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The Racing Rules of Sailing Updated
January 28th, 2013 @ 04:01 PM EST by admin

As reported in Scuttlebutt,

By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

Back when Steve Martin was funny, and the phone book was how you shopped for a plumber, the 1979 classic ‘The Jerk’ featured the excitement of Martin’s character Navin R. Johnson on the arrival of the new phone book.

“The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!”

At Scuttlebutt World Headquarters, we now get several phone books each year and they automatically get tossed in the recycle bin. But the Racing Rules of Sailing… that’s different.

“The new rule book’s here! The new rule book’s here!”

Distributed only every four years, the arrival of the Racing Rules of Sailing marks the completion of another attempt by the rules gurus to improve the sport.

By my guesstimate, this is the tenth edition of the rule book I’ve received, but not all of them survived the book’s four year term. Pages got torn, stuck together, or worse… completely wet.

But for this latest edition, US Sailing has published an optional waterproof edition, and I got one. The pages are harder to tear, and you can read it – and drop it – in the bathtub. This model looks ready for the four year enduro.

While the paper book is free to US Sailing members, the waterproof version is available for purchase on the association website, and is almost worthy of a Navin R. Johnson outburst… like this one from the movie.

Dave Perry is chairman of the US Sailing Appeals Committee, Rules Advisor to the
US Olympic Sailing Team and Artemis Racing, the Challenger for the
America’s Cup, co-author of the North U Rules & Tactics seminar, and author
of two books on the subject. Here Dave discusses the new ‘Trash’ rule:
Consider two boats approaching a leeward mark with A clear ahead of B at
the zone. B must give A “mark-room.” If A swings extra wide and B tries to
sneak in between A and the mark, the question is:

How far and fast can A turn to “shut the door” on B?

New rule 18.2(c)(2) answers this question. As long as A is still taking the
mark-room to which she is entitled, if B sticks her bow inside of A, she
must give A room to sail her (A’s) proper course. And as long as A is
sailing her “proper course,” she will be exonerated (freed from blame)
under rule 21, Exoneration, if she breaks one of the right-of-way rules in
Part 2, Section A (port-starboard, windward-leeward, etc.), or rules 15
(Acquiring Right of Way) or 16 (Changing Course) in the process.

However, if A sails *above* her “proper course,” she will not be exonerated
if she breaks one of the rules listed above. For instance, rounding a
leeward mark onto a windward leg, a boat’s proper course is typically to go
from a downwind course up to close-hauled. A is allowed to luff up to
close-hauled and if B cannot keep clear or is forced to hit the mark, then
A has broken rule 16.1, but she will be exonerated under rule 21, and B
will be penalized. But if A were to sail *above* close-hauled to shut the
door, and B was unable to avoid hitting her or the mark, then A has broken
rule 16.1, and will not be exonerated under rule 21. Note: this is not a
game change from the 2009-2012 rules.

Important in this discussion is to remember that rule 14 (Avoiding Contact)
always applies to all boats whether entitled to room or not. And if a
right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room fails to avoid
contact, she will be penalized as well unless the contact does not cause
damage or injury.

Rule 18.2(c)(2), Giving Mark-Room
(c) When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b),
(2) if she becomes overlapped inside the boat entitled to mark-room, she
shall also give that boat room to sail her proper course while they remain
For more on the rules, get Dave Perry’s two books Understanding the Racing
Rules of Sailing through 2016 (which includes the complete rule book) and
Dave Perry’s 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes available at US Sailing, 800 US
SAIL-1, or; and attend a North U Rules & Tactics
Seminar led by Dave and others (go to