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Fun Rules of Sailing

Fun Rules of Sailing





These FRS as presented is a Draft.  Now that there is interest from many fleets to use these, the next step will be to bring together a group of judges to "wordsmith" these, to make sure they accomplish what is intended.


by Glenn McCarthy

The sport of sailing is now a refined game designed to support the sailing events held every four years at the Olympics. From race management to the racing rules, this elite, winner take all, high pressure event has transformed the sport into a business, rather than recreation.
While the Olympics deserve to be a monumental event, the majority of the sport is meant to be fun. The more you have to work at it, investing time and money, the fun gets replaced by something else. I have seen too many people leave the sport when their recreation wasn't fun anymore.
Having seen these developments in the 40 years I’ve been racing, having seen that some competitors have become enemies rather than friends, having seen that fun has taken a back seat, it was time to develop a second game.  I wanted to lay the groundwork for a game not designed for the Olympics, but for Club Racing.

The Fun Rules of Sailing (FRS) uses the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing as the foundation, so new boaters can learn them as they develop their experience.  It doesn’t take “learning a whole new game.”  It provides a place for newcomers not to be as highly intimidated and providing competitor coaching to make them “better sooner."
Breaking them down into intentions: 7 are to encourage Fun; 4 are to provide better Safety; 3 are to create Sportsmanship and Friend Building; 2 are to eliminate unnecessary Olympic rules; 1 is to limit the “Arms War”; and, 1 is to Respect the short time sailors have to give to sailing.
The whole premise is thus - with the sport numbers declining over the past 30 years, following the IOC/ISAF/US Sailing “game,” it is time to re-grow the numbers in the sport and try something else.  This offers a different game, but not so different that it takes seminars or courses to learn.  It is designed with additional participation in mind.  It is time to turn around the 30 year downward trend.  The sport must change in order to save itself from itself.

For club racing only, not championships, nationals, worlds or Olympics.  While using the Racing Rules of Sailing and just tacking these onto them, your fleet can learn the Racing Rules of Sailing and transition much easier back and forth between club racing and championship racing.  This is about Fun, Family, Recreation, Exercise, Safety, Pleasant Experience, and Notable an Easier Introduction to New Racing Boats.

To add the Fun Rules of Sailing to your event:
Just add the following to your Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions:  The race will be governed by the rules as defined in The Racing Rules of Sailing; and, The LMSRF Fun Rules of Sailing

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #1  [Explanation]

Any time you publish anything about a race or event, the Social Activities are to be published first ahead of all other racing information such as the Notice of Race (NOR) or Sailing Instructions (SI).  Repeat as often as possible.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #2  [Explanation]

When two vessels are meeting on reciprocal or nearly reciprocal courses so as to involve risk of collision with both attempting to avoid each other, each shall alter her course to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #3  [Explanation]

Racing Rule of Sailing 5 is deleted (title: Anti-Doping).

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #4  [Explanation]

Part 2 RRS are suspended from Sun Down to Sun Up, where IRPCAS/COLREG right-of-way rules apply.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #5  [Explanation]

Unsportsmanlike Conduct hearing and penalty (Racing Rule of Sailing 69) shall apply only after a guilty finding in a court of law.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #6  [Explanation]

The Racing Rules of Sailing Mark-Room rule (Rule 18) shall be changed every 4 years at ISAF.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #7  [Explanation]

Outside help involving performance, tactics, or coaching requested or given to help any boat during a race is not a violation of RRS 41, it is encouraged.  Outside help requesting safety information is encouraged and not a violation of RRS 41.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #8 [Explanation]

When aground a boat racing may use propulsion to get free as long as it does not provide a gain of significant advantage in the race.  This propulsion must be redressed to the Protest Committee who shall conduct a hearing to exonerate this use of propulsion.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #9 [Explanation]

Cat in the Hat - Each spring before the racing season starts there shall be an elaborate ceremony to burn the Postponement Flag ashore and never be allowed to have one placed on the race committee boat.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #10 [Explanation]

Avoiding Contact – Any contact causes immediate withdrawal of both vessels involved. A third party may protest both boats who had contact that did not immediately retire. In a series, if a competitor’s combined race position is improved by contact with another competitor, that boat’s score will be removed for the series. The requirement for the hail of “Protest” and the raising of a Protest Flag is waived for Any contact. All that is needed is to file a protest within the time limit.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #11 [Explanation]

Penalties – When the protest committee decides that a boat has broken a rule, the skipper of said vessel shall jump into the harbor naked, or have to drink a gallon of beer, or buy the other boat a round of drinks.


Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #12 [Explanation]

Sail Materials - If your fleet is using Dacron and Nylon (maybe Mylar included) sails now, make it a local rule that those are the only sail materials allowed.


Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #13 [Explanation]

At least 20% of your crew shall be 20 years of age or less, none of these can have sole duty as rail meat.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #14 [Explanation]

Back Up Plan – It is inevitable, there shall be days where there is too much or too little wind. Have a back-up plan of activities.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #15 [Explanation]

Crew Weight Limits - Eliminated for club racing.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #16 [Explanation]

Pros on board - For each ISAF Sailor Classification Code Group 3 sailor on board your boat, for 10 minutes during the day you will go up alongside a competitor (under sail or power), before or after each race, the Group 3 sailor shall announce that they wish to coach the competitor for 10 minutes for free, then give them pointers.


Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #17 [Explanation]

Handicapping and Rating - For handicap and rating classes, each week the handicap  or rating will be modified to "level" the fleet out based on the seasons results to date.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #18 [Explanation]

In the Racing Rules of Sailing, there are only two required communications between racing boats: "Protest” (61.1) “You Tack” (20.1).  We encourage any safety call necessary to avoid collisions (Starboard!, “No Overlap!,” Windward Boat Keep Clear!, Etc.).  However use of profanity, untoward physical gestures, hostile words, or threats of violence from any crewperson is cause for a boats immediate retirement.  Any boat may protest another boat for this violation.  Always try to make a joke out of the close one on the water.   Mooning is an acceptable response! Anyone taking, sharing, selling, buying, emailing or posting mooning images will be banned from the sport for life.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #19 [Explanation]

Add the following to RRS 1.1: so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master's or individual's vessel or to individuals on board.


Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #20 [Explanation]

Your attitude must be Fun. However, there is no penalty for violating this rule.

Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #21 [Explanation]
Thou shalt go to the yacht club after racing.
Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #22 [Explanation]
If you have an offshore sailboat, you will have a bolted down operating head connected to a an operating holding tank with a complete privacy enclosure.


FRS #1

Volunteers change out often being put in charge of races and events.  They start by going to the ISAF NOR and SI template which instructs them NOT to put social schedules in the NOR or SI.  ISAF wants those documents to be all about the business of sailboat racing.  As time progresses, more and more volunteers are stopping when the NOR and SIs are complete and making no or little effort at making social accommodations.  Do you remember the Rodney Dangerfield joke - "Hey I went to the fights last night, and a hockey game broke out"?  Sailboat racing needs to go back to the day of hellacious socials (hijinx, games, singing, talent contests, and much laughter ) where future events are judges on - "Hey - I went to a party and some sailboat races broke out!"  First tell people about the party, THEN tell them about the race.  Make sure the invitation to the social event is extended to all crew, all significant others and all children.  Give out crazy awards (grab stuff at a Dollar Store) - farthest traveled competitor, biggest snaggle of the day, nicest Speedo, nicest bikini, pickle dish for last place, etc.

FRS #2

I've heard protests where this exact situation occurred.  Both boats were reaching, both simultaneously turned upwind, downwind, upwind, etc closing course quickly ending up having a collision.  This is a rule, or law written into flying airplanes, driving cars and found in the International & Inland Right of Way rules for boats "not racing."  It should be included in racing right of way rules.  It is all about safety, common sense, and hopefully logic that gets burned into everyone's memory.  The first purpose of rules is to provide safety.  This simple addition provides one more effort to avoid damage, protests, and a long hearing in which no one is happy.  Lets eliminate the unhappiness, add safety, and make it all about fun!

FRS #3

Anyone interested in the Olympics Games, PanAmerican Games, Paralympic Games, or Sails an Olympic Class Boat can be and are randomly tested.  This is all about the "business of racing boats."  It is completely unnecessary at club events.  The rule as written could be applied at a club event (random testing is expensive, so they don't come knocking on our door).  Even the mere hint, suggestion or thought of this needs to be eliminated for club events.  Here's how the system works - if you are prescribed one of the banned substances by a doctor, your doctor can write a note to US SAILING and ISAF and you can be exempted for that medication if tested with a positive result.  However, you must apply for the exemption and get it approved before you race.  If you apply after you race, it is too late.  Speaking to friends who have gone to the Olympics, the test is simple, but embarrassing, you must urinate into a cup face to face with the testing authority.  Should you or your crew found to be in violation, here are the draconian steps - you will be banned from the event immediately, any races you have competed in will be completely removed from the event, ISAF will post the name of the athlete who failed the test on their website by only saying that they were found guilty of the Anti-Doping rule and banned from all sailboat racing for 1 or 2 years or more.  For someone who took a cold remedy bought over the counter at the local pharmacy!

