Latest News: Forums Cruising Flag etiquette on a Wayfarer

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  • #4581

    Where do cruising Wayfarers fly their flags? Red Ensign, Club Burgee, Courtesy flag, Wayfarer pennant, DCA burgee?

    I’m not looking to fly them all but on a dinghy there is limited space and I can remember reading somewhere that there is an order of priority between location on left or right spreader and mast head? and priority between flags themselves?

    I’ve also seen the ensign flown from the rudder stock.

    Any thoughts?


    The national flag (UK: red ensign) goes in the most important spot, that is where the skipper sits and holds the helm. In other words on the rudder stock or on the transom. There it is flown from a dedicated flag pole. The size of the flag and pole should be in proportion to the size of the boat and the flag (ensign) should never touch the water. Alternatively the ensign can be flown from the top of the mizzen mast (mast closest to where the skipper helms the boat) or along the leech as close to the mizzen mast top as possible. Obviously the Wayfarer does not have a mizzen mast so the main mast will have to do. But most sailors would rather have a wind indicator in the mast top. So that leaves the transom or the rudder stock as the only place for a national flag or ensign. I prefer the rudder stock for there is less risk of catching the main sheet in a gibe. That is also a reason to slant the flag pole slightly backwards.

    Note: A European flag (blue with a circle of stars) is still not a national flag and should not be used. Not even if it has a small nation flag printed in the upper corner. (Use it as a towel or as a table cloth if you must).

    The second most important spot is for the courtesy flag (it is a nation flag too). That is right below the starboard spreader, along the starboard shroud.
    If more courtesy flags are flown, for example a county or a provincial flag, they are all flown along the starboard shroud with the most important flag atop (a country flag above provincial flags).
    All nation flags are flown with a flag line so we can take them down at sunset. This is done only in port, while sailing nation flags may be left flying through the night.

    The third most important spot is below the port spreader, along the shroud. This is where we fly our club burgee. Some use their club burgee as a wind indicator and fly it of the top of the mast (the traditional way). This is obviously OK to do as long as the ensign is flown from the transom or rudder stock. If you have more then one club burgee (Sailing club, association burgee, RNLI support burgee, DCA and what not) we fly them all from the port shroud with the most important one atop. Colourful advertisement flags, Jolly Rogers and such are to be avoided as much as possible unless you sail with small children. But if you do feel like hoisting a fun flag (e.g. a cocktail hour burgee) then always hoist it below any of the club burgees on port.

    We should try to avoid using flags or burgees that may be confused with RRS or collreg signals. (E.G. flags indicating dangerous cargo, tow or diving flags, finish flags, etc.).

    On my boat I have two WA burgees. A small one is flown from the leech of the sail using a small piece of batten, bolted to the top plank. This offsets it from the sail and keeps it more or less vertical. It also to keeps it clear from my Hawk wind indicator. When I take the main sail down a big WA burgee (1.5 meters) replaces it. It often serves as a beacon for other rally participants to locate the beach where we shall be having lunch.
    My national flag is flown from the rudder stock for reasons explained earlier. I use a fiberglass flag pole (half of a children’s bicycle safety burgee) for it bends easy and thus releases the sheet if caught.
    Over here the national flag is also a race signal. Obviously we race without a flag, but it is customary to set the nation flag when we retire.
    I fly a courtesy flag using a 3 mm flag line that I throw over the SB spreader. The shroud adjuster at the tip of the spreader keeps the flag line in place if it is slightly tightened. Obviously the flag line should never interfere with the rig set-up or boat trim.

    Having the ensign on the rudder stock has another advantage. As you know, in yachting, the ensign indicates that the skipper is aboard. If we beach I usually take the rudder off to prevent damage. This automatically takes the ensign away while I enjoy my lunch ashore.


    I will stick to racing. The rules are simpler. ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜†


    Excellent reply, I’m going to have to sit quietly and digest all this.

    Probably best to hoist the cocktail hour burgee and have a gin and tonic when the sun gets over the yard arm ๐Ÿ˜†

    Cheers 8)

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