I've restricted the number of least understood rules to three, because Tillerman instructed me to do that in his group writing announcement, but actually I sometimes think the title should be "the 91 least known Racing Rules of Sailing". Well, please forgive me, that's what I see on occasions watching a fleet race. Okay, maybe not 91, but 91 minus four or five. Port and Starboard and other basic RoW rules seem to have been absorbed by a slight majority, but not by many more.
I wonder if we should introduce a sort of 'driving licence' for regatta sailors. You can't participate in traffic, if you don't know the rules. Fortunately most contacts don't end up in personal injuries and only minor damage, unlike on the road. But the rules appliance is appalling in some fleets. I don't want to police sailors for every rules-infringement, other then with umpiring a match - or team race. But we are getting there fast, if I read the developments correctly...
Therefore I have chosen three rules you should DEFINITELY understand:
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.
DO YOUR TURNS.
Rule 2: FAIR SAILING
A boat and her owner shall compete in compliance with recognized principles of sportsmanship and fair play. A boat may be penalized under this rule only if it is clearly established that these principles have been violated. A disqualification under this rule shall not be excluded from the boat’s series score.
DON'T BE A SORE LOOSER.
A boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. However, a right-of-way boat or one entitled to room or mark-room
(a) need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other boat is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room, and
(b) shall not be penalized under this rule unless there is contact that causes damage or injury.
DON'T HIT ANYBODY.
If you enter a regatta you 'sign' a contract with all other sailors and the RC. The conditions of that contract are written down in the Sailing Instructions. Those include the RRS. What if someone didn't abide by a contract in your 'normal' live. You would scream bloody hell and say something, wouldn't you?
Or even worse. By breaking the rules you shout to all others: "I'm not going to keep my promises because I don't want to loose"
When all is said and done, it's only a sport. I understand it is taken very seriously by some (me) and a favourite and passionate pastime by others (me again). But to paraphrase one of the ground layers of the current rules, Paul Elvstrom:
"It is not worth winning a race if you to loose the respect of your fellow sailors by infringing the rules"
You might even be surprised! Knowing the rules will improve your ability to interact with your fellow sailors on the water. Knowing your rights and obligations is definitely going to boost your confidence and ability to concentrate on sailing faster.
Please, learn a few rules and sail by them!