Sailing Code of Conduct

Though sailing might be considered an individual or partnered sport, the water is open to both professional and recreational boaters. Understanding the basics of the sport requires sailors to familiarize themselves with essential right-of-way sailing rules. It is necessary to remember that sailboats have different right-of-way and codes of conduct than powerboats. Below, we have reviewed the essential basic sailing rules based on the International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea.


  1. Maintain a proper lookout. Use sight and hearing to avoid colliding with other boats.


  1. Maintain a safe speed at all times. This will allow you to remain in control of your boat and prevent collisions if you are taken by surprise.


  1. Use common sense to assess the risk of collision. If other boats are near or around you, assess the situation to determine an appropriate speed and movement strategy.


  1. Port tack gives way to starboard tack. If two sailboats are approaching each other and the wind is on a different side of each boat, the sailboat who has wind on the port side must always give right of way to the other. For example, if wind is coming from the East and one boat is sailing North while another is sailing South, the boat sailing South must heed to the other.


  1. Windward gives way to leeward. If two sailboats are approaching each other and with wind is on the same side, the vessel to windward (the direction of the wind) must give way to the vessel which is leeward.


  1. If you are at risk of colliding with another vessel, whichever boat has the other boat on its starboard side must yield right of way.


  1. If your boat overtakes another vessel, you should keep out of the way of that vessel.


  1. Sailboats should always keep out of the way of any boat that is not under command, restricted by its ability to move and maneuver, and/or engaged in fishing.


  1. When passing through a narrow channel, keep as close to the outer edge as possible.


  1. Non-commercial powerboats must give way to sailboats unless the sailboat is overtaking the vessel. However, sailboats should try to stay out of the way of large vessels and ferryboats; these larger ships are more difficult to slow or change direction, especially in narrow channels.