Changes to Racing Rules of Sailing 2021

Changes to Racing Rules of Sailing 2021 – 2024

There have been several important changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing for 2021-24. This post will go through them one by one and discuss the consequences out on the water.

 

Traditionally the RRS (Racing Rules of Sailing) are released after the Olympic Games. But due to some big world event the Olympics have been suspended until 2021, with the possibility of it being canceled altogether.

 

Despite this, World Sailing has decided not to suspend the RRS update. In July 2020 the latest Racing Rules of Sailing were released. They will come into effect on 1st January 2021.

 

This post will compare every significant change to the most important sections of the Racing Rules of Sailing. Namely the ‘Definitions’ section, ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’. It also includes a few noteworthy changes from elsewhere in the RRS.

 

Many of the changes are immaterial or added for clarity. Thus they don’t really impact us that much out on the water. There’s also a lot of re-numbering from the last rule book. So just because you see something has been removed don’t assume it’s not there!

 

In this post, the most significant changes will be summarised first. Then we’ll address the top 3 most significant Rule changes. Finally, we’ll detail every change (unless you’re a rule geek like me you may want to skip this part).

 

All changes are clear to see as the changed words are both underlined and italicised.

 

Feel free to disagree with, or add to, my interpretations. Comments from other users can be seen at the bottom of this post.

 

 

 

Summary of the Top 3 most significant changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing in 2021

 

1. The ‘hull’ is of primary importance.

 

World sailing have removed several references of ‘she’ and ‘hull, or crew or equipment in normal position’. They are replaced simply with ‘hull’. This change impacts the definitions of ‘Finish’, ‘Start’, and ‘Rule 21’. However, ‘equipment in normal position’ remains in reference to overlapping.

 

This simplification is welcome. However, it does mean that boats with equipment protruding beyond their hull length or width may be slightly affected. For instance, a bowsprit crossing the finish line wouldn’t count as finished. But since this change is made to both the ‘start’ and ‘finish’ definitions what advantage World Sailing gives with one hand it duly takes back with the other. 

 

Also of note is that if you are reaching along the line with your body hiked/ trapezing out you are no longer considered to have started early.

 

Expert Race Officer Peter Saxton suggests this change was intended to exclude bowsprits which are difficult to see on a start line and difficult to work out which boat each bowsprit belongs to.

 

2. A race committee can now assign a boat a score of NSC (did not sail the course) without a hearing.

 

A5.1 gives a race committee the ability to assign a boat a score of NSC (did not sail the course) without a hearing. Previously the race committee had to finish them, then protest the boat in question, or rely on another competitor to protest. Now the onus is on the competitor to request redress if they believe an NSC score is incorrect.

 

This is a favourable change for club racing where no one wants to hang around for protests.

 

However, it may be quite hard for a boat scored NSC to provide evidence in a redress hearing that they sailed the course.

 

There is also the question of whether NSC could only be assigned if the race committee witnessed it first hand. Could the race committee assign this score based on a report from a support person or other competitors?

 

My view is that the race committee must have first-hand knowledge of the failure to sail the course, just as it requires first-hand knowledge of failing to start or finish.

 

There is always the possibility of false allegations made from fellow competitors.

 

This new NSC score might also be used when a boat clearly leaves the course without notifying the RC that they are retiring.

 

3. Exonerations

 

Rule 14 (b) and 21 have been removed. But they can still be found in the new Rule 43 [Exoneration]. Putting all exonerations in one rule makes the Rules cleaner to read which seems to make sense.

 

There are a few subtle changes to note. Firstly, the word ‘compelled’ has been removed as a condition for exoneration for breaking rule 31 (touching the mark) when taking room or mark-room. This appears to allow a boat to attempt to take the mark-room to which she is entitled, even if it’s not clear the other boat will give her it. It also makes it preferable for the boat with mark-room to hit the mark as opposed to the other boat.

 

Furthermore, the change from “shall be exonerated” to “is exonerated” makes it clear that a protest isn’t necessary for the mark-room or room boat to receive exoneration. The old rules could have been read to mean only a protest committee may exonerate them. Now it’s clear that this exoneration happens on the water. Though this doesn’t mean another boat cannot protest her is she feels the conditions for exoneration were not met.

 

 

Looking at the most significant rule changes

 

Rule 14: Avoiding contact

 

“However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room

(a) need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and

(b) shall be exonerated if she breaks this rule and the contact does not cause damage or injury.

