Race flags: they always mean something | Photo: James Briggs

Do you know the race signals that govern the sports of windsurfing and kiteboarding? Sailing races have flags and sounds for different messages. Learn what these visual and audible codes mean.

The Racing Rules of Sailing apply to the sports of windsurfing, kitesurfing and any other form of wind-powered vessel. The rules often include the raising or removing of flags, as well as the emission of short and long sound signals.

Wind sports enthusiasts and competitors should know what the race signals mean and act accordingly. There are seven main categories of sailing flags and sounds: postponement signals, abandonment signals, preparatory signals, recall signals, a shortened course signal, changing the next leg signals, and other signals.

Sailing race signals are a primary source of information. They are governed and decided by World Sailing, the the world governing body for the sport of sailing. And there are penalties for those who disrespect them in course races and slalom races.

The arrows pointing up or down mean that a visual signal is displayed or removed. A dot means a sound, five short dashes mean repetitive sounds, and a long dash means a long sound. Take a look at the 28 flags and multiple sounds that are used in windsurfing and kiteboarding races:

Postponement Signals

Postponement Signals

AP
Races not started are postponed. The warning signal will be made 1 minute after removal unless at that time the race is postponed again or abandoned.

 

Postponement Signals

AP over H
Races not started are postponed. Further signals ashore.

 

Postponement Signals

AP over A
Races not started are postponed. No more racing today.

 

Postponement Signals

Pennant 1

 

Postponement Signals

Pennant 2

Postponement Signals

Pennant 3

 

Postponement Signals

Pennant 4

Postponement Signals

Pennant 5

 

Postponement Signals

Pennant 6

 

 

Abandonment Signals

Abandonment Signals

N
All races that have started are abandoned. Return to the starting area. The warning signal will be made 1 minute after removal unless at that time the race is abandoned again or postponed.

 

Abandonment Signals

N over H
All races are abandoned. Further signals ashore.

 

Abandonment Signals

N over A
All races are abandoned. No more racing today.

 

 

Preparatory Signals

Preparatory Signals

P
Preparatory signal.

 

Preparatory Signals

I
Rule 30.1 is in effect.

 

Preparatory Signals

Z
Rule 30.2 is in effect.

 

Preparatory Signals

Black Flag
Rule 30.3 is in effect.

 

 

Recall Signals

Recall Signals

X
Individual recall.

 

Recall Signals

First Substitute
General recall. The warning signal will be made 1 minute after removal.

 

 

Shortened Course

Shortened Course

S
The course has been shortened. Rule 32.2 is in effect.

 

 

Changing the Next Leg

Changing the Next Leg

C
The position of the next mark has been changed:

 

Changing the Next Leg

to starboard.

 

Changing the Next Leg

to port.

 

Changing the Next Leg

to decrease the length of the leg.

 

Changing the Next Leg

to increase the length of the leg.

 

 

Other Signals

Other Signals

L
Ashore: A notice to competitors has been posted.
Afloat: Come within hail or follow this boat.

 

Other Signals

M
The object displaying this signal replaces a missing mark.

 

Other Signals

Y
Wear a personal flotation device.

 

Other Signals

Blue flag or shape.
This race committee boat is in position at the finishing line.