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Racing rules and tactics


“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ― Pablo Picasso

What you need to know

Recorded RYA Racing rules seminar

Changes in the new 2021-2024 racing rules

The Rule book and case studies

Complete racing rules resources for competitors, Judges and other race officials

Test your knowledge

The details

If you are planning on racing this Summer, you must have at least a rudimentary understanding of the racing rules. E.g. Port gives way to starboard, overtaking boat keeps clear, mark room must be given to any inside overlapped boat within the zone (4 boat lengths from the mark) and so forth. Abiding by the rules, guarantees you will not upset your fellow competitors.


Of course for serious racers, the rules represent an opportunity and can be used to gain tactical advantage. E.g. When approaching the windward mark, the final tack onto starboard (assuming a port rounding mark) should be at least 2 boat lengths outside the zone. That way, you have rights on any port tack boat that is approaching the mark and has to tack in the zone. After their tack, they will have no rights and if they cause you to deviate from your course, they will incur a penalty. 

Did you know that a boat when stationary on the start line becomes an obstruction and therefore you can call water on another boat, if rounding the obstruction.  Just one example of the application of rules by the US sailing association rules quiz book.


You will do well to have a clear understanding of the rules at the start, at obstructions and at marks as there is much to be gained or lost by manipulating the rules to your advantage.   

It is also wise to be clear on how you hail. You must be be clear and concise. There are defined calls in the rules that you are allowed to make e.g. 23 Room to tack, calling a protest (24 protests 06), boat 98 out of control and there are tactical hails e.g. starboard, stay up, overlap, mark room, no mark room. One last point on hails, make sure they are loud and clear so all your competitors can hear as they maybe spread along the shoreline. 


Complete Racing rules resource for competitors, judges and other race officials

The rule book is here along with the case books: 


The World Sailing call book for radio sailing

The purpose of this book is to provide, for competitors and race officials, approved interpretations of the racing rules when sailing under RRS including Appendix E, Radio Sailing Racing Rules.

Here are the links to the RYA Rules seminar held in 2020  

Introduction to the racing rules   

The Start   

The windward leg   

Marks Part 1   

The run   

Marks part 2 Masterclass    


There are superb videos on all the critical rules when boats meet from along with a host of valuable racing resources.  Search for racing rules for the extensive rules section.  Enjoy.

A really useful site for model yacht racing by a Sail Canada senior judge covering the changes in the 2021-2024 Racing Rules and bonus items including the difference between Proper Course, Mark Room and Right of Way, is here: 


To put your knowledge into practice, here is a great game I found on the web.  The interface is a bit clunky but it will challenge your knowledge.   


Another good test of knowledge is here   

Finally . One thread is on rules (forth thread down from the top when I looked, lead by a Canadian local rule guru John Ball. he hasn't been a judge for a while but I think he is on the IRSA rules committee now and is usually pretty good. A few times International judge Gordon Davies chips in.  

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