 

Changes to:

 

“However, a right-of-way boat, or one sailing within the room or markroom to which she is entitled, need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or markroom.”

 

 

How does this change affect us?

 

Rule 14 no longer has a part ‘a’ or ‘b’. Part 2 can now be found almost word for word in the new rule 43.1(c). However, as noted above the change from “shall be exonerated” to “is exonerated” is noteworthy.

 

The other change from ‘entitled to room’ to ‘sailing within the room to which she is entitled’ is also pertinent. Previously a boat that was entitled to room or mark-room could claim this exemption even if she wasn’t sailing within the room or mark-room to which she was entitled. Now she can’t.

 

 

NEW RULE! Rule 20.4: Room to Tack at an Obstruction: Additional Requirements for Hails

 

Rule 20.4 states:

 

(a) When conditions are such that a hail may not be heard, the boat shall also make a signal that clearly indicates her need for room to tack or her response.

(b) The notice of race may specify an alternative communication for a boat to indicate her need for room to tack or her response, and require boats to use it.

 

How does this change affect us?

 

This puts more onus on the hailing boat to make sure the message is conveyed if the conditions mean they may not be heard. An alternative hailing method may be stated in an event’s notice of race so be sure to remember what it is for that event. This appears to imply that, on occasion, shouting may not be the preferred hailing method at an event if the organisers stipulate an alternative hailing method in the notice of race.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we’ll detail every change to Part 1, Part 2, and the Definitions section. Most will probably find this tedious reading so you may wish to check out our other articles on Rules & Tactics instead.

 

 

A detailed breakdown of every definition change and rule change in Parts 1 & 2

 

Definitions

 

Definition: Finish

 

“A boat finishes when any part of her hull, or crew or equipment in normal position, crosses the finishing line from the course side.”

 

Changes to:

 

“A boat finishes when, after starting, any part of her hull crosses the finishing line from the course side.”

 

Change 1: ‘or crew or equipment in normal position’ removed

Change 2: ‘after starting’ added

 

How does change 1 affect us?

 

Most references to ‘crew or equipment in normal position’ have been removed. This makes sense as it just makes the rules more concise and straightforward.

 

Note: ‘Equipment in normal position’ is still mentioned in the ‘Clear astern’ definition.

 

I’m not sure when a crew has ever crossed the finish line before the hull so it makes sense to remove that.

 

This change won’t impact class racing as for all boats ‘equipment in normal position’ should be the same. However, if different classes are racing each other it might have a slight impact in that equipment is no longer important. Therefore, slightly penalising boats with bowsprits and other protruding equipment.

 

The definition of ‘hull’ can be found in the Equipment Rules of Sailing. It’s defined as follows:

“The shell including any transom, the deck including any superstructure, the internal structure including any cockpit, the fittings associated with these parts and any corrector weights.”

 

This doesn’t appear to include equipment attached to the hull such as bowsprits.

 

Removing ‘Equipment in normal position’ does make things clearer and less open to interpretation, which I’m in favour of.

 

How does change 2 affect us?

 

The addition of ‘after starting’ appears trivial but I stand to be corrected. Perhaps it was added to prevent people sailing across the finish line before the start and claiming they had finished? You can comment below this post if you have any better ideas why this was added.

 

 

Definition: Finish

 

“However, she has not finished if after crossing the finishing line she

(b) corrects an error under rule 28.2 made at the line”

 

Changes to:

 

“However, she has not finished if after crossing the finishing line she

(b) corrects an error in sailing the course made at the line”

 

How does this affect us?

 

It doesn’t. I expect this was added to save you having to flick through the rule book. Rule 28.2 states “A boat may correct any errors in sailing the course, provided she has not crossed the finishing line to finish.”

 

As you can see the change to ‘in sailing the course’ can be made with no loss in meaning.

 

 

Definition: Mark

 

“An object the sailing instructions require a boat to leave on a specified side, and a race committee vessel surrounded by navigable water from which the starting or finishing line extends. An anchor line or an object attached accidentally to a mark is not part of it.”

 

Changed to:

 

“An object the sailing instructions require a boat to leave on a specified side, a race committee vessel surrounded by navigable water from which the starting or finishing line extends, and an object intentionally attached to the object or vessel. However, an anchor line is not part of the mark.”

 

How does this affect us?

 

This is a minor change. There does not appear to be any change in meaning.

 

Definition: Mark-Room

 

“(b) room to round the mark as necessary to sail the course”

 

Changes to:

 

(b) room to round or pass the mark as necessary to sail the course without

touching the mark.

