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Why digital technology is making it easier to race by the rules

Introducing the World Sailing App

As a fleet of yachts knife their way windward to the next race mark, what is the invisible force that stops them colliding?

Apart from the obvious desire not to crash, there’s a set of rules firmly embedded in participants’ minds – rules that provide the backbone to competitive events up and down the country.

Compiled by World Sailing, (the international authority for sailing) The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) govern all aspects of yacht racing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and dinghy racing, and it’s up to each competitor, race official and coach to know them.

The rules

The 92 rules cover everything from rights of way, etiquette when changing course, flags and penalty notices. And while you may not need know each rule in detail, a basic overview is recommended for any class.

The two basic principles include:

  1. Sportsmanship & the rules – rule breaking means you take a penalty, which may be to retire.
  2. Environmental responsibility – encouraging sailors to minimize the environmental impact of the sport.

Another key area covered is ‘when boats first meet’. There are sections about boats on opposite tacks, tacking and avoiding contact, acquiring a right of way and what to do when two boats reach a mark together.

But in the heat of a race things can get fraught between boats, with race officials on the sidelines ready to pick up on any potential rule breaking.

Luckily for them (and for the sailors in question), the rules are only a swipe away on a tablet or a mobile phone.

The App

Now a nifty downloadable App, compiled by World Sailing (the international authority for sailing) in partnership with the RYA, the App gives full access to the latest published Racing Rules of Sailing (2017-2020).  In addition, the App gives access to case studies, call books and guidance notes, making the rules more user friendly and accessible wherever you are.

As a clever add-on, the integrated eBook within the App enables the user to navigate seamlessly between rules and case studies. The simple-to-navigate search function finds relevant rules handily referenced with useful pop-up definitions. These pop-ups help refer back to the detail without navigating off the page.

Conveniently, you can also change the rules mode in the settings to display all Windsurfing, Team, Match, Radio or Kiteboard Racing amendments, making comparisons easy.

Why is it so good?

Andy Hunt, World Sailing’s chief executive officer, explains that simplicity is what makes it work: “The App brings together the documents that govern the sport, acting as a one stop shop for all. User friendly, the World Sailing App helps to meet the needs and requirements of national and international sailors and officials, ensuring they never leave home without the Racing Rules of Sailing and other key documents.”

So, post competition, there’s no more huddling around a table for hours digging out information from dusty tomes while racers are left wondering where they are placed. This new technology is fast and deft, and what’s more it means that every point can be argued fairly and squarely with up-to-the minute real case histories.

But, is it a big deal day to day?

Alison Young (two-time Olympian and Laser Radial World Champion) thinks so. She says:  “I try to avoid the protest room, but having the rules and cases linked on my phone means I know I'll be able to access all the information I need to leave me best prepared.”

From club racing to producing World Class winners, Team GB’s sailing coach and strategist Mark Rushall, is another great advocate of the App in race conditions.

He says:  “Before now, the racing rules were never so easily to hand. The great thing (about them) is that all the rules, the cases and definitions are with you at all times, which means you can swiftly analyse and influence decisions, on the water or off the water without delay.”

It’s not just high level competitors who might need access to the rules; we’re talking your weekend dinghy clubs and children’s club races too. 

How to get it

Visit the dedicated World Sailing App page ( to find out more about the App as it evolves and how you can download it.  

For more information on the Racing Rules of Sailing and other RYA racing publications visit and register for all the latest rules updates.

Printed copies of The Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-20 are available from the RYA shop, including a brilliant pocket-sized waterproof version –

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