The problem with this is, many of the substances are commonly prescribed to people.  Some are available over the counter.  Things like some cold medicines, products like Cortaid (includes steroid), all insulins, hormones, diuretics, cannibis, hashish, some spices that contain cannabimimetics and many other substances are on the banned list.  While caffeine, nicotine are not banned substances currently, WADA is monitoring these and may add them at a later date.  Any of this is utter non-sense for club racing.

While not applicable to sailing and only applicable to Aeronautics, Archery, Automobile, Karate, Motorcycling and Powerboating, Alcohol is banned "in-competition only" for these sports.  How would you like to keep checking back to this WADA list each weekend to make sure sailing hasn't been added to this list?  Just add the Fun Rules of Sailing to your NOR and SIs and don't worry anymore. 

2012 Banned Substance List: href="">

FRS #4

Right of way rules are created first off for safety.  The rules are "spatial", keep this in mind.  The International and Inland Right of Way Rules (called either IRPCAS or COLREGS) are designed to keep boats far from one another.  It pretty much says that if you see a boat on the horizon, immediately you should take avoiding actions now to assure both boats never get close to one another.  The Racing Rules of Sailing do allow boats to contact (in limited circumstances).  Spatially, the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) allow boats to come extremely close to one another.

At night, visibility is reduced, depth perception is reduced, in the dark there is no way to discern between a competitor and a cruising boat out sailing. Who in their right mind would ever suggest that the space allowed under the RRS should ever apply at night time?  The U.S. and Canada to Hawaii races, the U.S. to Bermuda Races have all figured this out long ago.  In their NOR and SI they state that from Sun Down to Sun Up the Part 2 Right-of-Way Rules of the RRS are replaced by the IRPCAS Right-of-Way rules.  They want to assure that no unintended consequences occur in a disastrous night time collision.  The RRS designed by ISAF for the Olympic Games does not come out and make this a rule because Olympics are sailed in daylight, they actually "hint" that clubs should do this and think their "hint" is strong enough that clubs automatically "get it" (I've had this discussion with the rules writers).  Take a look at the preamble to the Part 2 Racing Rules of Sailing where it states: "If the sailing instructions so state, the rules of Part 2 are replaced by the right-of-way rules of the IRPCAS or by government right-of-way rules."  Did it strike you this is what they meant?  Because that is what they intended.  Add it to your overnight race, add it to your evening or beer can series.  Assure that everyone comes off the water safe, remove protests, remove the need for boats to go away for repairs, and make sure your event is best prepared to have fun. 

FRS #5

Rule 69 takes a lot of fun out of this sport.  Too often under the beer tent or the bar after racing, people are complaining, "that person should be 69'd for what he did."  Where they throw this rule around with a negative connotation that in of itself impugns the sport.  Too often sailors want a RRS 69 hearing called when the appropriate measure would be to call the authorities.

Here's an example -  the 35'+ boats were rafted.  The outer boat appeared with ratty worn out lines and one partially inflated fender.  The next inside boat asked them to go buy a few new fenders to spread the load, which they refused to do.  They hammered their bow and stern lines tight. The inner boat moved one of their own fenders over in between them and the outside boat.  In the little movement in the water, the fender went "squeak, squeak, squeak" much to the chagrin of the sleepers on board.  A crew got up to re-adjust the lines taking the pressure off the bow and stern line to simply let the boat float, but still tied in control, when the outer boat said, "Touch those lines and I will kill you."  While serious enough to call the authorities, the inner boat changed the tension and went back to bed.  The next morning the inner boat crew walked up the dock to find the side of their vehicle (marked with their boat name) kicked in from the sea side, not the public side of where the vehicle was parked.  Immediate suspicion was placed on the outer boat.  The inner boat went to motivate the Protest Committee to file a RRS 69.  The Protest Committee did not file a RRS 69 protest.  This alleged bad guy left town immediately after hearing rumbles about a RRS 69 before racing started and didn't return. 

I believe that the inner boat should have called the police and filed a complaint that a death threat was made.  When the car was damaged, they should have called the police again and have a vandalism report made, and refer to the death threat.  This needed police action, it does not need Protest Committee action.  If this competitor was found guilty of either of these allegations in a court of law, THEN a RRS 69 hearing should be held and have this competitor kicked out racing for an appropriate length of time.  There are plenty of other examples around.

