2023 Amendment Proposal 4 – Revise Rules Regulating Electronics

Pro/con discussion of all amendments is happening on the TCA Google Grouphttps://groups.google.com/g/thistleclass

2023 Amendment Proposal 4:

Revise Rules Regulating Electronics

Submitted by TCA Governing Board (as voted upon during 03/03/2023 Governing Board meeting)


Proposal to delete Specifications, Chief Measurer’s Rulings, and Parts and Materials Article XIII: Electronics Paragraph 1 (CMR 65) and Paragraph 2 (CMR 74) and replace them with the new CMR 78, which was approved by the Governing Board on 03/03/2023 subject to this amendment proposal being approved at the 2023 Annual Meeting. 


Current Language:

Specifications, Chief Measurer’s Rulings, and Parts and Materials Article XIII – ELECTRONICS states:

  1. Electronic or electrical devices shall not be used except as follows: digital electronic compasses with an optional electronic time function are permitted, provided that the devices do not have the capacity to display while racing any information other than the digital compass heading and time to start; electronic starting timers and stopwatches are permitted; position sensing devices are permitted provided that the information that is recorded or output is not used on board. (CMR 65)
  2. From the time a boat leaves the dock until she has finished the last race of the day, returned to shore, or has been instructed to return to shore by the Race Committee, no prohibited

electronic or electrical devices shall be used to gather information about conditions, monitor

performance, communicate between boats, communicate sailing related information, or in any

other way benefit or influence a boat’s racing. Communication in any form is permitted to

request or to provide assistance in an emergency. When so specified in the Notice of Race and

the Sailing Instructions, competitors may receive VHF radio transmissions from the Race

Committee on a designated competitors’ channel concerning safety, notice of on course side

(OCS) boats and general information to assist in the management of the event. (CMR 74)

Proposed Language:

Specifications, Chief Measurer’s Rulings, and Parts and Materials Article XIII – ELECTRONICS to read: 

Use of any electronic or communication device to enhance performance is prohibited while racing except:

  • An electronic compass
  • Clock or countdown timer or watch
  • Heel indicator
  • VHF radio for race committee communications, safety and weather information
  • Still or video cameras
  • Position sensing transponders, when specified in the Notice of Race and/or the Sailing Instructions, to allow monitoring of all boats positions by RC and for post race analysis (such as TracTrac).
  • In an emergency


Cameras, position sensing devices, and other performance logging and tracking devices are permitted provided that the information that is recorded or output is not visible or not available on board while racing nor in any protest or redress proceeding.  Cell phones or other devices capable of accessing the internet are permitted to check online Sailing Instructions, Notices of Race or Results. (CMR 78)


Advantages to TCA:

  • Clarifies the intent of CMR 65
  • Eliminates confusion between CMR 65 and CMR 74
  • Establishes a future path for using transponders for OCS management
  • Allows digital source for information that is already available to all sailors 
  • On heel indicators we already allow them. Admittedly the manual heel indicators cost $20 each but more importantly they help learning sailors sail a thistle better. Seems like this is a benefit to the majority of the fleet. The more experience sailors don’t need or use. 


History and Reasoning:

The purpose of this change is to clarify and simplify the rules that govern the use of electronics and communication devices while racing. CMR 65 and 74 were written at different times in class history and, at the time, best reflected the class’s needs and wants. 

There are three issues with the current CMRs governing the use of electronics. First, the two CMRs currently governing the use of electronics are widely misunderstood and appear to contradict each other. Secondly, the actual use of electronics, particularly cell phones and cameras for non-performance enhancing purposes, has expanded and much of that use appears to contradict the rules. Finally, there are now race management tools available that will help increase the quality of our race management that currently are illegal according to the current rules.  The new CMR is designed to address all of these issues.

CMR 65 was originally  written to allow limited types of electronics. Specifically, a digital electronic compass with a countdown timer. In practice, this rule was determined to be too restrictive.                                 When strictly interpreted the rule prevented the use of any electronics except an electronic compass and timer such as a camera or cell phone, regardless of use or intent (emergency excepted). An example of a prohibited behavior under CMR 65 would be to use a cell phone to call a babysitter, listen to music, or for really any reason. 

CMR 74 was subsequently introduced to attempt to rectify this and allow the use of electronics as long as they do not “benefit or influence a boat’s racing”. CMR 74 also specified that electronics may not be used to:

  • Gather information about conditions
  • Monitor performance
  • Communicate between boats
  • Communicate sailing related information


CMR also specifically allows the use of VHF radios when included in the sailing instructions, which has now turned into a standard across virtually every regatta.


The challenge with CMR 74 is that it seemed confusing and to contradict the “Electronic or electrical devices shall not be used…” passage in CMR 65. Eliminating CMR 65 and CMR 74 and replacing them with new CMR 78 will eliminate this confusion.


CMR 78 provides a clear, short, set of exceptions for use of potentially performance enhancing electronics and allows the use of other electronics as long as they do not enhance performance without a long list of what is allowed and what is not allowed.  The new CMR would also allow the use of electronics to check online Sailing Instructions and Results so we do not have to print on paper. It also sets up the class for a coming generation of automated race management tools that we may, at some point, choose to implement for our key events.


One note, adherence to this rule, as is true for many rules in sailing, will depend on the integrity of the competitors. Fortunately, in many instances, if challenged or protested, phone call logs or internet history can clarify use.  The hope here is to free us up to use electronics for uses other than race performance without concern to whether this is breaking a rule.


So, crank up your bluetooth speakers.


PRO Comments: 


CON Comments: 

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