Improve Your Knowledge of the Racing Rules

Sailboat racing is a game which is played by rules designed to make it fair and fun, while preventing collisions and damage.  Almost alone among major sports, sailing rules generally are enforced by the competitors, and not by separate referees or umpires.  And, penalties are self-imposed, so you need to know when you are in the wrong so you can do penalty turns instead of being disqualified later.

If you are a racing sailor, you owe it to your fellow competitors to possess at least basic knowledge of the rules.  Sailors who don’t know the rules, or worse, ignore them, spoil the sport for their fellow competitors.

Plus, because almost all racing tactics have evolved out of the limitations imposed by the rules, better knowledge of the rules will improve your racing results!

Racers at every level — from beginner to expert – can gain a better knowledge of the rules by studying books and videos.

The off-season is a great time to improve your rules knowledge.  There are lots of resources available to help sailors learn the rules, some of them free.  If there is a racing sailor in your family, one of these items might make a great holiday gift:

Start by owning and reading the rulebook.  The Racing Rules of Sailing are published by US Sailing, the governing body of the sport in the United States.  You receive a copy of the rulebook when you join US Sailing; or, you can purchase one at the US Sailing website,

US SAILING also publishes the Handy Guide to the Racing Rules of Sailing, sort of a Cliff Notes version: Guide to the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009 – 2012&VendorDesc=&Search=N

A 9-minute video version of the Handy Guide to the Racing Rules of Sailing can be viewed for free at

There are several books available which explain the racing rules.  The best known is Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing by Dave Perry.  Available at Amazon

Two similar books are The Rules in Practice 2009-2012 by Bryan Willis and Paul Elvstrom Explains the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-2012 Rules


A comprehensive DVD guide to the rules is available from US SAILING at the Rules DVD 09-12&Search=N

More advanced racers can learn a lot from Dave Perry’s 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes 2009-2012 Best Racing Rules Quizzes 2009-2012&VendorDesc=&Search=N

Spend a little time this winter improving your knowledge of the rules, and you will see the benefits in your race results next summer!