Fleet Racing Rules

the team races in Charleston

In college sailing, racing is typically conducted as fleet racing, although in some cases, races can be conducted as team racing. For all intents and purposes, this website will explain the basic rules and procedures of fleet racing.

Teams competing in a fleet racing regatta are typically split in two divisions, A and B, with A being the more talented and promising racers. The race courses can vary, but typically, races begin across an imaginary line in the water. All of the boats try to cross this line strategically at the moment when the last whistle is blown. A racing committee is positioned to signal the start of the race and to mark when the boats finish.

Common Sailing Terms

According to the International Sailing Federation, there are typically two or more marks set up, a windward mark and a leeward mark. Boats race upwind to the first mark, round the other marks, and the first boat to finish wins that specific race. However, a team, or in college sailing a school, wins by having the best combination of wins among its A and B divisions.

On the race course, there are various rules governing a boat’s right of way while tacking (or changing the boat’s direction. The International Sailing Federation issues an book every year that details the specific rules. Here are some of the basics:

  1. When boats are on opposite tacks, a port-tack boat has to keep clear of a starboard-tack boat.
  2. If boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat has to keep clear of a leeward boat.
  3. During racing, rounding the mark can cause problems for boats that are close together, but a boat that is right of way is entitled to have room to round the mark, and in general, contact should be avoided at all costs.
  4. If any boats disregard the rules and commit errors, other boats can protest the racers’ actions and these protests are taken before a committee that judges the acts.