Rule 11

All the Rules in Section II must be known well enough by anyone who runs a boat that you do not even have to think about them when you encounter another vessel. The only way to learn them that well, is to work out which is the right of way vessel and which the give way vessel, every time you get close to another craft-even if there is no risk of collision. Eventually you will do it instinctively! It is probably a good idea to ask the crew the same thing, an efficiently run boat need everyone keeping a lookout.

If you are running a power-driven vessel you still need to know the rules for sailing boats, because you must be able to decide how they will manoeuvre around each other. In the crowded waters most of us sail in, it is common to be avoiding several vessels of different classes at the same time. The same thing applies to sailing vessels with regard to the rules for power-driven vessels, although, of course in a sailing yacht you will probably be a power-driven vessel at some time.

As this rule says, the rules in this section only apply when the other vessel can be seen by eye.

The rules of this section do not apply if you have only heard the other vessel (perhaps in poor visibility) or detected it on a radar screen.

In both these situations there may no way of knowing for certain the class of the other vessel and Rule 19 must be applied.

Rule 12

Sailing boats priority is based on the tack that the vessels are on. They are always either on port tack or starboard tack.

The judgement of which tack a vessel is on is based on the side of the boat that the largest fore and aft sail is carried. We assume that the wind is blowing from the opposite side of the vessel to the largest sail (in practice this may not be the case, in rare situations the wind may be coming from that same side as the sail).
A vessel on port tack always gives way to a vessel on starboard tack, unless the starboard tack vessel is overtaking (see Rule 13).
If both vessels are on the same tack, we need to judge which is the windward vessel. The windward vessel is the one which is opposite the other vessels largest sail.
The windward vessel is the one to give way, because she can take the wind out of the leeward vessels sails and reduce her manoeuvrability.

Part iii of this Rule, deals with the unusual situation when you can not tell which tack the other vessel is on. This could occur at night or where the foresail of the other vessel obscures everything else (such as with a spinnaker).

In this situation, a vessel on port tack can not decide if the other vessel is on port tack (in which case they would give way), or on starboard tack (in which case they will stand on). As the situation is in doubt, the leeward vessel must give way in plenty of time.
Remember that the other vessel may be on port tack and intending to give way, if they do they may turn at the same time.
What would happen if the leeward vessel was on starboard tack and sighted a red light on a steady bearing?

Go to test on Rule 12.

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