Game of chicken

Okay here’s an Idea which won’t go anywhere but what the heck here goes:
Eliminate the starboard tack right of way rule and replace it with one that says: All boats shall be required to act to avoid colision at any time when a colision appers to be about to happen. Or words to that affect. Inother words, nobody has right of way over anybody else. Isn’t that the way it is in big boats? Maybe there would be less yelling and more fun. I hate negativity when I’m trying to have fun.

Thank goodness for silicon rubber bows! :wink:


First of all, the starboard over port tack rule does exist in big boats. But, in addition, there is a rule that says that a right of way boat should alter course to avoid a collision. This is not always followed, but it is in the rules.

I must admit that I have a similar opinion on fun, but here’s my take on it: learn the rules and you’ll be happier. The way I see it is if somebody else knows the rules and is trying to make your life miserable, the best defense is knowing what to do. In my experience, until you get to a certain level, those who really know the rules are the quieter ones on the race course.

My opinion is that if you eliminated right of way completely, you would be opening yourself up to more yelling. Say no one has right of way, then even if the converse is not true (no one doesn’t have right of way), how do you prevent to boats from colliding. One way would be to communicate. Unfortunately in a lot of racing, “communication” devolves into yelling. And I would have to say I would not enjoy being the first one to bear away and lose some advantage.

Also, in crossing situations, there wouldn’t be any way to straighten things out if you just removed the right of way rules. I think T-boning would be a lot more prevalent then. And just for a little devil’s advocate talk: I’ve got a hardwood bar sanded to a sharpened edge. It would probably punch a hole in just about anything it hit. Why should I be the one to bear off and open my thin sides to collision when I have a tank for a bow?

Just some counter thought


Any time more that 2 boats are involved in a crossing situation, a lack of rules would cause total chaos. Think of a pack of 3 port tackers and a single starboard tacker. The leeward port tacker can go behind the starboard tacker without altering course. The windward of the 3 port tackers can cross without altering course. The middle of the 3 port tackers is on a collision course. What can he do? He can’t tack becuase there is a boat to windward of him. He can’t duck becuase there is a boat to leeward. If there are no rules, neither of those boats needs to do anything. So maybe the starboard tacker will tack away. But what if he has a boat to windward of him that prevents that.

With the rules we have now, there is a heirarchy of who has the right of way and who must yeild. The middle port tacker must yeild and he can ask one of the two other boats for room to either duck or tack. The situation sorts itself out and everyone goes home happy.

With no rules, you would likely have a major collision here with no one going home happy. Sailing would definitely devolve into a contact sport with lots of people and equipment getting damaged.


  • Will

Will Gorgen

Okay here’s what I’m imagining, Instead of getting rid of a hierarchical rule, simply change the rule so that there is no such thing as right of way. Perhaps a problem with the basic concept of “Right of way” is that one boat is assuming that another will act to avoid colision. If neither boat has right of way over the other, bolth are logically required to give way to the other. The new version of the rule would specify this. This rule already exists anyway, meaning all boats must avoid colision, so why do we need a “Right of way” rule?

If I’m on starboard, and the other boats on port, do I follow my proper course as I see it to be without regard to the course of the expected boat on port?

John -

may I suggest you apply your theory to automobiles and driving first (in Boston, as I recall)? Then come back and let us know how it went and what your conclusions are regarding the “test”. [B)] [:D]


Check this page

If on starboard just sail along (per rule 7), and hail starboard to the port tack boat. Now this is the test of will part, (at least in big boats) stay on starboard until the last moment, and then tack to avoid collision. Immediately protest the port tack boat per rules 14, 15 and 16. (I don?t think these are the exact rule numbers, I will check when I get home from work tonight.) If you have a competent race committee you will win the protest and, more than likely the port tacker will remember to keep clear in the future.[:D]


Then the rules change dramatically when your talking multihull’s. Trying to avoid a collision is the only way to go. Everybody I sail with “attempts” to sail by the current set of rules, but when it comes to tacking to avoid a collision and staying in the race or getting tired up with another boat and then by the time you get in the rescue boat and get out there to untangle them, the race is over and you end up with a DNF.
Tacking even when on starboard and then calling the other boat for a penalty is the easiest way to go. Not all multihull’s tack terribly fast so that yielding early is the way to go.

NOTE: To the commitee wanting to organsize the american Multione and F48 multihull titles please right in to the rules and make it known to have on water judging otherwise you will spend hours in protest rooms.


“If I owned a rc-monohull and it would be a game of chickens, I would absolutely NEVER give way. My shoreside weight and japanese selfdefence skills guarantee that i dont have to.”

Quoted from the bully mindset, I would stop racing alltogehther if there wasnt rules.

  • HJ

“Expertice is gained trough mistakes. However repeating
same mistake is not learning but stupidity.”

