At each regatta, racers are divided into two or three fleets based upon each sailor’s ability. It makes for better competition all around. One fleet races at a time while the other fleet(s) stands by. . . . and rests.
The course is three times around a windward-leeward course. The start is upwind; the finish is downwind. The marks are approximately one mile apart.
A starting line is set up downwind of the leeward mark. The fleet is spread out across this line with the right half set to begin on a port tack and the left half set to begin on starboard. The race official stands in front of the fleet while each sailor stands next to their boat with one hand holding the tiller and the other holding the windward sidestay. At the drop of the flag, each sailor pushes their boat as fast as they can, jumps in, and the race is on!
The finish line is between the leeward mark and a flag held by a judge standing to the right (looking downwind). This judge is in a precarious position. To put it as nice as we can – DON’T HIT HIM! OR HER!
Iceboat rules are DIFFERENT than conventional sailboats. Here are the rules (link) and here is a diagram (link). The key points are:
1) You are always responsible to avoid collision, even if you are in the right of way. This rule is simple and straight forward for good reason.
2) A starboard boat traveling upwind has rights over a port boat traveling upwind; a starboard boat traveling downwind has rights over a port boat traveling downwind. However,
3) All boats traveling upwind have rights over any boat traveling downwind. Example: A port boat traveling upwind has the right of way over a starboard boat traveling downwind.
4) While sailing upwind, a boat to leeward has rights over a windward boat. However, while sailing downwind, a boat to windward has rights over a leeward boat.
5) Any boat passing another from astern must do so without interfering with the course of the boat that is being passed. This is in place because the boat being passed cannot see a boat directly astern.
6) If you violate any rule, you retire from the race.