Guide to the RRS

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The guide is updated and is now current with the 2009-2012 RRS.  Significant changes from the older 2005-2008 or 2001-2004 RRS are noted below.  The "Books" page discusses some RRS books that might be useful.  If you'd like to start with just the essentials, try the "10 rules" page.  And if you want only the very barest of essentials, try the "minimum four" page!

Warning: The official RRS covers about 50 pages, books explaining them take 200 to 400 pages, and there are a further 100 or so pages of case lore, jury decisions, and interpretations. The following guide to the RRS for model yacht racing is SIMPLIFIED. The full RRS are somewhat more complex. You will need to refer to the full RRS to resolve finer points.


Starboard tack: The wind is coming from the right-hand side. It may be difficult to tell if the wind is coming from the left or right, in which case you are on "starboard tack" if your mainsail lies on the left-hand side of the boat.

Windward boat: On that side of the leeward boat that its wind is coming from. It may be difficult to tell if you are the windward or the leeward boat, in which case you are "windward boat" if the other boat's mainsail lies on the side away from you.

Overlap: An overlap is considered established when entering the four-length zone, even if it is broken later. If there is doubt that an overlap was established or broken, it shall be presumed that it was not. Two boats on the same tack are overlapped if, no matter how far apart they may be, a line abeam from the transom of the boat ahead (ie the line is at right angles to the centreline of the boat) cuts or falls behind the boat astern. These boats are overlapped.


Room and mark room: The space a boat needs to manoeuvre in a seaman-like way. [This is interpreted to mean at least a half-boat length in light airs and flat water; at least a full boat length in gusty airs, medium airs, and/or waves; and up to two boat lengths in heavy airs, large waves, and/or strong chop.]


10 A port-tack boat shall keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.
11 A windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.
12 A clear astern boat shall keep clear of a boat clear ahead.
13 While tacking, a boat shall keep clear of other boats.


14 A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible, but a right of way boat may only be penalised if damage occurs.
15 A boat acquiring right of way shall initially give other boats room to keep clear.
16.1 A right-of-way boat changing course shall give other boats room to keep clear.
16.2 After the start, a starboard tack boat shall hold her course while a boat on port tack crosses her stern.  [In the older rules, starboard was required to hold her course while port crossed either ahead or astern.  No longer;  she may hunt the port boat if it looks like it is trying to cross ahead.]
17 A leeward boat shall not sail above her proper course while overtaking a windward boat.


  The starting mark is not a mark of the course; ie no room need be given.  Mark room includes room to tack if the boat is overlapped to windward (otherwise Rule 18.2(c) applies).
18.1 Rule 18 doesn't apply to boats on opposite tacks while beating to windward, or if one of the boats must tack to pass the mark or obstruction. [This is interpreted to mean that the mark is ignored in either situation when applying the RRS.]
18.2(a) An inside boat, having established an overlap, shall be given mark room to pass a mark.
18.2(b) Mark room shall be given when the boat(s) enter the zone.  A clear ahead boat has right of way to round the mark regardless. Boats clear astern must give her mark room.
18.2(c) If a boat passes head to wind or leaves the zone, her right to mark room ceases.
18.3 A boat which tacks within the zone loses her rights to room at the mark if the other boat could fetch the mark.  She shall not force the other boat to sail above close-hauled, not prevent the other boat from passing the mark, and shall give mark room if the other boat becomes overlapped inside.
18.4 If an inside boat must gybe at a mark to sail her course, she shall pass no further from the mark than needed.
18.5 A boat entitled to mark room shall be exonerated if she breaks a rule because another boat failed to give her mark room.
19 An inside boat is entitled to room to pass an obstruction.
20.1 A close-hauled boat may call for room to tack to avoid an obstruction.  If she calls,
20.1(a) She must give the other boat time to respond.
20.1(b) The hailed boat must either tack or give the calling boat room.
20.1(c) She must tack after the hailed boat responds.
20.2 A boat entitled to room at an obstruction shall be exonerated if she breaks a rule because another boat failed to give her room.
20.3 A boat shall not hail for room unless she must make a substantial course change to avoid the obstruction.


2 A boat shall compete in a sportsmanlike way and by fair play. [This is interpreted to mean, amongst other matters, that a competitor shall not knowingly make a false call, for example, by hailing "Starboard!" while on port tack.]
21.1 A premature starter returning to start shall keep clear of all boats.
21.2 A boat making penalty turns shall keep clear of other boats. [A boat shall get well clear of other boats before starting her penalty turns.]
31 A boat shall not touch a mark while racing.
[31.3] [This rule has been deleted from the RRS.  In the older rules, it said, "A boat wrongfully compelled to touch a mark by another boat shall be exonerated."  In the latest rules, it requires a protest hearing for the boat to be exonerated.  Note that the current MYA Sailing Instructions reinstates this rule and permits 'automatic' exoneration if the other boat takes a penalty.]
44.1(a) When a boat takes a penalty and in the same incident has touched a mark, she need not take a further penalty.
44.1(b) A boat must retire if she caused serious damage or gained a significant advantage by a breach of the rules.
44.2 A boat taking her penalty shall get well clear as soon as possible after the incident and promptly do her turn [normally within 10 seconds].
E4.2 Outside help is permitted for boats ashore, aground, or entangled, and for E4.5.  A competitor may receive information freely available to all.  No competitor shall give advice to a competitor who is racing.
E4.3 Competitors shall remain in the control area while racing, except to perform functions permitted by E4.5.
E4.4 The penalty for breaking a rule shall be one turn.  [That is, one tack and one gybe.]
E4.5 A boat may be launched, adjusted, or repaired at any time. Launching is not allowed in the minute before the start (but this limit may be removed by a Sailing Instruction;  check in your event).
[E5.4] [This rule has been deleted from the latest RRS.  In the older RRS, the rule said, "During an event, ballast and control equipment may not be shifted, shipped, or un-shipped. Control equipment may be replaced by items of similar weight and position."  A similar rule is usually in force as a Class Rule or a Sailing Instruction.]
E4.8 A boat out of radio control shall so hail, shall retire, and shall be considered an obstruction.


2024 Lester Gilbert