Sailing rules

I unfortunately did not manage to make the UK Footy National Championship at Watermead, but from the reports I hav had over the phone certain things spring to mind.

At Birkenhead the PRO adapted easily and seamlessly to a Footy way of thinking - that minor collisions did not count. The Watermead PRO (I am not complaining at all, he did a fine job and is currently nursing either a nasty headache or a large bottle of Footy whisky, gratefully given, and has my sincerest thanks) suggest a slightly more conventional approach. This, I am told caused considerable resentment in some quarters.

Both points of view are in principal perfectly valid. On the one hand, if we are to sail by a set of rules, we should do so, not ignore them as and when it suits us. On the other, it may seem silly to be racing 12" boats weighing half a kilo to collision rules originally intended to stop 50 ton Victorian cutters T-boning each other and thereby killing people.

We may say that the chess game of the rules is part of the fun of the race. Many people whose origins are in traditional model or full-size yachting would probably adhere to this view On the other hand, a lot of prominent people in the Footy class in UK (nd I suspect elsewhere) came to Footys from model aircraft, model railways or whatever. They have little or no time for rules that they see as serving no useful purpose.

If we adhere to the full panoply of ISAF RRS, we do have a very practical problem. If you ae racing your (full size) Laser, it is pretty certain that you will be aware that you have had a collision, howver slight. In a Footy it is not - it requires pretty keen eyes (says he ruefully) to see which way the little brute is going, let alone whether you have had grazing contact with a buoy or another boat. Taking this rather cynical possision, the rules may be reduced to one, and only one: the boat posessed of the best eyesight has right of way at all times. The alternative is to make Footy racing dificult and expensive to organise wit on-water observers, etc. I am absolutely certain that nobody wants this.

So if we don’t want standard ISAF RRS, what do we want the rules (if any) to do for us. I would very much like considered replies to this question. Do we want a free-for all? Or a chess game? Or a way of enforcing reasonably good manners? Or …? If we do not have a straight answer to this, we have only ourselves to blame if there is a Great Bust Up in the future.

Please note that I consider this matter to be crucially important. That is why I am putting it out over an international, public forum. I am quite sure that the same problems exist in the USA and it would be sensible if we could arrive at a solution that covered both the US and Europe.

Over to you

Have a look at:[5178].pdf

which IMHO make a lot of sense for beginner events. As far as allowing “bumper boats,” I think that degenerates rapidly into bullying, in which case you can leave me out of it.



As far as I am aware Angus our principal at the Sheboygan regattas has been that ‘any noticable contact’ between boats or boat/bouy should take a penalty turn. Being based on the honour system this appeared to work fine. I realise that your point is what is ‘noticable contact’. I think for us that worked out to mean that if neither party shouted ‘oi’ or whatever more or less immediately then it was not noticable contact. Bouy contacts were called by one of the scorers if they noticed them but were wholey on the honour system beyond that. It’s helpful to paint vertical contrasting stripes on bouys so that it is more obvious if one is rolled by contact.
I think the ‘right of way rules’ were in practice reduced to ‘give the other guy room’ at the bouys and water edge. The starboard rule being the only exception because that one is too much fun to ignore.
I really would not like to see the rules become a free for all, I have seen racing like that and it loses all of the charm of sailboat racing in an instant. With the NOR I distributed an Americanised version of the document you wrote some time ago Angus. I think that pretty much did the trick of keeping the ideals of Footy racing intact. Plus a quick reminder at the skippers briefing on the day.

I wouldn’t like the OOD at Watermead to get the impression we thought he was being too rigid in his application of racing rules. In particular, I heard no more than gentle groans with respect to his start procedures. Don’t forget that we were experiencing drifting winds only here and being able to take immediate evasive action was quite often impossible.

I think the only time he was actually being criticised was with respect to the slower boats in the early races not being given enough time to get back to the start before the timing sequence started for the next race. The skippers involved chose to chunter amoungst themselves rather than ask the question. When finally confronted with the complaint the OOD readily accepted that the start sequence would not start until all boats were within a distance acceptable to all - problem sorted.

On water calls for room, water, starboard and one instance of " oh come on so-and-so you can’t tack in front of me " were entirely at the insistance of the more serious skippers themselves and not, as far as I could tell, at the insistance of the OOD.

The Watermead club are quite used to Micro Magic rules where they don’t do penalty turns for touching the buoys and applying them to Footys was no problem. Roger Stollery on the other hand would have preferred the rules to be applied as written. I think on the day an accomodation was reached.

