The Rules Guy: New Rule Changes IV

Cover Sail Canada Rule Book 2021-2024

Apr 22, 2021

By Andrew Alberti

This month, we continue our exploration of changes included in the 2021-2024 edition of the Racing Rules of Sailing. This edition brings a lot of changes, but few affect the way we sail on the course.

There were significant changes in the 2017-2020 rule book related to parents, coaches and other people who help sailors – called “support persons” in the rulebook. There were a few problems with those changes, so more changes were made at the beginning of 2018, too late for the printed copy of that rule book. The 2021-2024 book brings a few more changes. In January this year, an online rules seminar (featuring Dave Perry, one of the best coaches on the rules) drew a surprising number of questions about support persons.


Under rule 1.1, a support person shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger. Competitors have always been expected and required to “give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.” Competitors can also be given redress under rule 62.1(c) if they lose places while they give assistance. Hopefully many Canadians are aware of the famous case of Larry Lemieux, celebrated for giving assistance to a Korean 470 sailor in the 1988 Olympics. Now coaches, parents and other support people are required to give assistance as well.

Notwithstanding the general requirement to give help, there’s a lot of grey area around when and by whom help should be given. I do not believe that this rule would now mean that a spectator parent would be punished for not constantly watching for boats in danger. Nor would someone daysailing, nowhere near the course, be expected to give help. There is, however, the traditional expectation that anyone on the water will render assistance to any other person seen to be in distress, and I believe that a parent or coach might be punished for ignoring a boat in obvious danger to satisfy some trivial desire, such as congratulating their own competitor at the finishing line.

What constitutes a sailor in danger? A Laser sailor who does a dry dump on a medium-wind day in August is probably not “in danger”. An Optimist sailor who hits his head while capsizing on a cold day in May, may well be in danger. Anybody observing something such as this should at least stand by the competitor and see who the most suitable rescue boat is. A 30-foot sailboat might not be the best rescue boat if there is a coach in an RIB nearby.

Spectators, including parents, should not be in the middle of the race course. In most races, coaches shouldn’t be either. This means that as a support person, you may not see that someone needs help. Sometimes race committees ask coaches to move into the course to be available to act as safety boats. In this case, they are far more likely to encounter a boat in need of assistance.

Under the new rule 37, if the race committee displays code flag V with one sound, all boats and support vessels should monitor the committee channel for search and rescue instructions. This might be due to an impending storm where the committee wants all the competing boats towed in.


The other significant change under the 2021 rules for support people is part of the move to sailing being a green sport. Under the old rule 55, competitors were not allowed deliberately to put trash in the water. The new rule, now rule 47, applies to support persons as well.

At the rules seminar in January, many raised questions around what could happen if the support person breaks one of these rules. Possible penalties are covered under rule 64.5. A warning or the support person being asked to leave the event are the most probable consequences. It is also possible that the competitor (or competitors) connected with that support person could be penalized, but only if either the competitor gained significant advantage (unlikely with the sorts of cases we have just been discussing) or the competitor has already been warned in writing following a previous hearing about that support person.


One final change related to support people is that if a support person is found to have broken rule 2 (fair sailing) or rule 69 (misconduct), a boat whose position was made worse by that action may get redress. Previously that was only possible when a competitor had broken rule 2 or rule 69. Previously if a competitor tied a hidden bucket to the keel of another boat, the competitor could be punished under rule 2 and the other boat could get redress. If a coach tied the bucket, then the coach could be punished but there was no redress. Now the other boat could get redress.

In the past, there was a concern that if you gave help to someone, they could end up being disqualified under rule 41 “Outside Help”. Rule 41.1(a) allows a boat to receive outside help for a crew member who is ill, injured or in danger” The part of the rule that used to allow them to be penalized if they gained advantage from this help has been deleted.

As you may have gathered from this commentary, these rules, like any new rules have not been significantly put to the test of on-the-water infractions and off-the-water hearings. I don’t think they are really that hard to follow. Don’t throw trash in the water and no matter what your role, help someone who appears to be in danger.

Support Person Any person who

(a) provides, or may provide, physical or advisory support to a competitor, including any coach, trainer, manager, team staff, medic, paramedic or any other person working with, treating or assisting a competitor in or preparing for the competition, or

(b) is the parent or guardian of a competitor.


1.1 Helping Those in Danger

A boat, or competitor or support person shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger.


4.1 (a) By participating or intending to participate in an event a race conducted under the these rules, each competitor and boat owner agrees to accept the these rules.

(b) A support person by providing support, or a parent or guardian by permitting their child to enter an event a race, agrees to accept the rules.


When the race committee displays flag V with one sound, all boats and official and support vessels shall, if possible, monitor the race committee communication channel for search and rescue instructions.


A boat shall not receive help from any outside source, except

(a) help for a crew member who is ill, injured or in danger;

(b) after a collision, help from the crew of the other vessel to get clear;

(c) help in the form of information freely available to all boats;

(d) unsolicited information from a disinterested source, which may be another boat in the same race.

However, a boat that gains a significant advantage in the race from help received under rule 41(a) may be protested and penalized; any penalty may be less than disqualification.


Competitors and support persons A competitor shall not intentionally put trash in the water. This rule applies at all times while afloat. The penalty for a breach of this rule may be less than disqualification.

60.3 A protest committee may

(d) call a hearing to consider whether a support person has broken a rule, based on its own observation or information received from any source, including evidence taken during a hearing.


62.1 A request for redress or a protest committee’s decision to consider redress shall be based on a claim or possibility that a boat’s score or place in a race or series has been or may be, through no fault of her own, made significantly worse by

(c) giving help (except to herself or her crew) in compliance with rule 1.1; or

(d) an action of a another boat, or a crew member of her crew, or support person of that boat, that resulted in a penalty under rule 2 or a penalty or warning under rule 69.2(h).

63.9 Hearings under Rule 60.3(d) — Support Persons

If the protest committee decides to call a hearing under rule 60.3(d), it shall promptly follow the procedures in rules 63.2, 63.3, 63.4 and 63.6, except that the information given to the parties shall be details of the alleged breach and a person may be appointed by the protest committee to present the allegation.

64.5 Decisions Concerning Support Persons

(a) When the protest committee decides that a support person who is a party to a hearing under rule 60.3(d) or 69 has broken a rule,

it may

(1) issue a warning,

(2) exclude the person from the event or venue or remove any privileges or benefits, or

(3) take other action within its jurisdiction as provided by the rules.

(b) The protest committee may also penalize a boat that is a party to a hearing under rule 60.3(d) or 69 competitor for the breach of a rule by a support person by changing the boat’s score in a single race, up to and including disqualification, when the protest

committee decides that

(1) the boat competitor may have gained a competitive advantage as the result of the breach by the support person, or

(2) the support person committed commits a further breach after the competitor has been warned by the protest committee warned the boat in writing, following a previous hearing, that a penalty may be imposed.


69.1 Obligation not to Commit Misconduct; Resolution

(a) A competitor, boat owner or support person shall not commit an act of misconduct.

69.2 Action by a Protest Committee

(i) When the protest committee decides that a support person has broken rule 69.1(a), rule 64.5 applies.

Red text is new to the 2021 rulebook, Red strikethrough text is deleted in the 2021 rulebook. Italics shows a term used in the sense stated in the definitions. 

Andrew 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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