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Sailing 101: Rules

© 2015 / International Olympic Committee / Bob Martin

Sailing 101: Rules

Learn more on the rules of Olympic sailing.

Right of way | The start | Protests | Other rules | Anti-Doping

During the opening series, boats earn points equivalent to the position in which they finish each race (the first boat to finish receives one point, the second boat to finish receives two points, etc.).

The medal race is both shorter and closer to the shore. Scores in the medal race are doubled (two points for first place, four points for second place, etc.). On-the-water umpires oversee the race, and sailors make any protests during competition.

Scores from the medal race are combined with competitors' scores from the opening series to determine their final ranking. In the event of a tie in the overall score, the better ranking will go to the boat the finished with a better time in the medal race.

RULES
There are many rules sailors must follow in fleet racing. The violation of these rules adds points to a final score. Depending on the violation, letter scores are awarded, which usually have a point-score equivalent to the number of boats in the race, plus one.

Right of way
Strict right-of-way rules govern how boats may move among each other in a race. The right-of-way rules revolve around the direction of the boats in relation to the wind.

The basic right-of-way rules are:
When two boats on opposite tacks meet, the onus is on the port-tack boat to stay clear of the starboard boat. A boat is on port tack when the wind comes from the left side of the boat; a starboard tack is when the wind is on the right side.

When two boats on the same tack overlap or are roughly side-by-side, the most leeward (downwind) craft has the right of way, and the boat closest to the wind must stay clear.

When two boats on the same tack are not overlapped, the overtaking boat must stay clear. Boats that breach a right-of-way rule can exonerate themselves by voluntarily sailing two complete circles, a penalty known as a 720. The men's and women's skiff classes and the mixed multihull are required to sail only one circle, known as a 360. Boats that elect not to do so risk disqualification at the end of the race if they cannot justify their actions.

The start
Right-of-way and other rules also apply during pre-start maneuvers, when each boat tries to position itself in the most advantageous spot for the starting signal. Competitors synchronize their watches from a series of sound signals so they can time their maneuvers. The race committee boat, moored at the starting line, sounds the first gun (or horn) six minutes before the start as a warning. At five minutes, the next gun or horn signals the boats to prepare for the race, and the rules kick in. The next sound comes with one minute remaining, followed by the starting gun or horn. If a boat jumps the gun, it normally must round the starting buoy, return completely behind the line and start again, unless the race committee indicates otherwise. In instances where the race committee cannot identify clearly which boat or boats jumped the gun, the entire race is restarted in a general recall.
 

9. General Recall

9.1 In case of any problems with the starting line (such as length, or angle to the wind, etc.) a postponement may be signaled, even up to the last second before the start, instead of a general recall.

9.2 If a race management error is discovered after the starting signal (e.g., timing), the race management team may abandon the race (by using flag N). In these circumstances, the race management team will not signal a general recall.

9.3 When the race management team is not satisfied that all boats over early (or that have broken rules 30.3 or the U flag sailing instruction) have been identified, a General Recall will be signaled.

9.4 When using U flag, if a general recall would result from unidentified boats on the course side of the starting line early in the minute prior to the starting signal, a postponement will be signaled immediately. If the race management team is satisfied that the starting line was fair then the next start will use rule 30.3.

Protests
A competitor may lodge a protest against another boat or the race committee by hailing "Protest" to the alleged violator, displaying a red protest flag and submitting the relevant forms within 90 minutes of the last boat finishing the race. Five independent jurors from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) hear the protest, and other competitors may appear as witnesses for either side.

Other rules
A boat is considered to have finished a race as soon as any part of its hull or equipment, in its usual position, crosses the finish line in the direction from the last mark.

Each competitor must wear a personal flotation device.

The maximum weight of competitors' clothing and equipment is specified. It usually is limited to eight kilograms (17 pounds), not including a hiking or trapeze harness and clothing worn only below the knee.

Anti-Doping
During the period of the Olympic Games, the IOC Anti-Doping Rules (compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code and the mandatory International Standards) will apply.

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