Essential Safety On Board as Required by the Offshore Special Regulations

Whether you are getting your boat ready for the racing season, or just want to ensure that your boat is well prepared for cruising, the World Sailing Offshore Special Regulations are a must read.

Published every two years, the Offshore Special Regulations (OSR) cover in great detail the required equipment and structural features for both mono and multihulls, as well as personal equipment and training that a yacht must comply with before it is allowed to race. Much of
the OSR content can also be applied to cruising vessels to make them as seaworthy and safe as possible for the skipper and crew.

World Sailing recognises that not all racing is at the same level. Consequently, they split offshore sailing in to 5 categories, with differing levels of equipment required for the safe participation in each:


Category 0 - Trans-oceanic races, where boats must be completely self-sufficient for extended periods of time and capable of withstanding heavy storms and serious emergencies.

Category 1 - Races of long distance and well offshore, where boats must be completely self-sufficient for extended periods of time and capable of withstanding heavy storms and serious emergencies.

Category 2 - Races of extended duration not far from shore where a high degree of self- sufficiency is required.

Category 3 - Races across open water, most of which is relatively protected or close to shore.

Category 4 - Short races, close to shore in protected waters normally held in daylight.


To help you easily comply with most of the Regulations that cover safety on board, we have taken the key elements of the two relevant sections and highlighted the essential products required for them, along with which Category of race they apply to.


A boat shall have:

4.01 Sail Letters & Numbers

Identification on sails (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4);

A 1m 2 area of highly-visible orange, pink or yellow showing when the boat is inverted (Cat:0,1,2,3,4)


4.03 Soft Wood Plugs

A tapered soft wood plug stowed adjacent to every through-hull opening (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.04 Jackstays and Clipping Points

Jackstays on each side of the deck (Cat: 0,1,2,3)

Clipping points (Cat: 0,1,2,3)


4.05 Fire Fighting Equipment

A fire blanket adjacent to every cooking device with an open flame (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)

Two fire extinguishers, each with 2kg of dry powder or equivalent (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.06 Anchors

Two un-modified anchors with suitable combination of chain and rope (Cat: 0,1,2,3)

One un-modified anchor with suitable combination of chain and rope (Cat: 4)


4.07 Flashlights and Searchlights

A watertight searchlight, with spare batteries, suitable for searching for a person overboard at night and for collision avoidance (Cat: 0,1,2,3)

A watertight flashlight with spare batteries and bulb (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.08 First Aid Manual and First Aid Kit

A first aid manual and first aid kit (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.09 Foghorn

A foghorn (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.10 Radar Reflector

A passive radar reflector with either octahedral plates of minimum diagonal dimension 40cm or a non-octahedral reflector with minimum Radar Cross Section area of 2m 2 (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.16 Tools and Spare Parts

Tools and spare parts, suitable for the duration and nature of the passage (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)

An effective means to quickly disconnect or sever the standing rigging from the boat (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.18 Retro-reflective material

Retro-reflective material on lifebuoys, recovery slings, liferafts & lifejackets (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.19 EPIRBs

A water and manually activated 406MHz EPIRB with internal GPS (Cat: 0,1,2)


4.20 Liferafts

One or more inflatable liferafts with a total capacity to accommodate at least the total number of people on board which complies with SOLAS LSA Code 1997 Chapter IV or ISO 9650-1:2005 (Cat: 0,1,2)


4.21 Grab Bags

A grab bag, readily accessible whether or not the boat is inverted (Cat: 3,4)


4.22 Crew Overboard Identification and Recovery

An AIS personal crew overboard beacon for each crew member (Cat: 0,1,2)

A lifebuoy with a self-igniting light, a whistle and a drogue (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)

A recovery sling (Cat: 0,1,2,3)

A danbuoy with flag. The pole shall be either permanently extended or be capable of being fully automatically extended (Cat: 0,1,2)

A heaving line, no less than 6mm diameter, 15-25m long (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.23 Pyrotechnic and Light Signals

Pyrotechnic signals conforming to SOLAS LSA Code Chapter III Visual Signals (Cat:0,1,2,3,4)


4.25 Cockpit Knife

A strong, sharp knife, sheathed and secured in a readily accessible location (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)


4.26 Storm & Heavy Weather Sails

A highly visible dayglo colour storm jib (Cat: 0,1,2)




Each crew member shall have:


5.01 Lifejacket

A lifejacket with an auto/manual gas inflation system, crotch/thigh straps, integral safety harness, whistle, lifting strop, reflective tape. Must comply with ISO12402-3 (Cat: 0,1,2,3,4)

Each lifejacket should have a light and sprayhood in accordance with ISO12402-8 (Cat: 0,1,2,3)

A boat shall carry at least one spare gas cylinder and, if appropriate, spare activation head for each type of lifejacket on board (Cat: 0,1,2,3)


5.02 Safety Harness and Tethers

A tether, complying with ISO12401, with self-closing hooks and an overload indicator, not exceeding 2m including the length of the hooks (Cat: 0,1,2,3)

The information above was taken from the 2018-2019 edition of the Offshore Special Regulations. For the sake of brevity, the rules above have been simplified. Attention should be paid to the full and detailed guidelines in the OSR when ensuring your vessel is compliant for racing. A full and up to date copy of the OSR can be downloaded free of charge from the website of World Sailing:

Force 4 accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of the content of this article. It is the boat owner’s responsibility to ensure that the products they choose comply with the OSR requirements for their vessel.

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