Book Review: “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing Through 2012”

The latest edition of Dave Perry's requisite guide will help you develop a fuller understanding of all the rules, not just the new ones. "Gear Up" from our January 14, 2009, /SW eNewsletter/

January 14, 2009

If you’re squeamish about the new rule changes, Dave Perry will guide you towards a fuller, simpler understanding of your rights on the racecourse.

If you’re squeamish about the new rule changes, Dave Perry will guide you towards a fuller, simpler understanding of your rights on the racecourse. Courtesy Dave Perry

When I first heard about the rule changes going into effect this year, my reaction was, “Great. Considering how hard it was to not learn the old rules, just think how hard it’s going to be not learning these new ones!”

Then, as I was rearranging the shelf behind my desk (a procrastination tactic for, among other stuff, not learning the rules), I came across Dave Perry’s “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing Through 2012.”

When you work at Sailing World, it’s hard to avoid these things. So I gave in and turned to Page 1, “A Quick Overview of the Significant Rule and Game Changes in the 2009-2012 Racing Rules of Sailing.”


And I must admit, it was pretty easy. In just two little pages, I learned about the biggest rule changes, namely, the elimination of Rule 17.2 (proper course) and the new definitions under Rules 18 (marks) and 19 (obstructions).

What’s more, it seems like the rules are getting easier. The latest changes clear up much of the confusion about mark roundings, and the adoption of the three-boatlength circle makes it easier to play fair.

On Page 4, illustrator Brad Dellenbaugh provides a bird’s-eye view of an entire racecourse, showing various boats in typical rules situations, with the skippers of each boat engaging in a clear, if amazingly polite, right-of-way conversations. I couldn’t help but look at each scenario and ask, “Would I have known my rights there?”


In this way, through easy-to-follow diagrams and casual discussions of the usual hang-ups, Dellenbaugh and Perry entice the reader to examine their understandings of the rules. While acknowledging that “a rules book doesn’t always make for the best bedtime reading,” Perry writes in an clear, informal, even humorous way that tames the daunting task of learning the rules. Section by section, rule by rule, Perry transforms the arcane terminology of the rulebook into a simple, logical perspective for looking at the racecourse. In his introduction, Perry cautions readers against trying to memorize the rules. “Try to see exactly what actions each rule is trying to produce and eliminate,” he reasons. With Perry as your guide, you can’t help but develop a natural instinct for knowing your rights in any situation.

Mercifully, “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing” includes the full text of the current rules, so you won’t need to flip back and forth between the copy you meant to leave on the boat. Other conveniences you might appreciate in this edition are the funny-looking fish that appear throughout the text posing FAQs and the inclusion of “A Simplified Version of the Racing Rules of Sailing,” a five-page rules crash course that you could hand to a newbie on the way out to the racecourse. They might get seasick and feel like barfing, but they’d have no excuse for not knowing the rules.



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