 

How does this affect us?

 

Boats giving room may have to be slightly more careful that they give enough room to make sure the mark is not hit. Boats giving mark-room should have been doing this previously but this rule addition makes it very clear that they will be penalised if they do not give sufficient room.

 

As for the other change, I expect the difference between rounding and passing a mark is that to round a mark a boat has to turn. To pass it, the boat can keep going straight.

 

The previous rule version may have been open to challenge in the situation when a mark is simply passed.

 

 

 

 

Definition: Obstruction

 

“An object that can be safely passed on only one side and an area so designated by the sailing instructions are also obstructions.”

 

Changes to:

 

“An object that can be safely passed on only one side and an object, area or line so designated by the sailing instructions are also obstructions.”

 

How does this affect us?

 

The inclusion of ‘object’ or ‘line’ makes sense. The sailing instructions may want to designate a line that should not be passed for some reason. To give one example, there may be a swimming area on the other side of a floating line of rope.

 

The inclusion of ‘object’ implies that the sailing instructions may state that an object is an obstruction even if it can be safely passed on either side. The only example that comes to mind is a huge anchored ship. Theoretically, you could pass it on either side, but it doesn’t seem very fair to make the boat wanting room sail all the way around a ship! If you have any better examples please let us know.

 

 

Definition: Party

 

In the case of a redress hearing the following is now considered a ‘party’: “a boat for which a hearing is called to consider redress under rule 60.3(b)”

Also, ‘a request for redress’ has been changed to ‘a redress hearing’.

Also, part (e) is lengthened to:

“A support person subject to a hearing under rule 60.3(d) or 69; any boat

that person supports; a person appointed to present an allegation under

rule 60.3(d).

 

How does this affect us?

 

I can’t see how these changes are likely to have much affect on us. But I stand to be corrected.

 

 

Definition: Proper Course

 

“A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term.”

 

Changes to:

 

“A course a boat would choose in order to sail the course and finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term.”

 

How does this affect us?

 

This addition seems to relate to the new definition of “sail the course” which we discuss next. The only reason I can see for it’s inclusion here is for clarity. However, I could well be missing something here that someone with more brains can figure out.

 

 

NEW DEFINITION: Sail the Course

 

“A boat sails the course provided that a string representing her track from the time she begins to approach the starting line from its prestart side to start until she finishes, when drawn taut,

(a) passes each mark of the course for the race on the required side and in the correct order,

(b) touches each mark designated in the sailing instructions to be a rounding mark, and

(c) passes between the marks of a gate from the direction of the course from the previous mark.”

 

How does this affect us?

 

This seems to be part of the rule book re-structuring. This was originally defined in rule 28.2 but World Sailing must have seen it better to include it in the definition section. This makes sense as it is referred to elsewhere such as in the definitions of ‘finish’, ‘mark-room’, and ‘proper course’.

 

This change may be related to the new scoring penalty World Sailing have introduced. A race committee can now assign a boat a score of NSC (did not sail the course) without a hearing.

 

 

Definition: Start

 

“A boat starts when, having been entirely on the pre-start side of the

starting line at or after her starting signal, and having complied with rule 30.1

if it applies, any part of her hull, crew or equipment crosses the starting line

in the direction of the first mark.”

 

Changes to:

 

“A boat starts when, her hull having been entirely on the pre-start side

of the starting line at or after her starting signal, and having complied with rule

30.1 if it applies, any part of her hull crosses the starting line from the pre-start

side to the course side.”

 

How does this affect us?

 

This is part of World Sailing’s effort to simplify matters. Now it’s just the hull that is important. Not the crew or equipment that has been removed from this definition.

 

This also means that a boat is not deemed to have started if her crew or equipment is over the line and all parts of her hull is not. Does this give a slight advantage to bowsprit classes in handicap racing? I doubt it will make any significant difference and if it does the handicap ratings will duly change. Also as this has been changed in the finish definition two World Sailing having given with the one hand and taken with the other. A boat is no longer deemed to have finished if only it’s protruding equipment has crossed the line.

 

Note that this change also affects trapezing crew on a boat reaching down the starting line.

 

I expect the second change here from ‘in the direction of the first mark’ to ‘from the pre-start side to the course side’ is just made to make the definition tighter and less open to dispute. Since theoretically the first mark could be laid behind the start line meaning boats would have to start not in the direction of the first mark and therefore, under the old rule, would not have been classed as started. This is a theoretical situation I doubt has ever happened but it could do and that would have given World Sailing a bit of a conundrum before the change.