I can only think of one RRS 69 case where someone was given a suspension for something really stupid they did.  It would have been impossible to prosecute in a court.  A penalty was applied, and was appropriate.  Under this Fun Rules of Sailing, they would have gotten away with it.  What they did, did not hurt anyone, did not cause any financial harm, did not cause any damage.  It was just a matter of extremely poor judgment.  A good tongue lashing probably would have had a similar effect.

Too often pranks, hijinx, gags and other hilarity is being cut off as people are overly concerned that some who can't take a joke may get their shorts in a knot and attempt to persuade judges to file a RRS 69.  Do you know what?  Lighten up Francis (See the movies "Stripes" for reference)!  As long as the pranks, hijinx, gags or other hilarity does not damage, injure or break laws, we need the laughter and chuckles brought back to the sport.  Enough of taking things way too seriously!

FRS #6

I hope you caught the laugh in this one.  The people who write the Racing Rules of Sailing mess with this rule every 4 years, regardless.  They messed with it again in the new 2013-2016 rules.  They keep picking the one out of a thousand mark roundings and find some little tiny circumstance where what they wrote last time around just doesn't capture that one situation.  Then they find this desperate need to rewrite this rule.  So this Fun Rules of Sailing, Rule #6 is nothing more than a joke, get it?  Club racing is for pleasure, comradery, fun, laughter, jokes, sportsmanship, community, and just not taking everything so seriously!

FRS #7


By helping each other learn faster, we all win by developing bonds and become better friends. After racing Stars for 29 years with the same team, we were given less than 10 minutes of coaching from George Szabo. Later that week, we won a race in a national championship, something we had never done on our own through trial and error. Three small tips improved our performance: 1. We moved our weight further forward going upwind in light air: 2. We straightened our rig and pulled our forestay tight when reaching; and, 3. We moved our weight forward more than we were when running. That was the difference between doing well and winning. Do you want tight competition? Do you want more boats on the line? Do you want buyers available when you decide to sell your boat? Help others in your fleet become better sailors faster through a little bit of coaching. It really works.

An Appeal on the books says that if a boat requests help for safety, they are DSQ'd.  This sends the wrong message, safety must be first and encouraged.  Most certainly the safety of people and their vessels is much more important than a silly rule that discourages a request.

FRS #8


Like mentioned in previous articles, ISAF is focused on the Olympic Game in the racing rules. They actually added this as a hint to race organizers in 42.3(h). It is to be added to sailing instructions, but they didn’t make it a standard “rule” because it doesn’t work in the Olympic Game. What example is there? In 2006, Wooton 2, a really cool tricked out racing machine went aground at Pt. Betsie in the Mac Race. But back up, all of the boats go through a ton of work to get in this race, from boat preparation, meals planning, crew list, entry, safety compliance, everyone scheduling time off from work, etc. All of that was thrown away because they eventually had to use their motor to get unstuck. Isn’t the penalty of being embarrassed for running aground enough? Once they were off, turned off their engine and started sailing again they would have lost great time and distance over their competitors. Isn’t that penalty enough? For fun, we really need this as a permanent fixture in racing.


FRS #9

As we know, we only have so much time to give to racing and need to use that time preciously. Everyone talks about how busy people are, that they don’t have time to waste, etc. The Race Committee needs to get out to the starting line early, and start races on time. Races do not need to be Olympic “perfect” (contrary to what Race Committees are being taught in the certification programs today).   Just do your best. Sailors are to be smart and deal with starting lines that aren’t perfectly square, and marks that aren’t dead to windward, it makes them better sailors to deal with these things. Do not delay between races, sailors don’t need a break and don’t need to wait four and a half minutes to “stay in timing cycle.” As soon as the RC is ready to run a subsequent race, just start the next cycle. Eliminate wasted time on the water, wasted time does detract from the experience. Additionally one of the big enhancements by starting subsequent races is that many times delays allow the crews to become hypothermic on wet, cool or cold windy days. While the Race Committee may be sheltered, many times the crews are wet, there is not much physical activity tacking back and forth reaching back and forth at the line, and the adrenalin has stopped flowing, causing crews to get very cold in a short amount of time. Get us on the water quick and back to shore quick. Race Committee must be the leader. When the sailing fleet appears to be dragging their feet moving in the morning, for example on light or heavy days, go out and start racing on time. In the end, they’ll appreciate getting in their races and getting home on time.

