Changes to the racing rules

The main changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing effective from January 2021.


This guidance highlights the main changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) effective from 1 January 2021. The changes include some minor edits which are solely for clarification and are not detailed here. The changes in the RRS are side-lined, except in the appendices. 

This guidance is intended primarily for competitors, but will also be useful to race and protest committees and other race officials. Competitors and officials involved in technical matters need to be aware that the Equipment Rules of Sailing (ERS) for 2021 contain significant changes from the previous version.


A large number of rule numbers have changed. A cross-reference of the changed numbers is included at the end of this document.

The main changes to the RRS with effect from 1 January 202are

  • A new RRS 6.1 brings together all World Sailing Regulations that are also racing rules.
  • The definitions Start and Finish now refer only to the hull of the boat, and exclude the crew or equipment.
  • Part 4 of the RRS, Other Requirements When Racing, is split into two parts. Section A contains the general requirements when racing and Section B contains the equipment related requirements. As a result, several Part 4 rules are renumbered.
  • The three rules about exoneration are brought together into a new RRS 43.
  • The race committee is now permitted to score a boat "Did not sail the course" without a protest or a hearing. RRS A5.1 refers.
  • All requirements that a rule included in the notice of race must be repeated in the sailing instructions, and vice-versa, are removed.
  • The RYA Prescriptions and RYA Recommended Notice of Race Wording include significant updates. These are included in RYA publication of the Racing Rules of Sailing (reference YR1/21).


Mark This is clarified to include any object intentionally attached to a mark, including a committee vessel, except an anchor line.

Mark-Room Words added to sub-paragraph (b) are room to round 'or pass' the mark and 'without touching the mark'.

Sail the Course New definition replacing much of old rule 28.1.

Party Several changes, mainly clarifications.

Proper Course Now clarified and includes "to sail the course and finish".


Hails A hail may now be in a language other than English provided that it is reasonable for it to be understood by all boats affected.


RRS 2, Fair Sailing

The penalty for breaking this rule reverts to a mandatory disqualification not excludable (DNE).

RRS 3, Decision to Race, and RRS 4, Acceptance of the Rules

These rule numbers have been swopped.

RRS 5, Rules Governing Organizing Authorities and Officials (previously rule 84)

This rule is now brought into Part 1 for emphasis.

RRS 6, World Sailing Regulations

World Sailing Regulations which are also racing rules are brought together into a single rule.


RRS 14, Avoiding Contact

The references to exoneration are moved to new RRS 43.

RRS 16.2, Changing Course

The revised rule has two important changes. First, it now applies only on a beat to windward and, second, it applies when the port-tack boat is sailing to pass to leeward (not astern) of the starboard-tack boat. Reference to World Sailing Case 132 will be helpful.

RRS 18.1, When Rule 18 Applies

An additional paragraph is added with words moved from RRS 18.2(d). This is intended to clarify when mark-room has been given.

RRS 18.3, Passing Head to Wind in the Zone

New title; no change to rule.

RRS 20.4Additional Requirements for Hails

 A new rule adding to the obligations of the hailing and hailed boats to ensure the request for room to tack and any responseis communicated effectively. The rule also permits the notice of race to specify alternative methods of communication, such as VHF radio.

Section D Rules

Existing rule 21 is moved to become part of new RRS 43. As a consequencethe remaining Section D rules are renumbered.


RRS 25.1Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions

The notice of race must now be available to a boat when entering an event.

RRS 28Sailing the Race

The rule is simplified as a consequence of the new definition Sail the Course.

RRS 29, Recalls, and RRS 30, Starting Penalties

In all these rules the words "crew or equipment" are deleted as a consequence of the changes to the definitions Start and Finish. This change is also made in all relevant appendices.

RRS 37, Search and Rescue Instructions

A new rule which, when flag V is displayed, requires that all boats in or near the course area monitor the race committee communication channel. It is intended for use when the race committee wishes to communicate about a serious, or potentially serious, incident.


Part 4 rules are split into two sections: Section A for general requirements when racing and Section B for equipment related requirements.Consequently many rules are renumbered; see the cross-reference table at the end of this guidance.

RRS 40, Personal Flotation Devices

This rule is rewritten to correct a drafting error and to simplify its application, either by use of flag Y as specified or in the notice of race or sailing instructions.

RRS 41, Outside Help

The final paragraph of the previous rule was flawed and is deleted.

RRS 42.3, Propulsion, Exceptions

Minor changes made to RRS 42.3(c) for foiling boats.

RRS 43, Exoneration

This is a new rule bringing together previous rules 14(b), 21 and 64.1(a). The only significant change is the deletion of the word "compelled" when a boat breaks RRS 31.

