9 Rules of Sailing Every Sailor Should Know

Sailing is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and adventurous activities out there.

As overwhelming as your first sail may feel, take a breathe, and learn some vital sailing rules to ensure there are no hiccups along the way.

Of course, you probably already completed a safe boating course, but nonetheless, a little reminder won’t hurt.

So, before you launch your sailboat to explore the serenity of the waters, check out these 9 vital rules of sailing every sailor should know – from the International Sailing Federation.

1. Be Practical With Risk Assessment

I wish I could stress this enough. Always be practical with risk assessment. Should the need to assess the risk of collision with other boats arise, you have to make a swift yet practical decision to minimize the impact.

2. The Boat Windward Must Always Give Way to the Boat Leeward

When two boats are approaching each other, with the wind on the same side of each boat, the International Sailing Federation suggests that the boat on the direction of the wind (Windward) must give way for the other boat on the opposite side of the wind (Leeward).

3. Overtaking Boats Should Always Stay Off the Lane of the Other Boat

While overtaking in the waters, sailors are advised to strictly adhere to the overtaking rule to prevent collision. The rule states that overtaking vessels/boats should always stay off the path of the other boat.

Furthermore, sailboats are also expected to stay off the path of any boat that is not under command, engaged in fishing, or restricted in its ability to maneuver.

4. Stay Focused

If there is anything sailors have in common it is their ability to stay focused – both in and out of the waters. This is because focus is key to a safe sail. You have to constantly keep your eyes and ears open. Not just to understand the wind and how best to sail but also to avoid colliding with others.

5. Port Tack Always Gives Way to the Starboard Tack

According to sailing rules, any boat which has the wind on the port side should always give way for the other boat in cases where two boats are approaching each other and the wind is on different sides of each boat. This helps to clear the path, thus preventing the collision of the boats.

6. Stay Close to the Edge of Narrow Channels

It is not unlikely to come across narrow channels. While there is actually little or nothing to worry about, it is advisable to stay close to the edge of the channel. You can’t be too careful, right?

7. Non-commercial Powerboat Should Give Way to Sailboats

Although this is a widely acknowledged sailing rule, it is essential to state that the rule does not apply to large vessels and ferryboats. Sailboats are always advised to stay off the path of large vessels and ferryboats that may or may find it difficult to slow down or change direction.

8. Control Your Speed

Sailing can get intoxicating. Take it from someone who spends a lot of time on the boat. It sure can get to your head. However, every good sailor knows that speed control is an important rule in sailing. You do not want to put your life and others in danger. Always maintain a safe speed. Be in control!

9. A Boat on its Starboard side Should Yield Right of Way

Note that this rule is applicable when there is a risk of collision and every humanly possible effort to stop it have proved abortive. In such cases, the boat on its starboard side is expected to give the right of way to the other boat.