The Rabbit Start is used to start a race to windward in the absence of a committee boat. At a prescribed time a boat passes an agreed upon mark and heads off on Port tack. Other boats must pass behind the "rabbit" on starboard tack in order to start, as described in more detail below:
Check out a quick video of a Rabbit Start HERE
Selection of Rabbit; In one-design fleets the rabbit boat is either a volunteer or is selected by the race committee. In a handicap fleet, the slowest boat in the fleet is designated as the rabbit.
The rabbit shall start the sequence by being in position near the starting mark and shall make ONE LONG sound signal.
- Approximately 5 minutes prior to starting, the rabbit will sound FIVE short signals to notify sailors to be prepared to begin the start sequence.
- Approximately 3-4 minutes prior to starting, the rabbit shall be in position adjacent to the starting mark at position A. She shall sound FOUR signals and run directly downwind approximately one minute to Position B.
- At Position B the rabbit shall harden up to a close hauled starboard tack course until she slightly over spends the starting mark at Position C. NO SIGNAL AT THIS TIME
- At Position C, the rabbit shall sound ONE LONG signal prior to tacking onto a close hauled port tack, and set a course so as to leave the starting mark on her PORT side at position D. This signals approximately one minute until start.
- At Position D the rabbit shall sound ONE SHORT signal as she passes the mark and shall continue sailing close hauled on the wind while the fleet starts by crossing under her stern on starboard tack.
- The rabbit will remain on port tack until all the boats have crossed behind her or 60 seconds have elapsed, whichever is first. The the rabbit will then tack onto starboard and blow a long whistle to signal the course is open.
- After she has started, a yacht must remain on starboard tack UNTIL THE RABBIT HAS TACKED TO STARBOARD. Once the rabbit has tacked onto starboard all boats (including the rabbit) are free to tack subject to the Racing Rules of Sailing.
- All boats must stay clear of the rabbit until the rabbit has tacked onto starboard at Position E. A yacht that collides with the rabbit is automatically disqualified.