FRS #10

First, let’s jump off to tactics, just how does this change the sport? Let’s look at two boats coming into the weather mark on opposite tacks with Starboard on the layline just making it. Port tack will T-bone Starboard right in the middle if they take no action to avoid. With the current racing rules, Port would choose to duck behind Starboard cutting it as close as he can maybe by inches or a foot of clearance. We’ve all seen that. But now add in this modification, Port may worry about the waving antenna on the back end of Starboard just ticking him, or an errant gust rounding him up and tapping Starboard, or something else causing some contact. Port may opt to put just a little more space between the two boats when they pass. In a 23’ Star boat maybe 1’-3’ more, a 33’ Tartan 10 might add 3’-5’ more, 68-foot sleds might add 5’-7’ more. Can I tell you what? 1st place at the mark is still first place and 2nd place is still second place. In all reality, nothing has changed. Except it is now safer and less chance of collision or damage.


Today without this modification in a race, in some cases two boats can collide, damage can occur, a boat can do a 720 and both boats get scored. For the Racing Rules of Sailing designed for the Olympics and small sailing dinghies, ALLOWING boats to collide has been agreed by the Rules Writers to be an acceptable thing. But the Rules Writers are clearly out of their minds to apply that same logic when the boats are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 feet in length or more. Damages can be devastating, take a long time to repair and lose days, weeks or months on the water for a boat. Injuries to people can cause permanent disability or death. I’ve discussed this with the Head Rules Writer in the U.S. and all I can say is that the Olympic Kool-Aid is really strong stuff. They just don’t get it.

So a boat new to racing comes out, and other boats are crossing by inches, leebowing by a few feet, and once or twice in his first race some other boat rubs his (NASCAR style – if you ain’t rubbin’, you ain’t racin’). How is this going to get more boats out racing? How does this guy feel about his first race experience? He has some scuffs to buff out in the boat he has taken pride in for years. Is he really going to come back for more? Allowing contact is counterproductive to growing sailing, but can be fine for Olympic TV viewing as the Olympic rules writers have so determined.

In my day job, I provide boat insurance to my clients. I can repeat to you what the underwriters of the insurance industry think about racing sailboats. Racing sailboats have more losses and higher expense losses than non-racing sailboats. Now every racer I talk to says, “That can’t be.” They say, “We racers are more experienced, we go out in all conditions while the cruisers are just sitting at the docks.” While this I agree with this and believe racers do have a wider and deeper range of experiences than cruisers (on average), the cruisers are sitting in the harbor sipping wine and eating brie cheese laughing at us doing wipe outs, death rolls, watching spinnakers blow up, masts and booms breaking and sometimes having horrific collisions. Also, the cruisers always operate under the COLREGs/IRPCAS which require large distances when passing other vessels. During these days where we are getting experience, the cruiser’s biggest damage will be a red wine stain in the deck they’ll have to bleach out. The Racing Rules of Sailing allows boats to get extremely close including contact. The insurance industry would like to either get rid of their racing clients (not me!) or charge them more in premium, but there is just no standard in the industry on how to underwrite and address us racers, so they just accept us racers and grind their teeth with the losses we provide. So, why don’t we just clean up our own act, so the insurance industry doesn’t do something draconian to us in the future? Eliminating contact would be a great start to improve our image. And having no collisions would add to your fun.

What is the process when no protest is filed and it is turned into each boat’s insurance company? The insurance company adjusters either will each pay their own insured’s damages and each boat will pay their own deductibles, or, they will get on the phone with each other and “make a deal.” One boat will “sound” more guilty than the other, but the insurance companies are used to IRPCAS right-of-way rules where no boat is ever exonerated and both boats are always blamed and responsible. The outcome is that they do not decide who is right or wrong, they just come up with a dollar amount split of the total damages of both boats and agree to pay their percentage. This leaves each boat paying their own deductible with no vindication. The result being both boats will feel jilted over being unclear who the right-of-way boat was in the situation.


When boats do have contact, it must be completely obvious to each other that a foul occurred and each boat should automatically presume that they are eligible to be protested, this is why waiving the need for the hail or the flag makes sense with contact. Even with both boats being required to drop out with any contact, with damage they still must be able to file a protest in order to determine who had the right-of-way under the Racing Rules of Sailing. Do you realize that the only time in life, the only place you will ever get a hearing on your damages is in a Protest Room? If you waive your rights to a protest hearing by not having a protest hearing within the time limit confines of the rules, just where do you think a hearing will ever be heard? Do you think both boats insurance companies will get together and hold a fair and impartial hearing? That does not happen. Do you think you’ll end up in a State or Federal Courtroom where the bench judge or jury who knows nothing about sailing will study the racing rules and determine the right-of-way boat? Nope, it’s not happening there either. Your only opportunity to have the racing rules applied to contact or damage is a Protest Room. The Racing Rules of Sailing have become Case Law in the U.S. where judges have agreed that this is a set of contracted right-of-way rules between competitors. They do replace COLREG/IRPCAS between competitors in the legal environment. But the legal environment is ill-equipped to hear right-of-way racing rules situations. Use the process set up in the sport.


