Rules with Rocky: Sportsmanship & The Racing Rules of Sailing

Hello, my name is Rocky the Rule-Following Fish! Although I live under the water, I love knowing everything about rules for boats on top of the water. My glasses help me see a lot from down here.

Every month I will share new information about how to act when boats meet. The rules on the water are a little different from the rules on land. Being a friendly boater and fair competitor while on the water is easy when you take a little time to read up on the rules.

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Sportsmanship & The Racing Rules of Sailing

“You haven’t won the race, if in winning the race, you have lost the respect of your competitor!”
– Paul Elvstrom, Four-Time Olympic Sailing Gold Medalist

There are many terms used to describe sportsmanship that you may have already heard about:

  • Being honest
  • Being a good sport
  • Playing fair
  • Having a Corinthian Spirit


Sportsmanship is when people who are playing or watching a sport treat each other with respect. This includes everyone: sailors, parents, coaches, volunteers, and officials.

Let’s look inside the Racing Rules of Sailing where you can find how sailors should show their sportsmanship while on the racecourse.

You can find Sportsmanship under Basic Principles in the Racing Rules of Sailing (pg. 8):

Let’s take a deeper dive into the Basic Principles!

Basic Principle # 1 – 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.

So what does this mean?

It means that when you are out sailing in a race and break a rule, you need to take a penalty turn. There is not always someone on the racecourse to tell you to take a penalty turn. An honest sailor will take a penalty turn even when no one is watching.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
– John Wooden, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach

Basic Principle # 2 – Environmental Responsibility

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

So what does this mean?

It means that when you are out sailing in a race, you need to keep your trash in the boat and bring to shore. It is also a great idea to use a refillable water bottle during the races.

“To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s trash”
– Bill Nye, Scientist

Being a good sport on and off the water is not too difficult! I picked my top 10 acts of sportsmanship I’ve seen on the racecourse. I wonder if you’ve already done a few not knowing you were being a good sport!

  1. Learn a new rule and follow it on the water
  2. Don’t yell at others
  3. Thank the Race Committee after every finish
  4. Don’t stay angry if someone else fouls you
  5. Avoid collisions even if you think you are right of way
  6. Calmly admit to breaking a rule during a race and do a penalty turn
  7. Speak positively to your coach and teammates
  8. Congratulate a competitor
  9. Thank everyone who helped you on land
  10. Clean up all the trash in your area

Before you go, I want you to remember two important rules about SPORTSMANSHIP while sailing:

    • Being honest the first step to being a good sport!
    • Keeping our sailing waters clean makes sailing safe & fun for everyone!