The Rules of the Road

THE RULES OF THE ROAD
DSA Guest Writer - Tex Poor

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As racing sailors, we all study the Racing Rules of Sailing.  However, we also need to study the rules of the road that apply to meetings between vessels on the waters of Colorado when one of the vessels is not subject to the RRS, in which case the rules of the road of Colorado apply.

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The rules of the road do not confer any special rights or privileges on sailboats that are racing.  It is courteous for a boat, either sail or power, that is not racing to keep out of the way of a sailboat that is racing; however, the rules of the road of Colorado and the preamble to Part 2 Racing Rules Of Sailing provide that a sailboat that is racing must accord a boat that is not racing all the rights and privileges to which a boat that is not racing is entitled under the government (Colorado) rules of the road.

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The rules of the road provide that a motorboat must keep out of the way of a sailing vessel, but there are exceptions.  A sailing vessel is required to keep out of the way of a vessel that is not under command and a vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver and a vessel engaged in commercial fishing.  The terms “not under command” and “restricted in its ability to maneuver” are defined in detail in the rules of the road.  A sailboat that is overtaking a motorboat must keep out of the way of that motorboat.  When a sailboat has the right of way, it must keep its course and speed unless it must to take action to avoid collision.  The rules of the road further provide that all vessels must take any precaution which may be required under the circumstances, and that any action taken to avoid collision should be positive and made in ample time and result in passing at a safe distance.

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This short discussion of some rules of the road that are likely to come up should prompt readers to obtain the pamphlet entitled “2017 Colorado Boating Statutes and Regulations” at the entrance station of a Colorado State Park and study the rules of the road just as readers study the RRS.  It would also be advisable for readers to obtain the book “Navigation Rules International-Inland” U.S. Department of Homeland Security and United States Coast Guard because racing sailors are likely to compete on bodies of water, such as San Francisco Bay, where the inland rules of the road apply.  Although the inland rules and the rules of the road of Colorado are the same for the most part, there are instances where they are different.

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