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US Sailing Board Approves Rules Changes Submission to ISAF


Aug 14, 2011, 12:41 PM

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US Sailing Board Approves Rules Changes Submission to ISAF

During their July meeting, the Board of Directors of US SAILING unanimously approved twelve Submissions to ISAF for changes in the 2013-2016 Racing Rules of Sailing. These Submissions were prepared by the US Racing Rules Committee, which met 19 times since last October to consider, discuss, and revise the proposed changes. Additionally, the committee members exchanged literally hundreds of e-mail messages with comments and proposed rewording of the rules in question.
The 2011 Submissions are posted on the US SAILING website,

Most are simple rewordings of existing rules, where the existing language is imprecise, unclear, or (in one case) nonsensical. But there are three important changes. They concern a new rule 6, Environmental Responsibility, a rewrite of rule 20, Hailing for Room to Tack, and changes to rule 63.6, Taking Evidence and Finding Facts.

The first major change proposed by US SAILING is a new Rule 6, in Part 1, Fundamental Rules, as follows:

Participants are encouraged to minimize the environmental impact of the sport of sailing. A competitor shall not intentionally put trash in the water.

A rule similar to the second sentence already appears in the sailing instructions for most major events (see Appendix L, SI 24), and the first sentence expresses a stand that, I think, most leaders in our sport agree with (see, for example, Although the first sentence is not enforceable, hopefully it will get both competitors and race officials (note the use of “participants” rather than “competitors”) thinking about how they can help preserve our environment.

This new rule was originally suggested to us by Anna Tunnicliffe. Anna is a Rolex Sailor of the Year and Olympic Gold medalist, but that’s not why we followed up on her idea – it struck a chord with us, and we took up the project. The US RRC is always looking for rules ideas, and good ideas come from ordinary sailors as well as from Olympians. Anna’s proposal was to make this a rule of Part 4, Other Requirements When Racing. But we felt it deserves a more prominent position – besides, the rules of Part 4 only apply while boats are racing, and we want to tell people not to trash the environment on the way to the races, between the races and after the races, as well as during the races.

The second major proposal is a rewrite of rule 20, Hailing for Room to Tack. There are lots of reasons to rewrite this rule, but I’ll give just one here: Suppose there are three boats, L, M and W, beating to windward on the same tack and L, the leeward-most of them, is approaching an obstruction that she has to change course substantially to avoid, but the other two don’t. L hails M, the middle boat, for room to tack, but M can’t tack until W, the windward boat, does. So M hails the W for room to tack, right? Well, we might think so, but current rule 20 doesn’t actually permit that second hail because M isn’t approaching an obstruction for which she has to change course to pass safely. The proposed rule fixes this problem and organizes the existing rule so it’s much easier to read.

We proposed a new rule 20 last year, but the ISAF RRC found it a little too terse, especially when it came to this 3-boat problem. This year’s Submission has a new section, 20.3, explicitly telling the middle boat in a multiple-boat scenario that she can “pass on” a hail even if she doesn’t meet the original hailing requirements.

Our third major proposal deals with protest procedures described in rule 63.6. The first part of that Submission simply adds a couple of words to resolve a contradiction between current rules 63.6 and 63.3(b), but the second part is a new concept: A member of a protest committee who sees an incident will have to reveal that fact. He may not be required to testify if he didn’t see anything important, but at least he can’t stay silent and possibly use whatever he saw to influence his decision without telling anybody about it.

The US Submissions will be considered by the ISAF Racing Rules Committee in their meeting in Puerto Rico this November. If the ISAF RRC approves the Submissions, the changes will be sent for approval by the Council, which is the governing body of ISAF. Changes to the RRS that are approved this year will come into force on January 1, 2013. A standing policy of ISAF is that no RRS changes can be considered in the year before the new rulebook comes out, i.e., in 2012, unless there’s a major emergency (which rarely happens and probably will not, next year).

Comments and suggestions for these submissions or any other rule may be left using the online form: