When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

How to initiate a protest while racing is important to know if you plan to do any sailboat racing. There’s more to it than just hoisting a red flag. You must know what to do when, and how long you have to do it. Plus, there’s usually not enough time to look up the rules while racing, so it’ best to learn them in advance.

World Sailing is the the international authority for the sport of sailboat racing. They revise and publish the racing rules every four years. The current Racing Rules of Sailing became effective January 1, 2018 and are in effect until 2021.

First, the vessels must sail the course. This is an easy place to begin in order to start to understand the language of the Racing Rules of Sailing. Next, we’ll tackle protests.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats


28.1        A boat shall start, sail the course described in the sailing instructions and finish. While doing so, she may leave on either side a mark that does not begin, bound or end the leg she is sailing. After finishing she need not cross the finishing line completely.

28.2        A  string representing a boat’s track from the time she begins to approach the starting line from its pre-start side to start until  she finishes shall, when drawn taut,

(a) pass each mark on the required side and in the correct order,

(b) touch each rounding mark, and

(c) pass between the marks of a gate from the direction of the previous mark. She may correct any errors to comply with this rule, provided she has not finished.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

Where to Find The Course

Rule 28 Sailing the Course is pretty easy to understand. Read the “NOR” or Notice of Race in advance. It will contain the who-what-where-when-why of the sailing instructions.

Next, read the Sailing Instructions. This will have a more in-depth description of the start, racing area, marks and other details. A chart of the race course probably will be an additional item.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats


61.1        Informing the Protestee

(a) A boat intending to protest shall inform the other boat at the first reasonable opportunity. When her protest will concern an incident in the racing area that she was involved in or saw, she shall hail ‘Protest’ and conspicuously display a red flag at the first reasonable opportunity for each. She shall display the flag until she is no longer racing. However,

(1) if the other boat is beyond hailing distance, the protesting boat need not hail but she shall inform the other boat at the first reasonable opportunity;

(2) if the hull length of the protesting boat is less than 6 meters, she need not display a red flag;

(3) if the incident was an error by the other boat in sailing the course, she need not hail or display a red flag but she shall inform the other boat before or at the first reasonable opportunity after the other boat finishes;

(4) if as a result of the incident a member of either crew is in danger, or there is injury or serious damage that is obvious to the boat intending to protest, the requirements of this rule do not apply to her, but she shall attempt to inform the other boat within the time limit of rule 61.3.

(b) If the race committee, technical committee or protest committee intends to protest a boat concerning an incident the committee observed in the racing area, it shall inform her after the race within the time limit of rule  61.3. In other cases the committee shall inform the boat of its intention to  protest as soon as reasonably possible.

(c) If the protest committee decides to protest a boat under rule 60.3(a)(2),  it shall inform her as soon as reasonably possible, close the current hearing, proceed as required by rules 61.2 and 63, and hear the original and the new protests together.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

61.2 Protest Contents

A protest shall be in writing and identify

(a) the protestor and protestee;

(b) the incident;

(c) where and when the incident occurred;

(d) any rule the protestor believes was broken; and

(e) the name of the protestor’s representative.

However, if requirement (b) is met, requirement (a) may be met at any time before the hearing, and requirements (d) and (e) may be met before or during the hearing. Requirement (c) may also be met before or during the  hearing, provided the protestee is allowed reasonable time to prepare for the hearing.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

61.3 Protest Time Limit

A protest by a boat, or by the race committee, technical committee or protest committee about an incident the committee observed in the racing  area, shall be delivered to the race office within the protest time limit stated in the sailing instructions. If none is stated, the time limit is two hours after  the last boat in the race finishes. Other race committee, technical committee or protest committee protests shall be delivered to the race office no later  than two hours after the committee receives the relevant information. The  protest committee shall extend the time if there is good reason to do so.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

US Sailing Protest Form

This form probably will make the rules written above even easier to understand. Item number five is the important part. How did you inform the protestee of your intention to protest. With what method, when, and how and even what words you used.

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

More Resources

Forum: The Racing Rules of Sailing have some awesome in-depth scrutiny of the rules. The Racing Rules of Sailing have all the rules presented in an easy-to-access format.

For a pdf of the World Sailing Rules that includes the race signal flags, SailJax.com has an even easier-to-read version that you can download or print.

If you’d like to see an example of Sailing Instructions, here’s a general one from the St. Augustine Yacht Club with a basic race course chart.

A Notice of Race for our recent St. Augustine Sailing Sisters‘ Spring Foward Race will give you an idea of what to expect from that publication. (sic)

For the US Sailing Protest form including the second page for the use of the protest committee, this link takes you to the pdf version.

If you want to get out on the water in Northeast Florida, St. Augustine Sailing offers classes, sailing club memberships. fractional ownership, and captained charters. You can comply with guidelines and social distance!

sailboat racing protest, When and How You Protest While Racing Sailboats

Sunscreen and Reef-Safe Toiletries

When you sail, don’t forget to bring a small backpack or bag for carrying a few items to the boat with you. A dry bag gives you even more flexibility and security.

My Stream2Sea dry bag is the perfect size for all my sunscreen, bathing suit or foundation garments, sunglasses case, a book, and a few other items for excursions to the boat or yacht club. My discount code “DeepWH” gets you 10% off everything except hand sanitizer – it’s paying the bills for them right now.  

Stream2Sea have hand sanitizer, reef-safe sunscreen, leave-in conditioner, lip balm, shampoo, body wash, and even mask defog! Using my link won’t increase you price, and I might receive a small incentive for introducing you to reef-safe sunscreens and more.


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