Overview of the latest changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing

Everyone is looking forward to getting back out on the water this season and improving their potentially rusty sailing skills after all this time on land.

Mark Rushall, the World Class Sailing Coach, recently published a great overview of the recent changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing.

The Racing Rules of Sailing are updated every four years and it’s always worth brushing up on any new changes that come into effect. Here’s a brief overview of the basic changes based on Mark’s summary of the new 2021-2024 Rules:

Fundamental rules

The penalty for breaking number two, “sail fair,” of the six fundamental rules has been reverted to a non-discardable disqualification (DND), which it previously was before 2017.


Hails do not have to be in English when a hail is required by the rules, so long as it is reasonable that everyone involved understands that it was a hail.


The definitions of start and finish are one of the most significant changes to the Rules. Start is now when any part of the hull crosses the line from the pre-start side, and finish is when any part of the hull crosses the finish line. It’s worth noting that wings are considered part of the hull, but gantries, bowsprits and spi poles are not.

In terms of recalls and starting penalties, it is only the hull (not the crew and equipment) that must return to the prestart side of the line, or cause you to be penalised through the I, Z, U or black flag rules.

The rules also clarify that any object intentionally attached are part of the mark.

In Rule 28, “Sailing the Race,” the race committee can now score a boat “did not sail the course” (DNSC) without the need to protest and have a hearing. If you are scored DNSC and would like a hearing, you must request redress.

Right of way

A boat returning from an early start is now keep-clear boat only until her hull is completely behind the line.

The anti-hunting rule (16.2) now only applies to a starboard tack boat that is on a beat to windward, for example if a starboard tack boat is ducking a port tack one, the port boat must not bear away if the starboard boat would need to immediately change course to continue keeping clear.

‘When boats meet’

You can now be exonerated for hitting a mark if you hit it as a consequence of another boat’s actions.

Sailors are also no longer required to be back on board before continuing to sail if they fall out – simply hold on to the gunwhale.

At Marks and Obstructions

The mark rounding rule no longer applies when mark room has been given according to the mark room definition. This may allow a boat that is just clear astern to stop the boat just ahead gybe-setting onto port tack on the exit.

Quick release trapeze hooks

Quick release trapeze hooks must be fitted to the ISO standard from 2023, unless the class rules specify otherwise.

Room to tack at an obstruction

If a hail may not be heard, the boat needs to make a signal that clearly indicates a need for room to tack.

Conduct of a race

The Notice of Race must now be available before a boat enters.

View the full changes to the rules and access the study version at Sailing.org.

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