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Old 09-21-2001
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Right of Way

Which boat has the right of way, a boat on starboard tack or a boat running wing-and-wing?

Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. According to the Rules of the Road, when two sailing vessels meet, the one on starboard tack is the right-of-way boat. However, if both boats are on starboard tack, (meaning that the boat in your wing-and-wing example has its main boom on the port side of the boat), then it is the more windward of the two boats that must give way to the leeward boat.

That is the basic answer to your question. In racing situations, however, there are some instances that require more precise direction from the rules, and for those the Racing Rules of Sailing exist. This set of rules is generated by the International Sailing Federation and made available to the national governing bodies of all its member nations. Those particular countries can then adapt the rules as they see fit. To see a copy of the racing rules for the US, contact US SAILING (www.ussailing.org). For a copy of the Rules of the Road, contact the US Coast Guard and ask for a copy of "Navigation Rules: International-Inland." Here's hoping this information will keep you out of trouble.

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