<blockquote id=“quote”><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica” id=“quote”>quote:<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”>Originally posted by Beachbum
My shoreside weight - HJ
<hr height=“1” noshade id=“quote”></blockquote id=“quote”></font id=“quote”>

Hey Hannu - can we conclude you haven’t seen a buffet meal you didn’t like? [:D] [:D] [:D]

Or … are you just a “big guy”? (Ha Ha)

[for the rest - Hannu & I go back a ways - so the above is a joke - not serious !] “I hope !”

If there is no “right of way” then neither party is wrong in the collision (or perhaps both parties are wrong). So where is the incentive to avoid collisions? In fact where is the incentive for me not to try and sink all of my competitors.

Imagine this: I am sailing in a 2 race series. In the prestart of the first race, I T-bone and hole every other boat. I get thrown out of the race for not avoiding all those collisions, but all the other boats sink. Then I simply go out and sail the second race. Since all my competition is at the bottom of the pond, I win the race and win the regatta my record for the series is DSQ+1st. All the other boats have DNF+DNS.

So really what you want is not boat racing, but demolition derby, right?

Count me out!

  • Will

Will Gorgen

I don’t know, he said humbly, but maybe the incentive to avoid colision is to be able to keep sailing around the course without literally sailing through other boats to get there?

Point well taken about driving on the road. Somebody needs to make the first move in a prescribed way, but we yachts hve all kinds of open water around us, un-like cars which only have a narrow skinny little road. If you’re boxed in, the road gets narrower, but maybe avoiding colision and avoiding being boxed in mean the same thing. Like I said hypothetically, the rule would simply say that no boat may take any action leading to a colision with another boat.

If I wait till the last second when I’m on starboard, to avoid a colision, I will nine times out of ten, be in a colision. In any case, all the times I’ve raced in my life, I’ve followded a common sense rule which is “Stay the heck away from the other boats” not that colisions are the end of the world, especially in a crowded fleet of model boats, on a windy day. Probably why I finished middle of the pack. (It was fun anyway)

Maybe its like that game when you stand facing away from your friend, and you ask them to catch you when you let yourself fall to them. When you fall, you’re on starboard.

Though I guess it makes it more interesting than just standing still.

Hehe Dick, well as you know I am the crew on the T, so i do all the physical stuff, handle the protests etc :slight_smile: Well Maybe to boost up my motivation, ill weight 170 lb next season instead of my current 205. HEck im going to be thin, as my height is around 6,5. As i have always said, theres skipper size and then theres CREW size, I recall you being on the skipper size, MUAHAHHHAA. yah no offense, just our little “bully-talk” I have seen people getting physical towards each other on RC-races ( not sailing ) and thats so stupid. Yes, there are hot heads among us who cannot admit when they were wrong.

Back to the topic, It could be a good PRACTICE mentally to make “no rules, no collicion” practises with friends, because many times the small gap given even if you have the right of way, is much better tactically.

  • HJ

“Expertice is gained trough mistakes. However repeating
same mistake is not learning but stupidity.”


Don’t get me wrong. I too avoid collisions. If I have the right of way and I see another boat that does not look like they are going to yeild, I will tack or whatever to get avoid the collision. Collisions are slow. I would rather loose one boatlength by having to tack when I didn’t need to rather than loose 10 boatlengths becuase I came to a grinding halt with my bow resting on the leeward rail of a port tacker. That is just smart sailing.

But if I am force to tack when I had the right of way, you had better believe that I am going to be asking for some circles from the guy who wronged me.

Going back to the driving in boston analogy. Imagine that you have a grid of cross streets. OK, I realize that boston’s roads look NOTHING like a grid, but let’s pretend for a moment shall we. Suppose the Grid contains north/south roads and east/west roads. If the wind were coming from the North east then the cars on the North bound roads are on Starboard tack and the Cars on the East bound roads are on port tack. Now imagine if none of the intersections had stoplights. Yikes!!! So you put in stoplights that allow the Starboard Tack cars to have the right of way some of the time and the Port tack cars to have right of way at other times.

Now take this analogy to the next level. Suppose all these cars were trying to get to the same place AND the guy how got there first would win something. Do you think what little courtestey on the road would remain if it was a RACE?!?!?

I hope you are starting to see whay this could not work…

Will Gorgen

Excuse me, put last I checked, what we are doing is “Sailboat Racing” and there are published, universally agreed upon rules for the sport.

Making up your own rules is like playing baseball with four strikes and twelve balls; it might be something but it wouldn’t be “baseball” anymore.

