KNOW THE ESSENTIALS: AMERICA’S CUP RULES 101

America’s Cup Race management is responsible for managing and administering the sporting and competitive rules of the 35th America’s Cup. ACRM is headed by the Regatta Director, Iain Murray, who has been appointed by a majority vote of the Competitors. Iain Murray has independently established ACRM in consultation with the Competitors to serve as the entity responsible for overseeing the functions of the 35th America’s Cup Regatta Officials. 

How do ACRM & the teams communicate?

A) ACRM is in radio contact with all teams.
B) Flashing lights on yachts themselves.

  • Green flashing: When a yacht is in the “zone” of a mark or boundary. Zone = 4 boat lengths at boundary, 3 at a Mark, islands etc.
  • Red flashing: The yacht is appealing to the Umpire that there has been a rule infringement.
  • Blue flashing: The yacht has a penalty.

Wind measurement:
Unless the Regatta Director considers conditions too rough, the average wind speed must be between six and twenty-four knots to race. This is measured as an average true wind speed, for the whole of the period between eight and three minutes before the start of each race, the wind speed is an average over a 30 second period.
The wind measurement is taken on the race committee signal boat at approximately five and a half (5.5) meters above the water, overseen by Regatta Director Iain Murray.

Penalties.
Two types:

  • Lose two boat lengths (the penalized boat needs to retreat two boat lengths behind the other yacht)
  • Get behind (the penalized boat needs to get behind the other yacht)
  • A team can also be disqualified.

Common rules to be aware of:

Rule Simple Description Actual Language
10 Port / Starboard
When yachts sailing towards each other, the yacht with wind coming from the left must keep clear. (on the right, in the right).
ON OPPOSITE TACKS
When yachts are on opposite tacks, a port-tack yacht shall keep clear of a starboard-tack yacht.
11 Overlapped
When yachts are sailing the same direction and overlapped, the yacht closer to the wind must keep clear
ON THE SAME TACK, OVERLAPPED
When yachts are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward yacht shall keep clear of a leeward yacht.
12 Not Overlapped
When yachts are sailing in the same direction, the yacht that is behind the other must keep clear

