Rules Q & A

Question - When am I officially racing?  Why do I care?

Why do I care? – The Racing Rules of Sailing contains Part 2 rules describing situations WHEN BOATS MEET.  These are the common rules about who has right of way when boats are on the same tack and overlapped OR boats are on opposite tacks.  Part 2 also contains rules about rights at starts and at marks.  AND a boat can only be penalized for breaking these rules when she is officially racing.

When am I officially racing?  This is an important term defined in the Racing Rules of Sailing.   “A boat is racing from her preparatory signal until she finishes and clears the finishing line.” 

What is my preparatory signal?  Appendix E (RADIO SAILING RACING RULES) specifies a 2-minute starting sequence “using warning, preparatory and starting signals at one-minute intervals.” So, the preparatory signal for RC boats is one minute prior to the start.

When do I finish? – This is another important term defined in RRS – “A boat finishes when, after starting, any part of her hull crosses the finish line from the course side.”

But after finishing, am I still racing? YES, YES, YES – “a boat is racing until she finishes and clears the finishing line.”  So, a boat cannot hit a mark until she finishes AND clears the line.  A boat cannot foul another boat until she finishes AND clears the line.

What does it mean to “clear the line”?  This is a bit murkier but Dave Perry (the rules guru) says you have cleared the line when you are no longer at risk of hitting the finish marks.

Sooo, what happens if I finish but my stern hits the finish mark BEFORE I clear the line?  You have hit a mark while racing, breaking a rule.  You must do one penalty turn (one tack and one gybe) and then recross the finish line from the course side.  BTW – you can do the penalty turn anywhere clear of other boats.  You should be scored the second time you crossed the finish line.