The New Rules Are Here!

Published on January 7th, 2021

A series on the new rules by Dave Perry, National Judge, author and Chairman of the US Sailing Appeals Committee.


The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) have been locked in a four-year cycle since 1961, the next rule book each quad going into effect following the Olympic Regatta. Though the 2020 Olympic Regatta has been moved to the summer of 2021, the new rules still went into effect January 1, 2021.

Though there are not any major game-changing rule changes, there are still many significant changes that will affect sailors and race officials. In this series I will explain some of the most significant changes.

New definition of Start and Finish
In the new definition of Start and Finish, no longer will the crew or equipment be considered when deciding if a boat is over the starting line early or has crossed the finishing line. It is now only the “hull” of the boat that matters.

Race committees can now ignore the body of the crew or the crew out on the trapeze when deciding if a boat is OCS; and likewise at the finish, race committees no longer have to decide if the spinnaker is in its “normal position.” This also applies in all the starting penalty rules in rule 30, and when a boat is taking a One or Two Turns Penalty at the finish (see rule 44.2).

Note: the term “hull” is not defined in the RRS, so it will be up to the protest committee to decide what the “hull” is, at least until we get some guidance from World Sailing through a Case or Q&A.

My personal opinion is that bowsprits, prods, and bow pulpits are not part of the “hull.” A more interesting question is wings on 49ers and racks on Moths. The current 49er and 49erFX class rules require the crew when using the trapeze to be in contact with the hull at all times, and the International Moth class rules say that the hiking rack is part of the hull.

Until there is authoritative advice from World Sailing, race committees should decide what they will consider as part of the “hull” and communicate that with the sailors and judges for that event. And sailors are well advised to ask the race committee, before racing begins, what it is considering as part of the “hull.”

More information:
• To read Dave Perry’s paper summarizing the significant changes in the 2021-2024 RRS, Dick Rose’s Study Guide showing all the changes to the RRS in red, and to learn more about the new US Sailing RRS app, click here (and scroll down to the Resources sections).

• To watch Dave Perry mini-videos explaining the new rule changes, go to the Resource section in the new US Sailing RRS app (to get the app, click here).

• To purchase Dave Perry’s two books on the rules, updated for the 2021-2024 RRS, click here.

• To learn more about how to arrange webinars with Dave Perry for the sailors and race officials at your Club or Organization, click here.

Editor’s note: This page was updated as the original version omitted how the International Moth class rules say that the hiking rack is part of the hull.

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