Do you Know the Correct Dinghy Racing Rules?

Whether you're a professional dinghy racer or just starting out, it's a good idea to brush up on the racing rules. These can change from time to time and you don't want to get penalised in a race just because you forgot to check the rule book. Every four years the racing rules are revised by world sailing, who are the international authority of the sport. There are several dinghy racing rules that need to be followed, these include when boats meet and the right of way rule, vision, environmental factors and protecting boats.


When boats meet

When boats meet, knowing the rules is an important part of dinghy racing.  The rules are written in a way that keeps racing both fair and safe for everyone taking part and there are some basic rules that everyone should know before going on the race course:

- When boats are on opposite tacks, this means the port tack boat needs to keep clear of a starboard-tack boat. 

- Another rule is when boats on the same tack and overlap, this means windward boats should keep clear of any leeward boats. 

- When boats have not overlapped but are on the same tack, then boats clear astern need to keep clear of any boats clear ahead. 

- Also, when a boat passes head to the wind, it should keep clear of any other vessels, until on a closed-haul course.

As stated above, these are the basics and it would be very wise to learn all the other rules to give yourself a tactical advantage over your competition.

Acquiring right of way

When acquiring right of way, it's important to ensure there is enough space between the two boats, unless the reason for acquiring right of way was due to the actions of another boat. When changing course, the right-of-way dinghy should also give enough space for the other vessel to keep clear and manoeuvre effectively.


It's important that boats ensure they know where they are going and are on the right course at all times. If a boat can not see where they are going, there are more likely to be incidents and they will not be able to follow the rules, or follow proper obligations. Therefore, another important rule of dinghy racing is for all vessels to maintain a proper look out at all times, both visually and through sound.

Protecting any boat before starting

Racing rules aim to protect boats before, during and after any race. The rules incorporated to keep boats safe before a race include, for any boat not racing they should not interfere with any boat that is racing.  As well as boats who have not been called to the start line should avoid the starting area during other races.

Environmental responsibility

This one isn't exactly directly linked to racing itself, however, it is one of the basic principles of racing and should still be followed. Meaning all participants of the sport should limit their environmental impact as much as possible on and off the water. Most importantly racers should not put rubbish into the water.

Discretionary penalties

If any of the racing rules have been breached, then competitors may be given a penalty. This is up to the protest committee’s discretion, when assessing penalties there are many guidelines that should be followed including awarding an infringed boat average points to disqualifying a boat from the race.  Penalties may be given to a boat for not complying with local sailing instructions which might include sailing in prohibited areas or not having the correct safety equipment on board amongst other reasons so always read the sailing instructions for the event which will be different at every event.

As mentioned above, it's important to follow the correct dinghy racing rules to avoid penalties being given and potentially getting disqualified from a race. Therefore, you should brush up on your racing knowledge and learn all of the rules and regulations to be in for the chance to win your next race. 


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