Now you might have noticed the little caption in the US Sailing Prescription 67(b) that says, “A protest committee shall find facts and make decisions only in compliance with the rules. No protest committee or US Sailing appeal authority shall adjudicate any claim for damages. Such a claim is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts.” What this rule is intended to do is to keep the volunteer judges out of the courtroom for the collisions you get involved with. But key in on the words that the Protest Committee “shall find facts and make decisions only in compliance with the rules.” There is your one time your collision will ever get a chance of being decided on who was right, and who was wrong.

This little tweak to the rules makes sailboat racing safer, leads to less damage to boats, hopefully eliminates the need for repairs in contact situations reduces the number of protest hearings, and keeps boats on the water racing, rather than in a shipyard someplace getting a hole or mast replaced, while improving our image with insurance companies. Doesn’t this sound more fun?

FRS #11

Sailboat racing is a game. Not different than chess, checkers or tiddlywinks. It is meant to be fun, and those who take it too seriously, getting too hot under the collar, need to break out in a smile when things get off kilt instead. If the losing skipper is taking it too seriously and refusing to buy a round of drinks for the other boat, or can’t drink a gallon of beer, cover your eyes and your children’s eyes, bring out the eye-bleach because a streaker is coming to your club soon!


Note - While I’d like to take credit for all of these proposed FRS, I do have to give credit to Dr. Peter McKinney for FRS #11 – Thanks Peter!

FRS #12

This provides a place for newcomers to participate easily. Almost all non-racers have boats with Dacron and Nylon sails and can start racing today. They look like the rest of the fleet, they feel like the rest of the fleet. Once you open the door to the arms race of exotic sail materials, it provides a very high barrier for newcomers to even try-out sailboat racing. I’ve seen exotic material racers ridicule Dacron racers their first time out. They don’t return and we lose another opportunity to grow the sport. With success in sail material limits, causing more boats to race, the boat builders will build more boats, the boat parts makers will build more parts, leading into more competitors who will be ordering more sails. In a discussion on this with LMSRF Past Commodore Terry Kohler, owner of North Sails, he agrees with this rule for club racing. He wants to see the sport grow too. You also might limit the number of sails purchased for each boat annually. Look at the Tartan 10 class, they limit new sail purchases to 2 per year, Dacron or Polyester main, Polyester or Mylar jibs, and nylon spinnakers. How is the strength of the fleet? It is the biggest fleet in Chicago for decades. This is a winning strategy to keep a fleet strong, and affordable.

FRS #13

Re-read the October 2012 LMSRF Newsletter on breaking down the silos, it is critical to have

youth sailing with adults once more. Go find them in sailing schools, Optimist and 420 programs, High School and Collegiate sailing. Become their mentors. Teach them about safety. Teach them the nautical arts. Watch your students grow right under your very eyes. You’ll also find out that they have been coached in sailing and will bring fresh ideas to your boat, accept those ideas and learn from these young sailors. Teach them the bow, grinding, trimming, sail changes, etc.

I credit Gene McCarthy for this rule. Two years ago we took a bunch of under 21 sailors out for a pleasure sail. Many hadn’t sailed before. After getting the boat shipshape back at the dock, he turned to me and stunned me. He said, “I haven’t had this much fun in 35 years.” [I took the knife out of my chest after doing the math calculating that we have been sailing together as a team for 35 years.] All of today’s kids were inquisitive, yearning to learn how

everything works, and asked so many questions, it really made me feel good.” Are you ready

to feel good too? Let’s break down those silos and get the younger generation aboard today.   

It is critical to the future of this sport.

FRS #14

How many events have you gone to where the Cat in the Hat Flag (Answering Pennant signaling postponement) hangs on the flagpole on shore all day long?  You’re itching to go at a moment’s notice should the weather change. But ashore you sit around, some take naps, others turn to a ball game on TV and others talk about the world. Realize it, you are in show business. You cannot have a Broadway Show and have a 2, 4 or 8 hour break as an intermission. You lose the audience’s interest and it is hard to rebuild the excitement of your play. What can be done?

