The purpose of The Racing Rules of Sailing is to keep sailors and boats safe and to provide fair competition. The rules are governed by two basic principles:

Sportsmanship and the Rules

Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.

Environmental Responsibility

Participants are encouraged to minimize any adverse environmental impact of the sport of sailing.



The Racing Rules of Sailing are published every four years, beginning the year after the Summer Olympics, by World Sailing (WS). They govern sailboat racing around the world.


The US Prescriptions are added to The Racing Rules of Sailing, and they govern races that are held in the United States or the parts of international races that pass through US waters. The US Prescriptions rank as rules in the US.

What are the Racing Rules?

The Racing Rules of Sailing govern the sport of sailboat racing and include the so-called “right of way” rules for racing sailboats, as well as rules that concern eligibility, race organization and competitors’ rights to protest and appeal decisions. The rules are written by World Sailing (WS) and are published on January 1 of the year following the Summer Olympic games. The rules are in effect for the following four years, or “quadrennium.”


Are the rules the same worldwide?

Mostly. Each country’s National Authority adds “Prescriptions” to the rules as they apply in that country. Under rule 86.1, only certain rules can be changed by prescriptions. To understand how the rules in a particular country have been changed from the WS version you need to look at a copy of that country’s prescriptions. View US Sailing’s Prescriptions for the United States.

How do I get the rules?

The Racing Rules of Sailing for 2013-2016 are available on the WS website, and the US Prescriptions are available at the link above. US Sailing publishes a printed version that includes all of the WS rules as well as the US Prescriptions. The US Sailing rulebook is available through the US Sailing Web Store, by calling 800-877-2451, or from some marine suppliers.

Have there been any changes since the last rulebook?

There have been some changes in the rules and prescriptions since the 2009-2012 quadrennium. See Changes to the Racing Rules of Sailing for 2013-2016 to learn about these changes.

How do the rules get changed?

WS revises the rulebook every four years. The various National Authorities are invited to propose rules changes to the WS Racing Rules Committee, which reviews the proposals and forwards its recommendations to the WS Council for final approval. Fewer than one third of the proposed changes are adopted. Some changes may be approved during “off” years, with implementation delayed until the new rulebook is published at the beginning of the quad.

The US Sailing Racing Rules Committee develops US Sailing’s proposed submissions to WS and sends them to the US Sailing Board of Directors. If they are approved by the Board, the submissions are sent to WS for consideration by the WS Racing Rules Committee.

Most rule changes result from comments or proposals from competitors or race officials. The US Sailing Racing Rules Committee welcomes your suggestions for improving the racing rules. Please e-mail comments and suggestions to the Racing Rules Committee or mail them to US Sailing Racing Rules Committee, P.O. Box 1260, Portsmouth, RI 02871.

How do I get official interpretations of the rules?

Official interpretations of the WS rules are made by a committee appointed by the WS Racing Rules Committee and are published as the ISAF Case Book. In the United States, official interpretations of the rules are made by the US Sailing Appeals Committee and are published in The Appeals Book for 2013-2016, Including the ISAF Cases for 2013-2016. This handy publication includes both WS Cases and US Sailing Appeals, and is cross-referenced by rule numbers and key words. You may purchase a copy of the Appeals and Cases book from the US Sailing Web Store.