Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beginners rules

I received a question from ThomasK Andel about rules for inexperienced sailors. Thank you, Thomas.

The question is: Are there any universal rules to be used at a regatta series? The answer is a big YES! The International Sailing Federation aka ISAF maintains and develops a set of racing rules that are used globally in yacht races. The rules may seem a bit overwhelming at first. However, you should bear in mind that they have been developed over many decades to ensure clarity and fairness.
ISAF logo

Still, the rules book is a rather small book, and you only need to know a few pages by heart. You can get the rules in PDF format at the ISAF site. Here's a link: ISAF rulesbook. You want the PDF that says "ISAF racing rules for sailing 2013-2016", and you need to be concerned about pages 12-16. Oh, and if your native language isn't english, these rules are translated to pretty much any language on the planet.

Several clever people publish books to help sailors understand the rules. You see, - Yacht racing can be a complicated sport. Sometimes help is needed to figure out just what rules are in play at a certain point. I used to read Paul Elvstroms book, when I started sailing... now I just read the ISAF Book and sometimes the Case Book. The casebook is (strangely ;-) good for looking up cases;
Paul Elvstrom explains 
If that's all too much and complicated, then another approach may be better: You can use a reduced set of rules. I am not much of a fan of this approach, but kids are usually not able to master the full rules-set. The important thing is to step up and use the full rules as soon as possible. Otherwise people get stuck with the simplified rules-set; That would be a pity because it means loosing so many of the finer aspects of the game. You can read about that elsewhere on my blog.

So, should I recommend a reduced rules-set for inexperienced sailors, I would have to recommend the use of the international sailing rules; Those are the rules used at night and when not racing, so it makes sense to learn those and be aware of the difference between the two rules-sets. I'll add two extra rules. One for rounding marks and one for correcting mistakes.

My list of 5 super simple rules for inexperienced sailors:
  1. Port boat must keep clear of Starbord boat.
  2. Overtaking boat must keep clear - even if she is Leeward.
  3. Windward boat must keep clear of Leeward boat.
  4. The boat that enters the 3 boatlength zone last must keep clear of boats in front.
  5. Hit a mark or do a foul you must do a 360 turn or you are disqualified.
Number 2 has the effect that you cannot - as an overtaking boat - choose the leeward side to gain luffing rights. Luffing is only for defense. Number 4 is really not needed, as it follows from 2; However, it is important to get to know the zone around the marks. So there: Five super simple rules that makes racing possible.

I know for a fact that these five simple rules work great for beginner optimist-sailors aged nine or ten. Let me stress this again: As soon as the sailors master these five simple rules, it is important to scrap them - or rather - add more details by using the full rule-set; Otherwise the sailors will never be able to compete on an international, national - or even interclub scale.
Having a coffee while my lovely Folkboat rests
I hope this kinda clarifies things. If not, feel free to contact me inworld with more questions; We can grab a coffee and talk rules, or I can pop over and be your "second level support" while your race is on.

Happy sailing,



    1. Thanx. This post is really just about super simple rules for beginners. The link in your comment is therefore beyond the scope of this post. However, it gives me an altered and unapproved copy of the ISAF rules. What's the idea of that? Anyway, please leave a name next time...

  2. Thank you, Noodles! It seems there are people in SL that perceive themselves as clever enough to redefine the sailing rules. How anyone can reach that level of self over evaluation I never understood. Perhaps it is part of a game of power in SL. I never really understood the need for special rules either.

    1. sailing on water in the real world, and sailing in a digital environment are absolutely the exact same, i wonder what the ISAF rules have to say about lag and simcrossings and boat crashes due to a bad connection.

    2. Think about it! The ISAF rules are made for sailboat racing. Whatever peculiarities SL may impose, it seems that crippling the rules will add even more peculiarities. Now, I cannot read those rules mentioned in the first comment. They seem to be reserved for members only, but do they take SL peculiarities into account? Do these rules cancel SL's glitches out? I doubt that.
      I am Netrom camel... Who is the anonymous person?

    3. Hey there, Anonymous, I totally agree that ISAF rules aren't meant to handle SL anomalies. I am just not convinced that editing the rules will help. Maybe a few additions is a better approach. Please leave a name next time.


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