It’s important for every Skipper of a power-driven vessel (boat or PWC ) to know and understand the navigation rules as they relate to sailing vessels.
Collision Regulation Rule 12 – Sailing Vessels
Generally, power driven vessels must avoid and/or give way to all sailing vessels when under sail. Ships, tugs attending and towing , scheduled ferries and working fishing vessels have right of way over sailing vessels. Sailors should stay well clear of these vessels. A sailing vessel using its motor is considered to be power vessel even though sails (motor sailing) are hoisted. In this situation the sailing vessel should display a cone forward of the mast to show that she is “under power”.
The Sailing Rules
When two or more sailing vessels are approaching one another the tack they are sailing on determines which vessel has the right of way.
Starboard tack over port tack
When sailing vessels approach on different tacks the vessel with the wind on the starboard is the stand on vessel with right of way. The vessel with the wind on its port-side on a port tack is the give way vessel and should pass behind.
When two vessels meet on the same tack, the upwind (windward) is the give way vessel and should steer behind the leeward boat, which is the stand on vessel.
- Sailing vessels cannot point directly into the wind, which means they have limitations on the course they can steer.
- If carrying a big sail, such as a spinnaker, it is difficult for them to alter course rapidly.
- Learn basic sailing terminology; Port tack – when the wind is coming over the port side of the boat Starboard tack – when the wind is coming over the starboard side of the boat
Windward – in the direction from which the wind is coming (upwind) Leeward – in a direction away from which the wind is travelling (downwind)
Knowing and understanding these rules will help you to be a better Skipper, more confident and prepared for busy race days on the water.
Tip: Determining the tacking direction of a sailing vessel
Determine the wind direction. Look for the location of the main sail. It will be the side opposite of the wind. Never underestimate the speed of a sailing vessel. If a yacht moves across your course, slowly in light winds, you may feel safe to pass ahead. As you proceed you discover that the yacht picks up a sudden gust of wind, and will increase her speed, creating a risk of collision. Always alter course and pass astern keeping well clear of the sailing vessel.