Race Signals

Flags are the way we can communicate to every sailor within eyesight. This issue will discuss two flags used for racing.

The first flag shown in the article is the "Y" (Yankee) flag. This flag when displayed from Y flagthe Race Committee Signal boat requires all sailors racing to wear a Personal Flotation Device. This would be displayed before the start and should only be used when adverse weather conditions are expected. The decision to race is the responsibility of the competitor only, this is rule 4. The Race Committee uses this flag to ensure safety of the race participants.

The second flag is the "S" (Sierra) flag. This flag means the race is being shortened. This is S flagRule 32. After the starting signal, the race committee may shorten the course as appropriate,

  1. because of foul weather
  2. because of insufficient wind making it unlikely that any boat will finish within the time limit,
  3. because a mark is missing or out of position,
  4. for any other reason directly affecting the safety or fairness of the competition,

or may shorten the course so that other scheduled races can be sailed. However no boat shall have begun sailing the leg(s) of the course that are to be eliminated.

The race committee signals a shortened course (display the S flag with two sounds), the finishing line shall be,

  1. at a rounding mark, between the mark and a staff displaying flag S;
  2. at a line boats are required to cross at the end of each lap, that line;
  3. at a gate, between the gate marks.

If we look at the International meaning of this flags they have very different meanings;

  • "Y" when displayed from a ship indicates “I am dragging my anchor”. If you see this and you are downwind or down current, beware and get out of the way.
  • "S" when displayed from a ship indicates “I am operating with astern propulsion” or I am backing. You may want to avoid the back of this boat.

For both of these flags avoid the stern of any ship displaying this flag.

More flags to follow...

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