Rules & Disputes

Rules Disputes – What to do

The best way of dealing with incidents (rules disputes) on the water, if no boat takes a penalty at the time, is to offer a choice of:


The aim is to encourage everyone to follow The Racing Rules of Sailing.
More detailed information of the ChiFed modification to the RYA Alternative Disputes Resolution, can be found here or, for the original, on the RYA website under “Rules Disputes Best Practice

Rules Disputes Best Practice . . . .

The RYA has produced a Rules Disputes Best Practice ( <>) to help clubs, race officials and sailors ensure that racing is carried out in an enjoyable way within the Racing Rules of Sailing. The background to this is that:

  • Rules observance is key to good racing – however,
  • Rules observance is becoming neglected, because
  • Rules observance is not backed up by rules enforcement, because
  • Too few protests are lodged, because
  • Protest hearings are too slow, too late and too adversarial

The RYA has addressed this with new Rules Disputes procedures, of which the main elements are as follows:

  • A new 20% place penalty – the Exoneration Penalty – which can be accepted after coming ashore.
  • When no protest is being lodged, a competitor can ask for an Advisory Hearing with a Rules Adviser that formalises the type of discussion that often occurs anyway after racing, arising from which a boat might agree to take an Exoneration Penalty.
  • When a protest is lodged for an uncomplicated incident, it can be decided promptly by RYA Arbitration run by a single Rules Adviser, whose power to penalize is limited to offering an Exoneration Penalty. If this is accepted, it resolves the matter; if not, it goes to a full protest hearing with the normal possibility of disqualification.

The RYA protest form on the RYA Website has been modified to deal with Arbitration. To bring this into force:

  • It must be provided for in the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions
  • The Club or event must have one or more Rules Advisors ready to handle rules disputes after racing

To help this process, the RYA offers a day’s training at local venues for potential Rules Advisers. This is not a formal qualification, and the decision as to who shall be a Club’s Rules Adviser(s) is purely for the Club. The course is aimed at (a) the process of running an advisory hearing or an arbitration hearing, and (b) the techniques of ‘finding facts’ – establishing what happened. This course cannot hope to teach all the rules themselves, although there is plenty of practical work to get experience of applying the rules to the facts.


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