RRS 47, Trash Disposal (previously rule 55)

This rule now applies also to support persons.In additionRRS 47 can no longer be changed by the notice of race, by sailing instructions or by a national authority prescription.

RRS 50, Competitor Clothing and Equipment (previously rule 43)

RRS 50.1(c) is about quick-release trapeze harnesses and takes effect from 1 January 2023. When the rules of a class or an event require a quick-release harness, it shall comply with the stated ISO standard; this last requirement cannot be changed by class rules.

RRS 55.3, Sheeting Sails (previously rule 50.3)

This is a complex revision to the existing rule and is beyond the scope of this guidance.

RRS 55.4, Headsails and Spinnakers (previously rule 50.4)

This rule now states that the definitions in the Equipment Rules of Sailing shall be used to distinguish a headsail from a spinnaker.


RRS 60.1, Right to Protest

A new paragraph 60.1(c) clarifies that a boat may submit a report alleging misconduct under RRS 69 or a breach of a rule by a support person.

RRS 61.1(a), Informing the Protestee

Sub-paragraph (4) is edited to make it more relevant to incidents when damage occurs.

RRS 62.2, Redress

A new paragraph 62.2(a) states a time limit for submitting a claim for redress on the last scheduled day of racing. There is no paragraph 62.2(b).

RRS 63.6, Taking Evidence and Finding Facts

RRS 63.6(a) includes a new clause requiring a protest committee to take hearsay evidence, but permitting it to exclude evidence which it considers to be irrelevant or unduly repetitive. RRS 63.6(d) includes a new clause requiring the protest committee to give the weight it considers appropriate to the evidence presented.

RRS 63.9, Hearings under Rule 60.3(d) — Support Persons

This is a new rule about the process for hearings alleging that a support person has broken a rule.

RRS 64.1Standard of Proof, Majority Decisions and Reclassifying Requests

This is a new rule answering questions that have been raised about these matters.

RRS 64.2, Penalties, Exoneration

The previous sub-paragraph 64.2(a) about exoneration is moved to RRS 43.1(a).

RRS 64.5, Decisions Concerning Support Persons (previously rule 64.4)

Changes are made to clarify permitted penalties for a breach of a rule by a support person.

RRS 64.6, Discretionary Penalties

This is a new rule requiring a protest committee to decide the penalty when a boat reports that she has broken a rule to which [DP] applies.

RRS 65.3, Informing the Parties and Others

This is a new rule permitting a protest committee to direct that the information normally published after a hearing (see RRS 65.1) is to remain confidential to the parties.

RRS 66, Reopening a Hearing

The existing rule is split into three, numbered 66.1 to 66.3. In RRS 66.2 a request to reopen a hearing must now be in writing. The final paragraph of the previous rule is rewritten and is now RRS 66.3.

RRS 69, Misconduct

Minor clarifications only.

RRS 70.3, Appeals

When a race passes through the waters of more than one national authority, a default appeal authority is added; this is the national authority where the finishing line is located.

RRS 70.5Denial of Right of Appeal

RRS 70.5(b) is changed to replicate the 2017 RYA Prescription to the rule.


RRS 75.2, Eligibility Code, and RRS 80, Advertising

These two rules are deleted and are now included in RRS 6.

RRS 79Categorization

Previously the term used was Classification; only the title has changed. The reference to the relevant World Sailing Regulation is moved to RRS 6.


As a consequence of deleting rule 84, Part 7 now starts with RRS 85.

RRS 84, Governing rules

This rule is deleted. The substance of the rule is now RRS 5.

RRS 90.3, Scoring

Paragraphs (d) is new and is merely a clarification.

Paragraph (e) is also new and permits the notice of race for an event to specify a time after which no race or series score may be changed. This allows an organising authority to have a final closure date for an event. There are exceptions resulting from decisions under RRS 6, 69 or 70.


Appendix A, Scoring

  • Previous rule A5 is edited and becomes new RRS A5.1. The edits permit the race committee to score a boat as "Did not sail the course" (see A10 below) without a hearing. It changes the long standing prohibition on such race committee action. Further advice is available in the RYA Race Management Guide.
  • RRS A4.2 is deleted and its content is moved to RRS A5.2.
  • RRS A9 is deleted and its content is clarified and moved to RRS A5.3.
  • RRS A10 and A11 are renumbered as A9 and A10.
  • In RRS A10 the abbreviation NSC, for 'Did not sail the course', is added.

Appendix B, Windsurfing Competition Rules

  • The appendix is now relevant only for windsurfing fleet races. Rules for other windsurfing disciplines are deleted and moved to the World Sailing website.
  • There are significant other changes to the appendix which are outside the scope of this guidance.

