Who Gives Way – Port verus Starboard?

An experiential explanation of the opposite tack giveway rule

The Navigation Rules, also known as COLREGS (Collision Regulations), are globally universal. Meaning, no matter where you are in the world, you follow the same set of rules. In this example, we show how Rule 12(a)(i) is applied where a port-tack sailboat gives way to a starboard-tack sailboat.

In practice, the stand-on boat has some serious responsibilities. It must determine if the boat that is supposed to give way is actually going to give way. If the designated give-way boat does not act to give way, then the stand-on boat has the responsibility to take action as to not cause a collision.

The mistake made by many is the thinking that the stand-on boat has no responsibility and that in court they would win a case of damage because they had the “right-of-way”. However, the rules are clear – if anyone can act to avoid a collision it is their responsibility to do so.

In the animation example below, two sailboats are approaching each other on a collision course – who gives way port verus starboard? One must give-way while the other is the designated “stand-on” boat.

You have 4 seconds to make a decision – are you the give-way boat or the stand-on boat?

Rule 12 a i. Port gives way to starboard. Give way rules for sailboats

In our Everything Evolves, including Sailing Education initiative, we use 3-d animation technology to give the student a more experiential view of how the rules work. It has been widely proven that experiential training is much more effective than static book learning training.

The FREE NauticEd Navigation Rules course covers the ColRegs in detail in an easy-to-read and fun narrative. The course has 20,000 reviews with an average rating of 4.8 stars.

My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
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Last updated on February 1st, 2023