RULE 49: Is Gut Hiking Illegal?

Published on April 2nd, 2014

There’s nothing new about having crew on the windward side of a keelboat, and using their weight to limit heel in a building breeze. But if a little is good, more must be better.

Where before, crews would slip their upper torso between the upper and lower lifeline, allowing them to sit comfortably upright above the heeling boat.

But crews are now wrapping their upper torso around the lower lifeline, leaning hard against the rigging to extend their body to windward.

Now, crews are gut hiking.

Looking at the Racing Rules of Sailing, Rule 49 specifies the limits with regard to lifeline crew position.

This is what Rule 49 allows:
On boats equipped with upper and lower lifelines, a competitor sitting on the deck facing outboard with his waist inside the lower lifeline may have the upper part of his body outside the upper lifeline.

This is what Rule 49 restricts:
Competitors shall use no device designed to position their bodies outboard, other than hiking straps and stiffeners worn under the thighs.

So here’s the question… Is a lifeline a hiking strap?

If you answer no, than Rule 49 does not allow the lower lifeline to be used as an aid to extend one’s body outboard further than if the lower lifeline were not there at all.

Here are some of the comments Scuttlebutt readers have posted about gut hiking…

Dustin Romey: ” On the Melges 24, it’s hiking from your belly button. Which sucks. It’s no fun.”

Alex Clegg: “Pretty sure I have permanent nerve damage on my hamstrings from years of this; about time to call for serious change! Every time I sit in a chair wrong my legs go numb!”

Susan Irish Stewart: “It’s hard to argue with this – gut hiking isn’t comfortable, never has been, never will be. But how can you say no when your competitor has the whole crew on the rail?”

Kent Da Polski: “There’s no crying in sailing. A quarter knot is a quarter knot. If it’s too painful, you’re doing it wrong. Discomfort has got to be the most ridiculous reason for a rule change I’ve ever heard of.”

Lauren McKenney: “Flat is fast, but this hiking is f’n painful, and not in a healthy burn those muscles kind of pain. I’ve had numb legs for a week after coming off 10 days @ KWRW. My physical therapist thought I was crazy.

“On a Farr 40, if you’re NOT in pain you are not hiking correctly. At the end of a day, never mind a week and a half, dark blue/black bruises run across your hips and legs are numb for days thereafter. My intention is not to complain, I’m not racing those boats right now, and trust me I’d do it again, but it certainly causes one to pause.

“My therapist has a PhD and went into great detail as to why this is beyond not good for our bodies. Arguably, I’ve been on many other boats where hiking is hap hazard, and yup, it feels slow – and frustrating.”

Tim Dick: “Hear, hear! If everyone obeys the rules as written, the racing stays fair and much more fun.”

Dennis Palmer: “Gut hiking is why there were about 60 J/70s at Key West Race Week and only a handful of Melges 24s.”



49 - steve jost 49a

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