Sailing boat

Flag Etiquette & Important Symbols ​

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Flag Etiquette PDF

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RHYC Sailpast and the presentation of the flags signals the start of the sailing season. It is important that our visual symbols meet a high and consistent standard. I have been reviewing the customs and norms of Canadian Royal Yacht clubs. We to take real pride in our proud heritage and the visual symbols of membership. These visual symbols help create a shared sense of identity and at the same time build the RHYC profile and potential for ongoing growth. In the contemporary context flag etiquette is not well known by many and those new to sailing or boating. Here are a few pointers of interest.

The RHYC club burgee is flown on at the club grounds on a pigstick from the top of the front and back mast. Every sailing club has a burgee and it is important that this is flown when visiting other clubs as a matter of courtesy. Many clubs require that burgees are registered to ensure that only club members have access. This ensures that only club members can fly the respective burgee. Traditionally the club burgee was flown from the mast head on a pennant. However, with the proliferation of wind instruments and VHF aerials at the masthead, the club burgee is now traditionally flown from the starboard lower spreader. If there are a two flags flown from this location, the club burgee should be upper most. Flying more than one flag from a single halyard should be avoided, but if necessary, no more than two should be flown. If visiting the US or other foreign country, the Courtesy Flag should be flown from a halyard on the port lower spreader.

At the RHYC club grounds the Canadian national flag takes precedence and is flown from the gaff. This is the spar running upwards from the “back” of the mast. This represents the gaff of a
fully-rigged ship, it is a place of honour even though its height is lower than the mast head. On a vessel the national flag flown at the stern represents the nation of the vessel registration.

The RHYC Blue defaced ensign issued under Governor General Royal warrant represents our club heritage and should be flown from the cross-spar on the main mast on the lawn. It can be flown from the stern of RHYC vessels during club events, but the National Flag should take precedence when away from the club. I would recommend the national flag being flown when entering international waters.

This flag etiquette is on par with other Canadian Royal yacht clubs such as RVYC, RSt.LYC, RNSYS, RCYC et al. The RHYC burgee and other flags are important visual club symbols that members should understand, respect and take pride in as members of a national and reciprocal sailing fraternity. So fly your RHYC club burgee and national flag with pride on the water. Tradition dictates that the national flag should be lowered at sunset and raised with due ceremony in the morning. It also ensures that flags last longer and look sharper.