You Make the Call

Feature photo: PRO Wendy Larsen and other AYC members serving on Race Committee for the 2019 Buccaneer 18 National Championship on Lake Pleasant.

By Wendy Larsen

The scenario: Boat A is motoring, holding their course. Boat B is under sail & racing, on starboard tack and coming up from behind, on a collision course with Boat A.

Who has rights in this situation and why?

  1. In most situations, the sailing boat is the stand-on vessel and the powerboat must give way;
  2. HOWEVER, if the sailboat is overtaking a powerboat, the powerboat is the stand-on vessel and the sailboat must give way.
  3. General Rule of Thumb: Any boat with more maneuverability must give way to any boat with less maneuverability.
  4. All boats must be allowed to sail a navigable course. If they can’t give way, you have to give room.
  5. RRS says that racers must avoid collisions if they can, regardless of the rules that apply. Sort it out in the protest room later.

Some important points to remember when boats meet on the water:

  • When a sailboat runs an engine, even if sails are up, it is considered a powerboat.
  • Never argue with the US Navy or US Coast Guard about rights-of-way.
  • The tonnage rule is always in effect: If a boat weighs significantly more than your boat, the maneuverability rule applies.

Wendy Larsen – Principle Race Officer

AYC member and contributor Wendy Larsen has been sailing for more than 50 years, cruising and racing out of ports in North America & the Caribbean from the Great Lakes and Antigua to all three US shorelines. She began racing in 2003 with the Arizona Yacht Club on a J24.
Wendy and her husband Dave built a Mini-Transat 650m and they sail it on Lake Pleasant. Wendy is certified by US Sailing as a Principle Race Officer and is an International Yacht Training Worldwide certified instructor. She is also an instructor/leader with the Phoenix-based Sea Scout Ship 3500.