The Basic Rules of Racing for RC Yachts

The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) fill a small book and can become ridiculously complex, especially when reputations and big money are involved. An America's Cup dispute took years to resolve and went to the New York Supreme Court! Hopefully we can keep things at a much more friendly level.

There are basically only a few rules that we should be applying in our racing to keep everybody happy and smiling. The accent at GMBC is always to have a good time and enjoy ourselves on the water.

The Port and Starboard Rule
When you are beating to windward, normally after starting the race or rounding the leeward mark, you will frequently change tack from Port (where the wind is coming over the left-hand side of the boat) to Starboard (where the wind is coming over the right-hand side of the boat). A boat on Starboard tack always has right of way over a boat on Port. An easy way to remember which is which is using this phrase: "The ship left port" - left is port. This rule also applies to boats running downwind. If your main boom is on the left side of the boat you are on Starboard because the wind is from the right.

Rounding a Mark
At each mark of the course, there is a 'zone', an imaginary circle whose radius is four boat lengths from the mark. If two boats arrive at the zone and Boat A has an overlap on Boat B, then Boat A can call for room (Water! or Water at the mark! or Room at the mark!) and Boat B is obliged to keep clear and make sufficient room for Boat A to pass the mark. If Boat B is clear ahead when arriving at the zone then Boat A cannot call for room even if she later gets an overlap because the overlap did not exist when the zone was entered by Boat B. Note that the two marks which form the start line are not marks of the course under this rule and no boat can call for room at either end of the start line.

Windward Boat Gives Way
If two boats are on the same tack, then the boat which is to windward (upwind) must give way to the leeward boat (downwind boat) if the leeward boat has an overlap. An overlap is where the bow of one boat is inside a line drawn at right angles across the transom of the other. If there is no overlap, then the windward boat is clear ahead and has right of way over the leeward boat.

Tacking Boat Keeps Clear
When a boat is tacking it must keep clear of other boats. A boat may not tack 'under the bow' of an approaching boat in such a way as to force the other boat to alter course to avoid it.

Penalties
In serious racing, a protest can be made by a skipper against an offending boat and the race committee will hear the protest and apply a penalty, which would normally be disqualification of the offending boat. It is much less disruptive and much more friendly for the offending boat to choose to take a penalty on the water and avoid any lengthy and confrontational hearings. If there is contact between two boats, it is because at least one of them has broken a rule. The offending boat(s) must then do a 360 degree one-turn penalty (turn your boat around one full turn) and the penalty has then been served. You must do your one-turn penalty within the leg of the course in which the offence occurred, i.e. before you reach the next mark. If you miss a mark, or round it from the wrong side, then you have to go back and round the mark again in the correct direction. If an imaginary string is laid out behind your boat as it sails along, then when the string is pulled tight it must follow the correct course around each mark.

The most important rule of all is to have fun, and remember that nothing drives members away from a club (and our sport) quicker than rigid and loud enforcing of each and every rule. Please be tolerant of beginners and those with less experience than yourself.

 

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