 

 

Part 1: Fundamental Rules

 

Rule 2: Fair Sailing

 

Now someone deemed in breach of this rule will receive a ‘disqualification that is not excludable’ (DNE). Previously the penalty was either that or the less severe excludable disqualification (DSQ).

 

 

Part 2: When Boats Meet

 

 

Rule 16: Changing Course

 

“16.2 In addition, when after the starting signal a port-tack boat is keeping clear by sailing to pass astern of a starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not change course if as a result the port-tack boat would immediately need to change course to continue keeping clear.”

 

Changes to:

 

“16.2 In addition, on a beat to windward when a port-tack boat is keeping clear by sailing to pass to leeward of a starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not bear away if as a result the port-tack boat must change course immediately to continue keeping clear.”

 

How does this change affect us?

 

I don’t see the need for 16.2 at all. It may help give further clarification on 16.1 but 16.1 seems to address the situation in 16.2. This change could mean that if this situation took place on a run then a starboard boat would be allowed to bear away at the last minute. But this conflicts with Rule 16.1 so cannot be the case.

 

 

Rule 18.2 (d): Mark Room: Giving Mark Room

 

“(d) Rules 18.2(b) and (c) cease to apply when the boat entitled to markroom has been given that mark-room, or if she passes head to wind or leaves the zone.”

 

Changes to:

 

“(d) Rules 18.2(b) and (c) cease to apply if the boat entitled to markroom passes head to wind or leaves the zone.”

 

How does this change affect us?

 

It doesn’t. This part of the rule appears to have re-located from 18.2(d) to 18.1 where it now says, “Rule 18 no longer applies between boats when mark-room has been given.”

 

 

Rule 18.3: Passing Head to Wind in the Zone

 

Tacking in the Zone”

 

Changes to:

 

Passing Head to Wind in the Zone”

 

How does this change affect us?

 

It doesn’t but it helps clarify matters. ‘Tacking’ has previously encompassed ‘passing head to wind’. However, this change adds clarity to the particular situation when an inside boat luffs up above head to wind temporarily in order to get round a mark. They are ‘passing head to wind’ but they aren’t intending to tack so the word ‘tacking’ is slightly inaccurate.

 

 

 

Rule 21.1 (was Rule 21.2): Starting Errors; Taking Penalties; Backing a Sail

 

22.1 A boat sailing towards the pre-start side of the starting line or one of

its extensions after her starting signal to start or to comply with rule

30.1 shall keep clear of a boat not doing so until she is completely on

the pre-start side.

 

Changes to:

 

21.2 A boat sailing towards the pre-start side of the starting line or one of its extensions after her starting signal to start or to comply with rule 30.1 shall keep clear of a boat not doing so until her hull is completely on the pre-start side.

 

How does this change affect us?

 

This seems to be part of the effort by World Sailing to simplify terminology so it is ‘the hull’ that is of primary importance. With the consequence being that equipment attached to the hull and crew do not count.

 

In this situation nothing really changes as any equipment protruding over the edge of the hull wouldn’t make any difference as the word ‘completely’ implies that just having part of the boat over the line isn’t sufficient. However, since the change, a boat with wings such as a 49er could theoretically get away with not having both wings cross the line as they are not part of the hull.

 

This change may have been partially prompted by the growth in numbers of boats with sideways protrusions of foils such as IMOCAs.

 

 

Conclusion

 

As you can see most changes to Racing Rules of Sailing 2021 are slight but there are several points worth knowing about. I haven’t got round to reading changes elsewhere in the rule book but the 3 sections covered above usually contain the most pertinent rules.

As always your feedback is welcome and I will consider incorporating it into this post.

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2 thoughts on “Changes to Racing Rules of Sailing 2021 – 2024”

  1. well, few more changes i would make notice:
    – preamble of race signal changed
    – new flag V
    – new orange flag as one end of starting line
    – blue flag change of meaning as one end of arrival line
    – RRS 14 : no more “damage” necessary to DSQ a ROW for RRS 14
    – RRS 42.3 c “except on a beat to windward” is deleted, and for initiate foiling, any number of pumping is allowed
    – 62.1b redress for damages caused by an IRPCAS or Government rule infringement from a boat that have nothing to do with the race
    , and d) also support person action can be ground for redress

    well, that some I notice; might be much more..

    1. Thanks Aldo! A few in there I knew about and some I didn’t. I was trying to keep the article to Parts 1 & 2 and the definitions. But perhaps I will consider expanding!

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