  • Have an impromptu rules session run by a judge.
  • Hold an open mock protest hearing. Get two skippers who had a real event, though now the time limit expired, become the protestor and protestee. Show the audience how a protest hearing works and what happens inside the protest room. Amazingly many sailors never get inside one. Offer explanations why the process is done the way it is.
  • Hold a Crewing seminar, asking crews for their secrets to success to share with the others.
  • Hold a tactics seminar, ask one of the top guys in the fleet to discuss it.
  • Hold a boat preparation or boat maintenance seminar.
  • Or any other idea that comes to you!


The fleet will be better off for the day, better prepared for their future sailing endeavors, and will have been entertained what is normally a very boring period.

FRS #15

Crew Weight Limits provide equalization and level the playing field, but they also become an exclusionary experience where friends or family are left ashore. Some boats have even stopped racing because they can’t pick and choose which friends they can sail with. It’s not fun for them anymore. Beer Can races are one of the best examples where they don’t have crew weight limits, and load the people on the decks (making sure there are enough PFDs for everyone). They find, “the more the merrier.”

FRS #16

I’m not sure I’ve seen an event where Professional (Pros) sailors are completely excluded from racing.  The ISAF Classification system for Pros is commonly used to only “limit” the number of Pros on any one boat.  Pros seem to be an element of our sport that we all know has its own pros and cons (pun intended) that has been debated tirelessly.  When someone bankrolls a Pro to improve his own team, their generosity will be shared with other boats in the fleet with this rule.  It provides fairness while simultaneously helping their own boat improve. 

FRS #17

Handicap and rating rules do what they can to level prepared boats, whether they are prepared or not.  The first assumption is that the boats are in peak performance with the smoothest bottom, the newest sails, etc.   We know that some boats come out with dirty bottoms, old sails, and are in the learning process.  We know some are coming out just for the enjoyment of sailing and will never put in the time to learn all of the nuances it takes to be on top of the fleet.  They too need a day where they win.  Otherwise, what would keep them coming back?  By leveling out the handicaps or ratings weekly (based on time differences at the finish over the season), you give everyone in the fleet an equal chance to win.  Those with the pros, the smooth bottom that was just washed prior to the race, with the latest sails are going to have to work harder to win.  Why make it easy for them by just rating their boat, rate their talent too!  And winning is still a potential outcome for them.  And by the way, how many more pickle dishes do they really need now that they have been at this level for a number of years?  This type of system doesn't just handicap or rate the perfect boat, it is taking in account of the crew, the sails, and the bottom finish.  If a boat with 1' of grass on the bottom suddenly wants to up their game by cleaning their bottom, they might finish a bit better that week, but their good finish will cause their handicap or rating to change and bring them back in align with all others over a week's time.

FRS #18

The Racing Rules of Sailing only have two required verbal commands.  Other than that, the rules makers are silent on what else should or should not be communicated between boats.  Obviously the next set of commands between boats are needed for safety.  "Windward keep clear!"  "Starboard!"  "No Overlap"  "Overlap"  These commands are clear and help provide understandings between boats to avoid collisions.  Safety commands are encouraged.

Let’s say on Friday night you go to a friend’s house into the basement to play some cards, the cigars and whisky are flowing.  Everyone is having fun, telling good stories and bad jokes, when suddenly one guy goes into a rage!  He is screaming, swearing, calling everyone names and is red in the face close to devilish looking.  Will you ever come back for another Friday night of poker?  Probably not.  For a long time, this type of activity in the game of sailing has been tolerated.  Do we call this the John McEnroe effect?  It is also one of the reasons people stop coming back for more.  No one needs this type of abuse for something they are doing for fun, relaxation, exercise and enjoyment.

Think of the psychology on your own boat, you’re coming up to the windward mark, at the three length zone you site your transom and see there is no overlap, and for safety reasons you shout “No Overlap!” to the boat immediately behind.  The boat behind pushes it anyways and forces themselves between you and the mark, you hail “Protest” and raise your red flag immediately.  As you know it is too late to say anything more, work you boat as hard as you can to get ahead of this clown (note - funny word, not a bad word).  In the protest hearing, you will testify at the three length zone that you sited your transom and there was no overlap, and you hailed to the boat “no overlap.”  Your testimony is clean, clear and concise and will go a long way into having the clown disqualified from that race.  Isn’t this too simple?  It is meant to be this way.

