Summary of Changes in the 2021-24 Rules

Published on December 9th, 2020

Søren Kraus, who for many years was an International Judge and International Umpire for international match race events along with the Olympic Games and America’s Cup, also has a long connection with ‘Elvstrøm Explains the Racing Rules’, a book which has been a trusted reference for racing sailors for more than 50 years.

With the new Racing Rules from World Sailing to take effect January 1, an updated edition of the Elvstrøm book will soon be for sale that includes the plastic models for protest hearings that were not in the 2017-20 edition (gasp!). An app is also available called PEX 2021-24.

Søren, who for many years had been editing the book together with Paul, who followed the work closely right until his death, shares the highlights of the new rule book in this report:


World Sailing regulations requires the Racing Rules of Sailing revised every four year after the Olympic Games. Even with the 2020 Games being postponed, World Sailing decided to continue the four year circle and the revised rules will take effect January 1, 2021.

Most of the changes in the new Rules Book are essentially ‘house-keeping’ that may not be noticed when reading the new rules, such as correcting minor unintended errors/ambiguities. The good news is there are no major adjustments to ‘The Game’ or to the ‘Right-of-Way’ Rules.

However, there are many editorial changes and many changes in rule numbers so care should be taken when using references to rule numbers in other documents (including the Case Book) where rule numbers are not yet corrected to 2021-24 rules.

See list of new/changed numbers below.

Since 2017, World Sailing has made amendments to cases 78, 116, 132, and published new Cases 141-146.

Following is a summary of the most important changes to the new 2021-2024 rulebook, changes less relevant to most sailors omitted:

Rules deleted from 2017-20 Rules: 5, 6, 7, 14(b), 21, 64.1(a), 75.2, 80, 84, A9, N3.1.

Most documents are now available online World Sailing Website: www.sailing.org/documents/

NEW FOR 2021-24
• INTRODUCTION: Hails can be in other languages if reasonably understood.

• INTRODUCTION: World Sailing Codes (old rules 5, 6 and 7 + four more) are now referred to in new Rule 6 and no longer by their Regulation Number but simply by their name. All available online.

• DEFINITIONS: A boat now starts and finishes when her hull crosses the line. No more discussions on crew or spinnakers, bowsprits, and whether they are in normal position. Bowsprits, also permanent ones, according to dictionaries are not part of the hull. This also apply for the I, Z, U, and Black flag start rules.
NOTE: Spinnaker/equipment are still relevant for determining overlap.

• DEFINITIONS: New definition Sail the Course. The ‘string rule’ from Rule 28 is now a definition. So to complete a race you have to start, sail the course, and finish. Quite logical. With that there are several editorial changes throughout the rules.

• Rule 5 – Rules Governing Organizing Authorities And Officials: This is old Rule 84.

• Rule 20.4 – Additional Requirements for Hails: When a hail may not be heard a signal shall be made. The NOR may specify alternative communication.

• Rule 37 and Flag V – Search and Rescue Instructions: When flag V is displayed by the Race Committee, instructions are given on the Race Committee channel.

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