Personally I am one of Angus’ ex model railway skippers and with my vast store of sailing experience - 18 months since my first boat and probably no more half a dozen proper races - I would be in favour of a relatively lax set of sailing rules for Footys. The penalty turn for possibly touching a buoy is a case in point. If you touch a buoy with a Footy the chances are you’ll stop loosing masses of track position as young Lewis would say. What purpose is then served by insisting a further penalty is taken. Furthermore, and again highlighted by Angus, it is quite often open to opinion whether a distant buoy has been touched or not anyway. So do away with the rule and away goes the agro. - for Footys anyway.

I would hate to see Footy racing going the way of IOMs and some other classes with their overly aggressive attitude. Don’t forget that Footys are intended to be used as a starter class for youngsters and in my case golden oldies and too much aggression is something that we can well do without. I know of a number of Footy skippers who have come down from the larger classes because of the aggressive behaviour of some skippers - lets not loose them from Footydom too.

At the moment Footying is fun - lets keep it that way please. If you think someone may be in your way, the chances are he’s not doing it on purpose - so don’t blow your horn, just avoid him.



Hi Angus, pleased to see you getting back into the swing of things. And as usual, you bring up some interesting and valid points for discussion.

Here are some of my thoughts. I have sailed full sized and r/c models for over 40 years. I was a senior level judge in Canada for a number of years.

The question you ask is “to what extent should the RRS, that are designed for big boats, apply to models”.

The rules are not simple, inspite of the desires of the rule writers.

Further, one major issue in applying the rules and determining which rule applies and who has rights is the ‘transitional’ period as circumstances change.

For example, a boat is overtaking from astern and establishes an overlap to leeward. At first, overtaking boat keeps clear, but once the overlap is established there is a transitional period beyond which, the onus transfers to the ahead (now windward boat) to keep clear of (now) leeward. (the room and opportunity stuff)

There are some major differences that need to be taken into account. First, things happen much faster between models than full sized, and the smaller the model the greater the challenge. In the above example, in full sized yachts, there could be four or five seconds from the overlap to the boats closing towards contact. Lots of time for reaction. But in models, that could be 1 second. Unfortunately, our reaction times do not scale like the models can move.

The second major item is the consequence of contact. In models, especially those with bow bumpers, severe collisions can have zero consequences.

Given these two factors, and although I consider myself a ‘purist’ in trying to understand and apply the rules to the way I sail RC, I can certainly see merit in having a ‘soft’ interpretation of the rules, especially for smaller RC boats and for the non-international classes.

So my bottom line advice is never try to make the Footy an international class and stay away from the ISAF and RSD.

They have little or no time for rules that they see as serving no useful purpose.
I hope these are not the same people I am expected to share the highway with.

Radio Yacht Racing Rules are designed to avoid collisions.
Unfortunately not all skippers abide by the spirit of such rules, let alone the letter of them and continually put themselves into positions of conflict and contact, with other competitors, unnecessarily.

I can understand the sentiments and frustrations of all levels of skippers.
Learning the very basic right of way rules is I am afraid, part of learning the skill set needed to sail in company regardless of competition.

The Micro Magic class has met the challenge of large numbers of new sailors competing, by some slight modification of the application of the rules to help those large fleets.
The same should be done for the FOOTY regattas in my opinion.

Those modifications are…
Buoy touches are NOT penalised.
Contacts between boats on the same tack are not penalised.

Obviously if a competitor abuses these allowances then the Race Officer has the ability to administer a penalty turn decision against the offender, but generally I understand racing is keen and frantic but fair.

Fairness is the sole reason for any of these rules to be written. If you don`t have that, then you can kiss your regatta and your class goodbye.

My 2 cents ,
Racing rules of sailing must be kept.
Increase current 4 boat circle to 6 lengths
Allow minor rubbing with yachts on same tack(maybe ?? needs work??)

Bottom line for me is that Footys are no diffrent to racing any other type of yacht.
No ISAF rules for this class and you won’t see me for dust(YAHoo they all say!) as I don’t belive it is possible to race FAIRLY without them.
Clubs etc can race by any rules they like but at major events the rules (ISAF)must be adheared to.Nobody should expect to go to a national championship and not race by the ISAF rules.

I must admit I share Brett’s view.
I have no urge to have the boat that I have spent many hours building reduced to matchwood except by my own incompetance, also if the NOR states we are “sailing to the rules” then surely that is the way the event should be run.


