Sorry for contributing to the thread hi-jack in progress...
The bulk of my on the water experience has been in powerboats, where for me the "rules of the road" usually meant staying out of other's way (not that hard to do, and I'm a good sport) Now, I've only been under sail a couple of times without an instructor and it seems that on the bay (near Annapolis at least) the rules of the road are followed by ~50% of sailors and o-peckers alike. Several times this past weekend, I was forced to alter course to avoid shoal areas and other boats, despite being the leeward boat on a starboard tack. Usually its bigger boats sailing short handed that get within 1-2 boatlengths before I'm muscled out of the way. Kinda like big trucks on the highway: move or i will crush you.
But I guess rule #1 still rules: stay out of the way if you don't want a collision.