DON’T WORRY - You do not need to know everything about the rules to go out and have fun and be safe. By reading and understanding the following rules and terms, you should be able to get around the course without fouling another boat or causing an accident.
Link to somewhat in-depth explanation of the basics: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8387673/Basic%20Sailboat%20Rules.pdf
Or, here are 10 easy rules that should make Beer Can Racing fun:
1. Port keeps clear of starboard.
2. Windward keeps clear of leeward
3. The boat astern keeps clear of the boat ahead. This rule applies as long as the boats are overlapped, until the passing boat is clear ahead.
4. A boat tacking or jibing keeps clear of one that is not.
5. Avoid collisions. No hitting each other, with or without boats.
6. If you gain right of way or change course, give the other boat time to keep clear.
7. The inside boat(s) at two boat lengths from the mark is entitled to room to round the mark.
8. A boat that has finished racing keeps clear.
9. Always give way to a boat requesting "sea room" (room to maneuver because of the proximity of shallow water, or other obstruction)
10. If you have violated a rule, take a penalty. (one turn (circle, 1 tack 1 jibe) for touching a mark; two turns for fouling another vessel.) Keep clear of other vessels while doing penalty turns.
To get an official copy of the complete rules, join US Sailing at www.ussailing.org Members receive an official copy of the current rules as a membership benefit. For a plain language discussion of the rules, look into purchasing Dave Perry’s book entitled “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing” at the same site. Or, check out the ongoing study of the rules at: http://rrsstudy.blogspot.com/