Thank you very much gentlemen for your contributions so far. When I started this thrad I thought thre was the chance of an acrimonious debate but decided to risk it. So far the risk is paying off in spades.

Up to this point I have only one comment - which is partly reflected by hiljoball As one of the arch priests in light scntlings in Footys, I am now pretty convinced that a Footy that will survive handling by its owner will stand up to virtually any assault by another Footy without anything but trivial damage. I think this is what I was getting at when I made the contrast with big racing cutters.

Please keep the contributions coming.

Oh, yes, I agree that whatever the rules are, we must stick to them. Looking the other way is not the right answer. The real question is do we want RRS straight out of the box, RRS modified by sailing instructions or something completely difficult.

For my information, in systems that legalise same tack contacts, where (if anywhere) does this leave deliberate luffing?

Another question. There sseems to be a perception (I don’t think it has explicitly emerged in this thread, but it undeniably exists) that a call of ‘starboard’ or ‘water’ or ‘no overlap’ or whatever is a sign of aggression: the BMW is coming through, hand flat on horn button, headlights blazing. In a different tone of voice, they can equally be taken to mean ‘I say Carruthers. Awfuully sorry to trouble you but it is my right of way. Did you see me coming’. Is a lot of the (perceived) problem a clash of cultures rather than a technical problem of rule making?

More advice and comments please.


A hail is always a defensive action to draw attention of the other boat to a developing situation. It should never be taken by the recipient as ‘agressive’ so hail away.

I left out one other factor where models are different from full size, and that is depth perception.

When on a full sized boat, it is easy to see overlap and fairly easy to judge the 2 length circle at a mark.

On models, we have to rely on eye sight and depth perception to figure out if boats are overlapped or not, or when to turn at a mark, and it is harder to visualise 4 boat lengths (appendix E) than 2, especially from a distance.

The problem with modifying the rules, eg. same tack contact, affects a number of rules and not just windward/leeward. It can affect decisions for R 13, 15, 16, 17. and may be more.

R 14 Avoiding Contact
A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible.

It may be sufficient by acknowledging that in a ‘gaggle’ of Footies or MMs that it is not reasonably possible to avoid boats rubbing against each other. But that the rules can be left untouched and applied for gross or repeated abuse by a skipper.


Can I run this past you gents? There are rstrictions on the extent to which SI can ovrride RRS - but there are no restrictions on modification of penalties. So we can leave (say, purely hypothetically) the Port/Starboard rule in place ('cos we have to) but then (IF we don’t like it) say that there is no penalty for breaking it. I know this is doublespeak, but it might be important for co-existing with Big Brother (AMYA/MYA/…). I repeat, I am taking this as an example, not a serious proposition.


Based on Appendix L (Sailing Instructions Guide) of the ISAF Racing Rules of sailing…The principles on which all sailing instructions should be based are as follows:

1 They should include only two types of statement: the intentions of the
race committee and the obligations of competitors.
2 They should be concerned only with racing. Information about social
events, assignment of moorings, etc., should be provided separately.
3 They should not change the racing rules except when clearly desirable.
4 They should not repeat or restate any of the racing rules.
5 They should not repeat themselves.
6 They should be in chronological order; that is, the order in which the
competitor will use them.
7 They should, when possible, use words or phrases from the racing rules.

Based on the following rule from Appendix E (Radio Controlled Boat Sailing Rules) Rule E.4.4 which amends Rule 44 from the standard Sailing Rules of Sailing.

E4.4 Penalties for Breaking Rules of Part 2
Throughout rule 44 the penalty shall be one turn, including one tack
and one gybe.

So you can choose to state in your Sailing Instructions:

1.4 Racing rule(s) E.4.4 will be changed as follows:
Throughout rule 44 the penalty shall be a verbal hail of “Sorry about that!” by the protested party.

Good question…unexpected answer!

Interesting discussion. I’ve been racing sailing boats of a mix of sizes
(12ft to 65 ft) for longer than I’m prepared to admit, and at a variety of levels. I also sail Footy’s. Where I have sailed the strictness of rule enforcement (rather than observation of the rules) has been in a direct relationship to the level of the event. Footy racing to me is akin to local club cruiser racing which I enjoyed for many years. The rules are acknowledged in a polite, unagressive fashion without the theatrics, yelling, acrimony and protests seen in the higher levels of one design and handicap racing. That is the way I try to run my events here in NE Florida, casual and non threatening. Footy’s are irrational little beasties in very light (and heavy) air and choppy seas, as a result accidental contact frequently occurs at starts and mark roundings. If the rule was strictly applied most of the fleet would end up disqualified,
I have raced competitively in lasers, keelboats and offshore boats, and have spent way too many hours in protest rooms as both a competitor and protest committee.member I don’t think that there’s any place for rule fixation in Footy events, and in my limited experience of R/C sailing, the bullies tend not to be the hapless novices, but those with more sailing experience, whose intolerance spoils the fun and does a lot more harm than good. It usually does nothing other than discourage new and casual sailors from racing.