Appendix C, Match Racing Rules

There are significant changes to this appendix. The major changes are

  • The definition of mark-room now includes room to pass a finishing mark after finishing. 
  • Rule 18.3, Tacking or Gybing, adds a complex clause about exoneration.
  • New rule C7.2(f) permits the umpires to cancel an outstanding penalty on a boat that has already lost the race.

Appendix D, Team Racing Rules

There are significant changes to this appendix. The major changes are

  • RRS D2, Umpired Races. These are largely clarifications about process.
  • The rules for boats that take a One-Turn Penalty are clarified.
  • RRS D4, Scoring an Event. The scoring of a knock-out stage is completely rewritten. Other parts of RRS D4 are also rewritten but mainly for clarity.
  • Previous rules for the Two-Flag Protest Procedure and Limited Umpiring are deleted.

Appendix E, Radio Sailing Racing Rules

  • Hails under RRS 20 must now include the words 'room' and 'tack' and the sail number of the hailing boat.
  • RRS E2.1 and other rules clarify the requirements for hailing.
  • RRS E3.9, Disabled Competitors, is rewritten to better enable the provision of reasonable arrangements to assist disabled competitors.
  • RRS E4.3(b) is changed to make clear that, when a boat has gained an advantage despite taking a penalty, she must keep turning until she no longer has any advantage. RRS 4.3(c) applies when there is damage.
  • RRS E5.2, Umpired Races, is deleted. Separately a new 'Test Rule for Umpired Radio Sailing' will be published by World Sailing. This is referenced in the Preamble to the appendix.

Appendix F, Kiteboarding Racing Rules

There are significant changes to this appendix. The major changes are

  • The definition of capsized has been simplified and that of recovering has been expanded.
  • Rule 20.1(a) about when a kiteboard may hail for room to tack is amended.
  • The start sequence in rule 26 has been amended to a 3-2-1 and the option for individual recalls has been removed.

Appendix G, Identification on Sails

  • RRS G1.2 and G1.3 are rewritten to try and improve the legibility of sail numbers.
  • The 2021 RYA Prescription to Appendix G adds a new rule G2.2 which makes significant changes to Appendix G.

Appendix J, Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions

  • This is amended to reflect the numerous changes elsewhere in the RRS.
  • The Preamble explicitly states that a rule in the notice of race need not be repeated in the sailing instructions.

Appendix K, Notice of Race Guide, and Appendix L, Sailing Instructions Guide

These appendices are no longer included in the RRS. Electronic versions will be published on the World Sailing web site around the end of 2020. They will also be redesignated.

Appendix M, Recommendations for Protest Committees

Minor changes only. Misconduct Guidance is available on the World Sailing website.

Appendix N, International Juries

Technical committee members are added to those who may not be members of an international jury. Otherwise there are only a few minor changes.

Appendix P, Special Procedures for Rule 42

The only change is to replace 'regatta' with 'event' throughout the appendix.

Appendix R, Procedures for Appeals and Requests

The only significant change is that the appendix can no longer be changed either by the notice of race or by the sailing instructions.

Appendix S, Standard Sailing Instructions

This appendix includes a few useful changes. Detailed instructions for its use are in the appendix Preamble.

Hearing Request Form, Hearing Decision Form

These are new forms that replace the Protest Form printed in previous editions of the RRS. Details are set out in the Preamble to Part 5 of the RRS.

Race Signals

  • In addition to class flags,flags for a fleet or race area, or for the whole event may be specified.
  • A safety flag V and related rule 37 are added to improve the ability of a race committee to respond to an unexpected incident.
  • The orange and blue flags are now defined as one end of a starting or finishing line.

RYA Recommended Notice of Race Wording

The RYA has revised its recommendations for the notice of race and entry form to replace the disclaimer of responsibility with a statement of risk. The full text is in the RYA Addendum A to Appendix J. This can be found in the RYA publication of the RRS (YR1/21 page 132) and includes recommended text for and advice on the use of

  • Risk statement
  • Inspections statement, to be included for events where inspections may be undertaken
  • Declaration to be acknowledged by entrants to any event
  • Privacy statement, to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018

RYA Prescriptions

The RYA Prescriptions are updated with effect from 1 January 2021. The Prescriptions are included in RYA publication RRS (YR1/21 page 164) and are available from here.

  • A new RRS 4.7 is added to permit a discretionary penalty for a breach of RRS 4. 
  • The procedure for testing alternative racing rules under RRS 86.3 is clarified.
  • The Prescription to Appendix G, Identification on Sails, is significantly modified both for clarity and to make exceptions about sail numbers on a spinnaker and also for a boat that normally races outside the United Kingdom.
  • A procedure is added to enable an appeal to be expedited.