There’s no better place to learn the rules of the ‘road’ than out on the water. During sailing lessons on the different waterways of Sydney, we spend quite a bit of time explaining, practicing and quizzing our students about the waterway rules. All skippers need to have a good understanding of the International Regulations of Avoiding Collisions at Sea, also known as Colregs. These regulations give clear instruction on passing, approaching, giving way and overtaking.
The first rule of the Colregs is often overlooked, especially during racing. It’s the rule pertaining to boats on a collision course: both vessels must do their utmost to avoid a collision. The ‘stand on’ vessel (the right of way vessel) must take action if the give way vessel doesn’t doing anything to get out of its way. Another unwritten rule, but a good one to remember is ‘Might is Right’.
The Colregs are there to avoid collisions out on the water. Sail boats are ‘stand on’ vessels and have the right of way over powerboats. When two sail boats approach each other on opposite tacks, the boat on port tack (wind blowing over the port side of the boat) must keep clear of the one on starboard tack. An overtaking vessel must stay clear and go around the other boat. When two sail boats are on the same tack, the windward boat should keep clear of the boat on leeward.
P.O.W. is a great way to help you to remember the road rules, so you know when to give way.
P – Power and port tack give way
O – Overtaking vessel has to give way
W – Windward gives way to leeward