Learning How To Sail – Its All In The Basics

Learning How to Sail – Basic Rules and Regulations of Sailing.

Sailing on the seas or racing on water can be thrilling. Nevertheless, you should observe and follow specific rules and regulations to ensure safety of all at sea. Fundamental rules of sailing include:

• International Maritime Organization has devised specific rules like International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). These rules apply to all shipping vessels irrespective of their size and type.

• International Association of Lighthouse Authorities or IALA has set standards for lights, lateral marks, buoyage, signals, and rules for safe navigation.

• Safety of Life at Sea or SOLAS specifies essential safety equipment and procedures to be adopted in emergencies. These rules are specifically in accordance to the size and sailing range of boats. All boat owners and operators should adhere to all such safety regulations.

• International Sailing Federation has prescribed specific rules racing vessels should adhere to in a race. These are general rules and are exclusive of rules as set by the organization running the event and any other national governing body. If during the course of your race, you encounter a non-racing boat, you should follow regulations as set by International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. Normally, ordinary sailing boats or fleet do not come in the way of a racing boat. Similarly, sailing boats should give way to diver’s boats and fishing vessels.

• All racing boats should primarily adhere to all rules as specified by International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) after sunset. Thereafter, they should also follow Racing Rules of Sailing.

Sailing Rules and Instructions

The basic rules to be followed while sailing or racing on seas are those set by International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea.

• Always, maintain a safe speed of your boat so that it is easy to maintain control of your vessel.

• Keep a proper lookout for sight and hearing to prevent any possible collisions. Make use of your common sense if faced with a dangerous collision situation.

• While overtaking another vessel, you should stay away from the path of the vessel and thereby try to overtake. Rather, you should never come into the path of a sailing vessel.

• If two sailboats
are approaching each other with wind on different sides of the boat, sailboat with port tack should give way to boat with starboard tack. Port tack means having wind on your port side. Your port side refers to left-hand side of your boat if you are facing the front.

• If two boats are on the verge of collision and all safety measures have failed, basic sailing rules indicate if other boat is on your starboard side, you should give way to that boat. Starboard side refers to right-hand side of your boat if facing the front.

• If two boats are approaching each other with wind on the same side of each, windward boat should give way to leeward boat. Windward side refers to boat sailing in direction of the wind while leeward side refers to boat sailing against direction of the wind.
• If during sailing, you come across a boat that has restricted maneuverability or is not under command, you should give way to that boat and allow it to pass.
• When passing through a narrow channel, you should sail as close to the outer edge as possible.

• Normal sailing instructions indicate that sailing vessels should not come into the path of large vessels or ferryboats. These boats find it difficult to change direction abruptly and could require substantial time in doing so. Therefore, noncommercial powerboats normally give way to sailing vessels.


For other articles and to purchase my E Book “The Complete Guide to Learning How To Sail” please go to;

Here’s to some great sailing.

Clive Peterson

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