Racing Rules - Changes for 2021-24

Aug 25, 2020

Every four years, World Sailing reviews the Racing Rules of Sailing. The current version of the rules expires at the end of 2020. This article covers the major changes which will affect radio sailing. It is not a complete list of all the rule changes, but serves as an overview of the rules which may affect us on a regular basis.

202124 RRSThe new set of rules will cover the period 2021 – 2024, and come into effect for any event commencing in 2021. An event which starts in 2020, but goes into 2021 will be sailed under the 2017-20 rules.

The Racing Rules of Sailing can be obtained free of charge online at

There is a “Study version” which shows the changes in full, but this article lists the more important ones for radio sailing.


Appendix A5 has been changed so that a boat which did not sail the course can be awarded a new scoring code “NSC”. This can be awarded by the Race Committee without a protest hearing.

Previously, the Race Committee could not make a competitor’s score worse for not sailing the correct course – only the Protest Committee could do that. Now there is no need to go to protest if the Race Committee observes a boat sailed the incorrect course.

A competitor can still protest for redress in the event that the Race Committee can be shown to have made an error. This change shifts the ability to penalise a competitor from the Protest Committee to the Race Committee.


1.           ROOM TO TACK

E1.3(b) now requires that hails for room to tack (R20.1 and R21.3) shall include the words ‘Room’, ‘Tack’ and the sail number of the hailing boat – in any order.

2.           HAILS

E2: A hail shall be made and repeated as appropriate so that competitors to whom the hail is directed might reasonably be expected to hear it. As a result of this change, the phrase “and repeat” has been removed from several other rules.

So if a hail is made, and that hail is acknowledged by the competitor to whom the hail is directed, there is no need to repeat the hail.

The rule does not mean that a competitor to whom the hail is directed must hear it – provided the hail is made in a manner which the competitor might reasonably be expected to hear it, the hail is valid. A skipper cannot claim that a hail is invalid because they did not hear it. They would need to show that the hail was not made in the manner described in the rule (which could be tricky if you didn't hear it!)

3.           TAKING A PENALTY

E4.3(b) if the boat gained an advantage in the heat or race by her breach despite taking a penalty, her penalty shall be additional One Turn Penalties until her advantage is lost.

This clarifies that multiple turns may be required to complete a penalty.

Note that the criteria by which the advantage is measured has not changed. A boat must have received an advantage in the heat or race despite taking a One Turn Penalty. The rule does not address the impact on the boat which was infringed.

So if a boat infringes another, takes a penalty and as a result has achieved an advantage in her position in the heat or race, then another One Turn Penalty is required. That measure continues to apply until the advantage is lost.



1.           EXONERATION

Items involving exoneration for breaking a rule have been moved from Rule 14 and Rule 21 and are consolidated in Rule 43.1.

In R43.1, with the substitution of 'is exonerated' for 'shall be exonerated', and the removal of the 'when a boat is compelled' provision from R64.1, it is now clear that Exoneration is immediate, and a penalty not required. Exoneration occurs at the time of the incident, and boats acting in the belief that they are exonerated are not breaking rule 2.

2.           RULE 16.2

This rule applies on a beat to windward when a port tack boat is keeping clear of a starboard tack boat.

The old rule stated that the starboard tack boat shall not change course if the port tack boat would immediately need to change course to continue keeping clear.

The new rule is changed so that the starboard tack boat shall not bear away if the port tack boat would need to immediately change course to continue keeping clear.

In a situation where a boat tacks, the normal rule applies, so a boat tacking shall keep clear of a boat on a tack.

3.           DEFINITIONS

There is a revised definition of “start”. Only the hull counts when starting – not crew or equipment.

The “Sail the Course” definition has been moved from Rule 28 into the definitions.


There are other changes to the rules. The list above is a selection, but covers most of the things which may affect radio sailing. For a full and complete knowledge of the new rules, please download the 2021-2024 rules from the World Sailing website.

Category: General
Posted by: ARYA Publicity