Racing A boat is racing from her preparatory signal until she finishes and clears the finishing line and marks or retires, or until the race committee signals a general recall, postponement or abandonment.
Four minutes before the starting signal; the race is on!
That does however NOT mean that the rules don't apply before that time. In the preamble of part two we can read they also apply long before that and even after the boat has finished. Why then this special defined time of racing?
One of the differences is in the penalty. Except for breaking rule 22.1, a boat infringing a rule of part two while not racing, cannot be penalized. You can still protest, the PC will still conduct a hearing and will still draw a conclusion and reach a decision, but will not DSQ a boat. If there is however damage because of a contact, it still might be of use to help settle the insurance issue. Except for rule 22.1, of course
That's another difference between racing and not racing.
If you are sailing toward the starting area you are not yet racing. But if you interfere with a boat that is, you break rule 22.1, even when you are sailing on Starboard and the other is on Port. And interfere can mean taking the other's wind being to windward of them. You 'loose' your right of way when you no longer racing against a boat that is.
The penalty will be applied to the race sailed nearest in time to that of the incident (RRS 64.1(c))
Racing ends when you clear the finishing line and marks. But again you need to be aware of the next boat coming over the line. She might be keep clear boat under rule 12, but you are already interfering if she needs to take avoiding action because you haven't kept going.
Coach boats need to be away at four minutes. Rule 41 applies while racing.
If you for instance drop your container or jacket in the water after P has gone up, and it's then picked up by your coach, you technically break rule 41, not to mention the 'no litter rule' which in most regatta's will be in the SI.
So be aware of when you are racing!