Sorry if I am a bit rude, but isnt that a bit over “elitist”?
I mean, we (me and me other friend…yes we are ONLY 2), use only one rule! touch a boat , then go make a 360…why??? easy, our boats arent stockcars…the rest really doesnt matter…we dont even use a proper “racing” course, we dont use a proper scoring system…nothing! do we have fun? :YES
my 2 Yen


_/ if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! _

Just a point,

The rules of racing are a constantly evolving set of rules, and while I do not believe the right of way rules should be tossed out, I also do not believe that changing the rules would make it not “sailing.” In fact, the rules allow for changes to the rules on a regatta by regatta basis, or by class of boat. Heck, RC rules and full size rules are similar but certainly are not the same. Classes often “make up” rules that increase the fun factor or something that makes the sport for that class better.

Just some food for thought!

Oh one question, does anybody have a definition for what constitutes moveable ballast? I feel like a moveable rig in the US1M class could be considered moveable ballast. Or heck, even a weighty winch arm. Just curious where lines have been drawn on that. This should probably go another post come to think of it…


The rules are written to handle a wide variety of racing situations. They do a pretty good job, but there are some loopholes. Every 4 years the ISAF publishes a new set that attempts to fix the loopholes so in theory the rules are constatnyl getting better.

The rules are designed to handle everything from match racing to 100+ boat fleet racing. Hence the hierarchy that is built in. It is designed to keep the racing fair for all and to allow tactical moves to be made so as to exploit the rules (protecting your startboard tack for example, or forcing someone over the line early). But sailing instructions can over-ride the rules or throw them out completely. Most sailing instructions read that the sailing will be conducted under the ISAF rules. There is a reason why you have to invoke the rules like this - because otherwise they would not necessarily be in effect.

Now, if Wis and his buddy want to race under their own rules, that is fine. Their bump and turn rules seem a little overly simplistic, but if it works for them and they are having fun, great! I like to race under the ISAF rules as often as possible because when I get to “real competitions”, I know that I am going to need to be familiar with them. But I know lots of serious sailing that is done with a very different set of rules.

For example, there is a series of interclub races between the Yacht clubs on the island of Bermuda that use a very different set of rules. The “Bermuda Fitted Dinghies” race with a set of rules that allows you to jettison your crew off the back of the boat to help propel you forward. They also ignore basic port/starboard much like John is proposing and simply force both boats to tack if either one of them shouts “hail” as they are approaching on opposite tacks. The fitted dinghy race series involves the elete crews selected from each of the clubs and they are racing for bragging rights for the entire island. The Royal Bermuda YC (the club that host the King Edward VII Gold cup which is the premier annual match racing series in the world) proudly displays their fitted dinghy hull in the entrance hall of their YC - right under the picture of the Queen!

There are also many clubs that have adopted a simplified version of the racing rules that makes it easier for the less experienced sailors to play by the rules. I’m sure you have all seen them posted here numerous times. While these rules are fundamentally the same as the ISAF rules, there are some subtle details that do result in slightly different situations on the racecourse.

So to say that if you don’t sail by the ISAF rules, you are not really racing is not exactly true. There are plenty of good ways to paly this game of sailboat racing without using the official ISAF rules. My point was that I don’t think John’s proposal of eliminating all right of way rules would be very workable - especially in a decent size fleet.


On your question about movable ballast… This is an interesting one because I recently had a ruling from the US1M tech comm on this very subject. My canting mast is not considered movable ballast becuase the mast is part of the rigging, not part of the ballast system. However, the kFOIL wings on the keel are considered movable ballast because they are part of the kell bulb system which IS the ballast system. This is true despite the fact that the CG of the wing does not change position when the wing deploys, so I am not adding or removing any righting moment. I was also told that this would be true even if the wings had neutral or even positive boyancy (if they floated, they would still be considered ballast).

Now this definition of movable ballast is US1M specific. Other classes may choose to define what is considered ballast differently. But at some point if you say that anything that has weight is ballast, then you would not be allowed to let your sails change shape or you booms move or your rudders or servos. So To say that if something has weight it must be ballast is unworkable. The ERS provide some guidance on this but the ERS are only in effect if they are invoked by a class. They are not automatically in effect.

So the short answer is you will have to ask for a ruling from your classes tech comm…

  • Will

Will Gorgen


Do you really think less collisions will take place, when everyone claims he (or she) has right of the way? I don?t think so.
The only solution is to make people learn and obey the rules. As already mentioned, you can use penalties for those who don?t obey the rules.
I mean the “360-rule” (also used in big boats) is a very good rule, because when someone doesn?t obey the rule and collide he (or she) only will lose more terrain.
Then people know they don?t win by colliding, but by fairplay. And when they keep ignoring the rules and collide with other boats, just exclude them for a race, or disqualify them. Then they?ll learn to obey the rules. I mean nobody likes to damage their boat.


If by right of way you mean everyone can just keep right on sailing whatever course they feel like, then certainly that would be unascceptable.

I think what I was suggesting hypothetially and purely for the sake of discussion was that all boats must avoid the other boats.

I have no agenda to abolish the rules, I just find myself thinking about them conceptually because I’m bored at my Job.

Happy Sailing!