun being fouled, or worse, sustaining damage to your Harbor 20. When everyone understands and plays by the Racing Rules of Sailing, the competition is top notch, and collisions do not occur.

But, the Racing Rules of Sailing are not simple! While the rules which describe the allowed maneuvers on the water are contained in a six page section called “When Boats Meet”, entire books are written to provide explanation and interpretation. A certain amount of study is required to really understand the rules. Reading the rules is not sufficient to gain a thorough understanding. Reading the books on the subject is a good approach. Attending the “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing” seminar is a great way to get a running start. This seminar covers all of the rules and definitions which pertain to boats maneuvering while racing. Animated PowerPoint is used to visually depict how the rules work. The course materials have been carefully reviewed by Dave Perry.

By knowing the rules, you will not be intimidated by those who either do not know, or who knowingly abuse, the rules.

If you have questions or suggestions regarding this seminar, please contact:

Peter Haynes    949-466-3971    peterhaynes201@gmail.com


“How can you play the game is you don’t know the rules? I’ve been attending rules seminars all my life – I’ve seen them all – and this is the best I’ve ever seen!” -Tom Schock

“I was impressed with how you presented the sailing rules in an interesting and entertaining way. The class drew all levels of sailors from beginning sailors like myself to sailors have been racing competitively for 50 years and more. The visual teaching coupled with your workbook were a great way to learn. I was surprised with how quickly the day slipped by and how much we covered.” -Trish Ramser

“At $75 this seminar is a real bargain and offers much more than seminars at double this price, the 160 plus page handout is easily worth the seminar price itself. Along with boat handling and racing strategies and tactics, the rules of racing are critical knowledge for the casual and experienced sailor.” -Tom Madden

“I learned in one day what would ordinarily take 10 racing seasons to learn. Invaluable!” -Guy Doran

“Comprehensive, informative and well presented. I’ll be back because repetition is essential.” -Mary Bacon

“An absolute winner! From novice to knowledgeable in one day.” -Nina Manning

“I could attend this course over and over and would learn something new every time.” -Neal Crowley