I agree with very nearly vrything you say Paul. Think that th nub of my qustion is whether sometghing can be put in the sailing instructions to make bullying lsss profitable.

I agree Paul, that is the way I run the Sheboygan Footy Fest too as you have experienced. What will make bullying less profitable here Angus is that the bully will not have his entry accepted the following year. I should say also that I don’t consider hailing ‘starboard’ as bullying either. I have been known to call ‘starboard please 10’ which can make a difference.

Interesting and possibly practical answer there ‘modelyacht’.


Angus, once again you have find a very interesting point, and I would like to add my point of view too

1 - collision are not dangerous
during birkenhead first day wind gust were around 30 kts, and there were about 20 boats on the starting line. Collisions at start, or rounding buoys were many. Nobody suffered a scratch ( even on frameless balsa hulls )

2 - collisions are unavoidable
Footy are sometime hard beast to steer
Even if you have eagle’s eyes, looking at a “sandiwich sized” thing from 40 meters is not so easy.

3 - Full compliance to ISAF rules is not enough to avoid “legal bully”
There are very qualified skippers - under pressure of rich owners or even worse sponsors - that are countinuosly barking an impressive and neverending flow of rules numbers

Footydom is not a place for them

4 goals

-Be fair

-Show to other partecipants that you are the best because your boat is faster and / or your thumbs are better

-Be polite : starboard xy , please ! ( good idea graham )
or as have heard in liverpool , if collision is unavoidable : sorry …

-Don’t forget that using basic philosophy of this class is : keep it simple, and leave the door open to newcomers

5 conclusions

this is a nice argument to open a poll, isnt’it?
in my mind footy class will benefit using simplified racing rules

In the past I have been an active partecipant to waterbike competitions ( boats propelled using muscle power )
Among other rules there was ( and still is ) a golden rule to be considered
: teams too serious or not serious enough will be disqualified[/COLOR

Flavio ITA 5 Folgore

Please don’t all laugh at once, but, as one of Angus’s ex railway modellers, why, in model boat terms, is it so sacrosanct not to touch a marker buoy ?

I ask this because I am thinking :-

  1. There is no way my Footy can move a buoy by touching it.

  2. If I touch a buoy with my Footy I am going to slow down or even stop.

  3. The only advantage I could gain over another boat is that if I am prepared to touch a buoy I may be able to sneak through on the inside - but then I will fall foul of 2.

  4. The only damage I could cause in my Footy is to my own boat.

  5. Judging whether or not a sliver of my Footy boom has grazed a distant buoy is often very subjective.

So what is the problem. Remove the rule infringement, for Footys at least, and remove a lot of potential aggravation for a potential new generation of RC sailors.

Except for rule 9, the experimental ISAF rules[5178].pdf seem have a lot going for them with respect to Footys.



Argued/suggested similar for years in my big boat classes - but to no avail. Good luck - we will watch to see how it turns out.

Oh, Ye Brothers!! Tread wisely in your adoption of maritime rules, for they breed Sea Lawyers. Which we all know as; the bane of all existence!!

Happy Yachting - Kip

In my opinion, this simplified set of rules should only be used to help teach the rules and that if used should only be as a subset of the ISAF rules (so that the full rules can apply if required)

The problem with these rules are that there are many things that are left out and could lead to situations that develop bad habits and agressive sailing. The problem is that a ROW boat that gets hit is seriously impeeded and no penalty on the other boat compensates for that.

For example at a mark, two boats approach on opposite tacks and one tacks inside the other right at the mark.

Also at a mark, 2 boats on the same tack, not overlapped. The lead boat begins it turn. As a boat turns, it slows down. Now the other boat slams up the inside and muscles it way through, hitting the mark and the outside boat.

The absence of R 18 and the zone can lead to agressive sailing.

For beginners and club fun sailing; anything that helps bring in new blood is great; and these simplified rules probably cover abut 80% of normal racing (the 80/20 rule). For interclub and higher level regattas, the simplifed rules have no place.