ON THE SAME TACK, NOT OVERLAPPED
When yachts are on the same tack and not overlapped, a yacht clear astern shall keep clear of a yacht clear ahead.
14 Don’t Crash
Avoid crashing, you will be penalised if there is serious damage or injury.
AVOIDING CONTACT
A yacht shall avoid contact with another yacht if reasonably possible, but shall not be penalized under this rule unless there is contact that causes serious damage or injury. However, a right-of-way yacht or one entitled to room or mark-room need not act to avoid contact until it is clear that the other yacht is not keeping clear or giving room or mark-room.
15 Give them a chance to keep clear
When a yacht becomes right of way, give the other yacht a chance to keep clear
ACQUIRING RIGHT OF WAY
When a yacht acquires right of way, she shall initially give the other yacht room to keep clear, unless she acquires right of way because of the other yacht’s actions.
16 When you change course, give them a chance to keep clear
When the right of way changes course, give the other yacht a chance to keep clear
CHANGING COURSE
.1 When a right-of-way yacht changes course, she shall give the other yacht room to keep clear.
.2 When sailing to a mark that is to windward, a starboard-tack yacht shall not bear away to a course that is below her proper course and more than 90 degrees from the true wind direction if at that moment the port-tack yacht that is keeping clear by sailing a course to pass astern of her has to immediately change course to continue keeping clear.
.3 When sailing to a mark that is to leeward, a starboard-tack yacht shall not luff to a course that is above her proper course and less than 110 degrees from the true wind direction if at that moment the port-tack yacht that is keeping clear by sailing a course to pass astern of her has to immediately change course to continue keeping clear.
18 Who gets the corner
The inside yacht, or, if no overlap, the first yacht into the zone gets room at the corner.
MARK-ROOM
When Rule 18 Applies
Rule 18 applies between yachts when they are required to leave a mark on the same side and at least one of them is in the zone. However, it does not apply between a yacht approaching a mark and one leaving it.
Giving Mark-Room
When the first yacht reaches the zone,
if yachts are overlapped, the outside yacht at that moment shall thereafter give the inside yacht mark-room.
if yachts are not overlapped, the yacht that has not reached the zone shall thereafter give mark-room.
If the yacht entitled to mark-room leaves the zone, the entitlement to mark-room ceases and rule 18.2(a) is applied again if required.
If a yacht obtained an inside overlap and, from the time the overlap began, the outside yacht is unable to give mark-room, she is not required to give it.
Tacking or Gybing
When an inside overlapped right-of-way yacht must tack or gybe at a mark to sail her proper course, until she tacks or gybes she shall sail no farther from the mark than needed to sail that course. Rule 18.3 does not apply at a gate mark unless the Sailing Instructions state otherwise.
Exoneration
When a yacht is taking mark-room to which she is entitled, she shall be exonerated if she breaks a rule of Section A or rule 15 or 16.
19 Give room at an obstruction
The inside yacht at an obstruction gets room to avoid the obstruction
ROOM TO PASS AN OBSTRUCTION
When Rule 19 Applies
Rule 19 applies between yachts when at least one of them is in the zone of an obstruction, except when it is also a mark the yachts are required to leave on the same side. However, rule 19 does not apply at a boundary.
Giving Room at an Obstruction
When rule 19 first applies, the right-of-way yacht at that time may choose to pass an obstruction on either side.
When yachts are overlapped, the outside yacht shall give the inside yacht room between her and the obstruction, unless
she has been unable to do so from the time the overlap began, or
she is unable to do so because she is giving or taking mark-room under rule 18.2(a), or
she is unable to do so because she is taking room under rule 20.2.
However, room in rule 19.2 does not include room to tack unless it is the only option to pass the obstruction.
Exoneration
When a yacht is taking room to which she is entitled under rule 19.2, she shall be exonerated if she breaks a rule of Section A.
20 Let a yacht get away from the boundary
The inside or clear ahead yacht gets room to sail way from the boundary while in the zone (Green light on).
ROOM TO PASS A BOUNDARY
When Rule 20 Applies
Rule 20 applies between yachts that have started when at least one of them is in the zone of a boundary.
Giving Room at a Boundary
When rule 20 first applies, an outside overlapped or clear-astern yacht at that moment shall thereafter give an inside or clear-ahead yacht room to sail her proper course, including room to tack or gybe, while the inside or clear-ahead yacht is in the zone, unless the yacht required to give room is unable to do so because she is giving or taking mark-room under rule 18.2(a).
When yachts are passing a boundary on opposite sides, a yacht sailing on a leg to a windward mark or windward gate shall be considered the inside yacht.
Exoneration
When a yacht is taking room to which she is entitled under rule 20.2(a) she shall be exonerated if she breaks a rule of Section A or rule 15 or 16. 
23 Capsize
Keep clear of a yacht that is capsized
CAPSIZED, ANCHORED OR AGROUND; RESCUING
If possible, a yacht shall avoid a yacht that is capsized or has both rudders out of the water, boats that are assisting a yacht that had capsized, a yacht that is anchored or aground, or is trying to help a person or vessel in danger.
24 Don’t interfere
Don’t hunt a yacht on another leg
If a yacht is not racing, don’t interfere with a yacht that is racing
INTERFERING WITH ANOTHER YACHT
.1 If reasonably possible, a yacht not racing shall not interfere with a yacht that is racing, her competitor(s) prior to the preparatory signal, or an umpire boat.
.2 When yachts in different matches meet, any course sailed by either yacht shall be consistent with complying with a rule or trying to win her own match.
.3 Except when sailing her proper course, a yacht shall not interfere with a yacht sailing on another leg 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: What happens if a yacht starts too early?
The yacht has to get 2 hull lengths behind the other yacht to complete her penalty.

Q: What happens if a yacht capsizes?
The race will be stopped by way of a black flag. This means someone is going to be disqualified (DSQ). If the capsize is NOT due to the other yacht breaking the rule, it is the capsized yacht that gets DSQ. If the other yacht caused the capsize, then the umpires ‘black flags’ the guilty yacht.

Q: What happens if a yacht goes beyond the boundary?
In pre-start = nothing. After starting = penalty (lose 2 lengths to the other boat).

Q: What happens if a yacht fails to get to the start time due to technical failures?
That yacht forfeits the race.

Q: What happens if there is disturbance from a spectator boats or other non competitors?
ACRM has the right to abandon the race for safety purposes.

Q: If a sailor falls off, can the yacht finish and win the race?
Yes.

Q: Why is there an upper and lower wind limit?
For fairness, ability to race and safety.

Q: What is the process for a rule change?
This is voted on by teams.

Q: Any time when the points are shared?
If the measurement system (which measures to 1/10th of a second) cannot split the boats at the finish, it is a re sail. If both are disqualified in the race – zero each.

Q: Is there a time limit for finishing a race?
E.g. Lack of wind / or if the wind drops? If the first boat is not to the second mark in 10 minutes the race will be called off. If the first boat does not complete the race in 25 minutes the race will be called off. If the second boat does not finish within 5 minutes of the first it is regarded as a non finisher.

Q: If the race starts and the wind goes beyond the wind window (6-24 knots), does the race continue?
Yes.