Principles of the race

Principles of the race

principles of the race

Finally let us just examine the general principle of a yacht race.

When a yacht race is about to begin they fire two guns. The first gun (5 minute or 1 minute gun), then later the starting gun. The time periods can differ depending on the tournament location and rules. The race itself does not begin until the second gun, namely, the starting gun.

During this interval you are just sailing around anywhere filling up time, and there is no definite course you are just manoeuvring to get a good start. You may go anywhere you like, and so long as you remember these three rules I have told you about there will be no trouble. If you break one of these rules you must at once retire. Don't forget that.

During this five minutes interval you may have to keep on tacking.


Do not tack at any time in front, that is dead ahead, of any other vessel, unless you are so far ahead as to gather full way on your ship. You may tack on a yacht's weather or under her lee, but never dead ahead in such a way as to risk a collision.

You may not tack unless there is room for you to tack. These are "rules" of course, but surely they are nothing more than simple common sense.

Start of the race

Now when the starting gun fires the situation changes. You must still observe the three rules I have told you, but you must do something more. You must now begin at once, if you can, to point on your proper course to the next mark.

It is essential to any race that the yachts should go fairly round the course and all the marks. Therefore when the starting gun fires you must endeavour to head for the next mark as best you can, allowing for wind and tide. This is the first principle of every race. Truly if another yacht ranks as an overtaking yacht you may deviate from this fair course by luffing her to prevent her passing, and you may luff her to Timbuctoo. But if it is a level start, so to speak, if no yachts are overtaking you, if your opponents are merely converging, then you must not deviate from your course but must sail straight, and take the race as it is intended as a fair trial of speed. Supposing, however, the course laid out by the committee should be dead to windward or nearly so, then a direct course to the next mark is impossible. You cannot fetch your next mark.

Consequently on the close-hauled tack you are now on, the mark is not your guide. In these circumstances your proper course is guided merely by the direction of the wind. You are, in fact, sailing to windward, and your proper course is "full and by". You must sail " full and by", and subject to the three cardinal rules mentioned earlier.

If you are on the open sea, and cannot fetch the mark on the tack you are on, then you may keep on that tack as long as you like. This sometimes prevents another boat close to leeward of you and sailing in the same direction, coming round when she wants to because she has not got room to tack. That is not your business. She can go off to leeward and find room. She cannot nail you to tack on the open sea, and although it may lead to her being taken too far-that is all part of the fun.

Rounding marks

At any moment you may come to a mark. It may first be the boundary mark on the starting line itself. Or it may he any other mark or obstruction. Now do pot let this coming to a mark or obstruction flurry you.

The three rules I have emphasized still apply: the principle of the overtaking rule is not changed because of the mark. The port and starboard tack rule is not in the least affected because of the mark. The windward yacht must keep out of the way just the same as if the mark was not there at all, and if she can, that is if there is no overlap, she must go under the lee-ward yacht's stern.

If, however, the yachts approach the mark or obstruction from the same, or nearly the same direction, that is, upon the same course, and there is an overlap; if, when approaching it in the same direction, they are overlapping, then, and only then, is it needful to remember the simple fact that the outside boat of the
overlapping boats, or crowd of boats, must give the others room to round the mark or pass the mark or obstruction.

Keeping out of danger

During the race you will have to tack, but you must never tack, as I have said before, ahead of another boat so as to involve risk of collision, nor try to tack when there is not room.

Ofcourse when two boats are sailing close-hauled into shallow water, or towards some obstruction, the leeward yacht may hail the other to come about, or rather to give her room to come round, and that other must promptly allow room, but here again is an obvious case of necessity and simplicity.

I look upon these two laws about tacking as being obvious to anybody, because the leeward yacht here is close-hauled and running into danger, and obviously the windward yacht must allow her room to get out of danger.

It should be hardly necessary to tell anybody "Do not tack so as to cause a collision," or to say "Give an inside boat, which is overlapping and hails you that she is in fear of running ashore, room to keep off the ground," no matter whether that room has to be given by tacking or in any other way.

If a beginner first thoroughly grasps the three preliminary laws of the rule of the road: "the overtaking yacht, the port tack, and windward keep clear," and next considers them in conjunction with the principles of the race itself these are "Sail fairly round the course and round the buoys which mark it out, and allow your overlapping opponents to do the same", "Do not tack when there is no room," "Do not cause overlapping yachts to run into any danger whatever"

I feel sure he will have faithfully observed the whole of the sailing rules, and will justly gain the reputation of a true sportsman.