By Brett Beyer

The pre-start period is probably where the most protests occur, most often as a result of windward/leeward situations. Most of these protests end with leeward boats being disqualified.

The main things to note are:

  • Rule 11 applies — on the same tack and overlapped, the windward boat must KEEP CLEAR.
  • There is no “PROPER COURSE” before the start, so the windward boat must keep clear all the way up to head to wind.
  • But Rule 15 is a limitation imposed on the leeward boat when she has acquired the right of way — “she shall initially give the other boat ROOM TO KEEP CLEAR”. This means a leeward boat cannot sail into the hole and immediately ask / expect the windward boat to be able to keep clear. 
  • Rule 22.3 is an exception — “a boat moving astern, or sideways to windward, through the water by backing a sail shall keep clear of one that is not”. And note that backing the boom to remain stationary against a current is considered “moving astern”.


(a) If the leeward boat comes in and hits the windward boat’s mainsheet, she has not allowed “room”.

(b) If the leeward boat comes in and the windward boat’s transom corner hits the leeward boat when attempting to keep clear, the leeward boat has not allowed “room”.

(c) If a faster moving leeward boat asks an almost stationary windward boat to keep clear, the leeward boat needs to give the windward boat room to BEAR AWAY to gather speed in order to round up out of the way.

So there has to be sufficient SPACE and sufficient TIME from where and when the overlap was first established before the windward boat can be expected to keep clear. And this can be quite a bit of space and time. 

A good RULE OF THUMB is that the leeward boat should be half a boat length to leeward and should allow at least three long seconds before asking a windward boat to keep clear (and maybe even more space and time for an almost stationary windward boat). 

Smart leeward boats will allow for this time and simply remain overlapped for some time before doing anything. As the leeward boat, it is worth being GENEROUS!

The objective after the start is to hold your starboard tack lane. A leeward boat is often more of a threat than a windward boat, so ALLOW THE WINDWARD BOAT SOME BREATHING ROOM. She is then more likely to do a good job of managing her own windward boat, thus effectively guaranteeing the leeward boat not getting rolled by any windward boats.


Brett Beyer is preparing a series of “Rule of the Month” articles for Double Bay Sailing Club’s newsletter and has generously agreed to allow re-publication by ILCA.

Brett Beyer is a renowned ILCA-class sailor, having won a record 13 World Championship titles. He is a highly demanded coach for both Olympic and masters sailors. He is based on Sydney Harbour, with numerous coaching assignments globally.  His contributions to the sport and the class have been recognised with life membership of his district Laser Class Association. 

Double Bay Sailing Club is one of the pre-eminent ILCA-class sailing clubs in the world, with fleets of 50+ boats in its weekly races.  It has an active and social membership, including both champion and recreational sailors.  It delivers a range of training programs, including several recurrent Brett Beyer coaching programs. The club welcomes new members and visiting sailors. Visit