The New Rules Are Here!

Published on January 25th, 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.

Rule 16.2, Changing Course*
Rule 16.2 is the rule that says when a port-tack boat (P) is sailing to go behind a starboard-tack boat (S), S cannot change course (“hunt”) if P will have to immediately change course to continue keeping clear. Often called the “Anti-Hunting Rule”, rule 16.2 has been changed significantly in the 2021-2024 Racing Rules of Sailing.

I am calling this the most significant game change in the new rules.

The first thing you will notice is that the rule now only applies when boats are “on a beat to windward.” Case 132 clarifies that boats are on a beat to windward when, after their starting signal, the courses each of them would choose in order to sail the course and finish as soon as possible, in the absence of all other boats, is close-hauled or above. Therefore, rule 16.2 does not apply until after the starting signal (which is the same as the previous rule 16.2).

But one change is that rule 16.2 no longer applies when boats are sailing downwind, meaning that S can now luff towards P when P is sailing to pass astern of her, making it more difficult for P to do so. Of course, rule 16.1 still applies meaning that S must always give P room to keep clear when she changes course.

The other change, which will primarily affect team racers, is that new rule 16.2 applies when P is sailing “to pass to leeward” of S. The previous rule 16.2 said “to pass astern” which meant that S could bear away below 90 degrees such that P was now passing “in front” of S, thereby turning rule 16.2 off. This loophole has been removed.

Note also that the new rule 16.2 only applies when S bears away. If S luffs while P is sailing to pass astern of her (as S might do in a Slam Dunk maneuver), and P has to immediately change course to continue keeping clear, S does not break rule 16.2.

* Rule 16.2, Changing Course: In addition, on a beat to windward when a port-tack boat is keeping clear by sailing to pass to leeward of a starboard-tack boat, the starboard-tack boat shall not bear away if as a result the port-tack boat must change course immediately to continue keeping clear.

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.

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