The Rules Guy: How To Finish

SinC Rules Guy How to Finish 400

March 1, 2023

By: Andrew Alberti

Last summer I observed several boats getting confused about where to finish. I am going to illustrate some of the scenarios. The rules are actually quite simple, but the application can sometimes confuse sailors. The definition of finish says, “A boat finishes when after starting any part of her hull crosses the finishing line from the course side.” 


The diagram actually shows two different common course configurations. These two boats are not actually racing against each other. If we start with the Blue boat, the course in the sailing instructions says “Start – 1 – 2s/2p – 1 – Finish”. They say that the start and finishing marks are Blue. They also say that “The finishing line will be between a staff displaying a blue flag on the race committee vessel and the course side of the finishing mark.” 

The race committee uses the same mark for the start and the finish. Notice that when Blue finishes just before position 10, she leaves the blue mark to starboard. The side she leaves it on will depend on where it is. Even though the windward marks (or even all other marks) are left to port, she finishes by crossing from the course side, which is in the direction from the previous mark, mark 1, not by leaving the finish mark to port. It is also important to understand that marks 2s and 2p are not marks on the first leg or the last leg. Blue can go either side of either mark including in between them, though this may be crowded if another fleet is rounding them at the same time.

Hollywood finish

For Yellow there are similar sailing instructions, but the course is “Start – 1 – 2s/2p – 1 –2p – Finish”  and the finish mark is Yellow. This course which is quite common for ILCAs and Optimists has the boats reaching across the finishing line. The race committee uses this since it is easier to read the sail numbers from the mainsail when the boats are on a reach. This is sometimes called a “Hollywood Finish” since the boats put on a good show going by. This time Yellow leaves the finish mark to port since this allows her to finish by crossing in the direction from the last mark. In this second case 2p is a mark of the course on the last downwind leg. Boats must leave it to port before finishing. Read the instructions carefully to see if 2s is a mark of the course here. Some instructions require boats to pass through the gate between 2s and 2p, others just require 2p to be left to port. Boats with very wide gybing angles might leave 2s to port as well. 

Understanding the finish line


The next diagram was from a youth regatta that I judged in 2022. They had set up a separate finish boat. The course was “Start – 1 – 2s/2p – 1 – 2p – Finish”. As in the previous example the finishing line was defined as being “The finishing line will be between a staff displaying a blue flag on the race committee vessel and the course side of the finishing mark.”  

The race committee was using a separate finish boat even though the finish was fairly close to the start line. The Green boat understood this and finished correctly. The Yellow boat did not see which committee boat was flying the blue flag and crossed between the finish mark and the starting signal boat. The starting signal boat was not displaying a blue flag so Yellow had not crossed the finishing line and did not finish.























In the third diagram the course is defined as “Start – 1- 2 -3 -1- 2- 3- 1- 2 – Finish”. The sailing instructions list the finish mark as green. The race committee has deliberately used a different mark for mark 3 and for finishing to separate the fleets who are still on an earlier lap from those that are finishing. Grey has just finished. Purple has not finished. She has either sailed across the wrong line or she is still racing on an earlier lap. This is again a “buoys to port” course but the finishing mark is left to starboard. 

Race Signals

Other Signals

Blue flag.

The staff displaying this flag is one end of the finishing line.

Finish A boat finishes when, after starting, any part of her hull crosses the finishing line from the course side. However, she has not finished if after crossing the finishing line she

(a) takes a penalty under rule 44.2,

(b) corrects an error in sailing the course made at the line, or

(c) continues to sail the course.


Copies of these rules articles along with animated diagrams can be found at > sailing > programs > KnowRules.


Andrew Alberti 400Andrew Alberti is an International Judge and National Umpire. He is a member of the Sail Canada Rules and Appeals Committees. Send your questions to Andrew at









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