We want to make sailing grow, in order to do so, we need to tear down the age silos and have youth sailors sail on adult boats.  Youth do not need to be exposed to bad language.  In a recent conversation with past LMSRF Treasurer Dickerson, he explained why he doesn’t course race anymore, and only does the long distance races.  One of the primary reasons is that he just couldn’t believe the language at turning marks and just never wanted to be exposed to that ever again.  Does the math add up now?  We lose boats because of this, and turn away new people because it’s just like a really bad night at Poker when someone goes into a rage.  Remember, laugh, make a joke out of close calls, moon someone!  In a close one say, “Excuse me sir, do you have any Grey Poupon?”

Maybe you think you have the right to say whatever you want and want to wrap yourself around the Constitution.  Watch this CBS News video of a judge who slaps a $10,000 fine and 30 days in the county jail for bad language and gestures

We're supposed to be friends on the water, let’s make sure this happens.  I don't know how such language became tolerated in the sport, but it needs to end now and we need a huge image overhaul.

FRS #19

Like Supreme Court Justice Scalia, I am a textualist. RRS 1.1 simply says: “Helping Those in Danger - A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.” As written it is not comparable to the IRPCAS/COLREG requirement when going to save someone, the IRPCAS/COLREG adds: “so far as the master or individual in charge can do so without serious danger to the master's or individual's vessel or to individuals on board.” So using the text as presented in the RRS, about “shall give all possible help” which to me includes both putting your vessel in danger AND putting your crew at risk of life or limb.

The IRPCAS/COLREGS are clear, you must render assistance, but at the point your boat or crew are put in danger you can sail away, you are no longer required to provide assistance. Morally, the other boat did something unseaworthy or unseamanship, just because they made those choices does not make it your choice to join them in a disaster. Now, doing this you would be safe from the arm of the law if accused, but according to the RRS you should be found guilty and disqualified from the race for not destroying your boat or crew doing everything possible. And then some overzealous protest committee may decide to bring out RRS69!

Being frustrated as a textualist, many years ago I did submit a request for interpretation to the US Sailing Appeals Committee on this topic. Their decision was that should an appeal come to them, they would mirror the IRPCAS/COLREGs escape clause. However, they also decided not to publish this decision! Rather than have misleading wording in this rule to the racing public, we want sailors to know before they sail, and judges to know before a protest is brought to them, that the escape clause applies, that’s why these words are added to this rule.



In the 1998 Sydney Hobart Race in hurricane conditions, Margaret Rintoul sailed past Sword of Orion who had lost Glyn Charles overboard earlier when the boat did a 360-degree roll on a wave wrapping the mast around the hull and no longer had steerage.  The Australian court held a hearing and charges were dismissed against Margaret Rintoul using the IRPCAS law.  A RRS 69 hearing was made against the owner of Margaret Rintoul, based on the “shall” wording and the owner was exonerated.  Why did Margaret Rintoul sail past?  1. Their engine had become inoperable, 2. Sailing in the direction of a close reach into the 90’ waves was a much safer direction than turning and exposing the beam to the seas of which Sword of Orion had suffered.  3. Margaret Rintoul did make an effort to relay by radio what they had seen.


I still feel horrible for the owner of Margaret Rintoul, it took 1-1/2 years to be cleared of the RRS 69.  The sport owes him a big apology, which I never saw.  Who needs a RRS69 hearing hanging over their heads because the rule is not written clearly to begin with?  Fixed!


FRS #20 

Wake up in the morning on race days with a smile on your face, be relaxed, you're going to get away from work, emails, texts, and all that's wrong with the world and head out to enjoy what all is right with the world - sailing in freedom. If you have an arch enemy, figure out how to make him or her your friend. If you're holding a grudge over a protest from 8 years ago, it is time to let it go (even the one that happened last week). If you're a screamer, recognize it in yourself and try to change. If you believe in the philosophy that "The floggings shall continue until morale improves" try a different approach. Make everyone around you laugh, not just a little, but roaring laughter. Fun must rule the day when sailing!

FRS #21
While hanging at your dock is easy and cheaper than going to the club after racing, it removes the opportunity to partake in the fesitivities at the club, hang out with the other boats in the fleet, and spread some dough-re-me into the club's coffers.  Have you ever considered what the cost of the committee boats are, maintenance costs, marks, flags, sign boards, fuel, lunches for the RC, etc?  It is important to show appreciation to the club and provide some monetary support.  It is a place for non-members to spend time, learn the club and consider becoming a member too, an important facet to keeping sailing going.

FRS #22
Providing a bolted down, readily operating head is just simple human decency for all, especially women.  Using a bucket, is something that tells women that this is a men's club.  In order to grow sailing, we need more women sailing.  Why?  Because it draws more men.  And this cycle needs to pyramid to get more people out on the water.

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