Flag Etiquette

 The Colours Of  The Royal Welsh Yacht Club


Flags and their courteous use add greatly to the pleasure of sailing and the smartness of our yachts.  Flag etiquette consists of the written law, the unwritten law (tradition) and good manners.  We are Wales’s senior yacht club so it is incumbent on all members to set a good example to others.


The Warrant and Ensign

The warrant for the Privileged Ensign of the Club was granted on 5th May 1847.  It is your vessel’s senior flag and, with the Burgee, the next senior forms “the Colours of the Club”.  The ensign indicates that she is a vessel of the RWYC and registered in the British Registry thus protected by the agreement of Geneva 1956.  The Club Ensign may only be worn when the owner is in control of the vessel, the Club Burgee is being worn and an original valid Permit from the Club is on board.  If not, the Red Ensign of Her of Her Majesty’s Fleet should be flown.  No other flag may ever be flown as an ensign.  (There are very severe penalties for breaking these laws).


When to wear colours

These colours should be worn at all times when at sea (unless racing).  When in harbour or at anchor, ALL flags, except Flag Officer’s broad pennants, should be struck between sunset and sunrise.  (In the U.K. this is taken as being 2100hr. between 14th February and 31st October, otherwise 0900hr. to sunset).  NB in our latitude sunset will over ride these times after 6th August.  Members should fly under the Colours of the Club whenever possible.  The Club Brugee should be flown from the mainmast head.  A light bamboo cane and a little thought when fitting out your mast in winter will enable this to be easily achieved.  If you have difficulty in this seek help. There is no satisfactory alternative.  Hiding your proud Brugee behind the sails is unacceptable.


Where to wear Colours

A Flag Officer must always wear the Club Colours.  A member being a member of another club should fly the colours of his senior (oldest) club as of preference. It is permissible to fly the colours of the second club when in its waters, especially on a regatta day.


Courtesy Flags

These are a signal (therefore made from the starboard spreaders) acknowledging another’s sovereignty and requesting the respecting of the Geneva Convention of High Seas.  It is incongruous to signal a non signatory so only national flags should be flown.  Regional flags could be flown from the port spreaders and never of a larger size.



On the death of any club member both the Ensign and Brugee should be “half masted” on the day of the death and on the day of the funeral until it is over.  For non-club members the Brugee is not half masted.  “Half masting” is not encouraged between these days but here the wishes of the Commodore of the day should be respected.



All warships (all nationalities) should be saluted.  (Ensign dropped ⅓ staff) until acknowledged.  Flag officers should also be saluted but once per day suffices for them.


Size of Flags and Further advise

Further advice with reasons can be found in “Flag Etiquette for the New Millennium”  written by the author and available by telephoning 01224 570402.  It was the first authority to publish a table giving guidance on the size of flags to use (though now much copied).


“Dress your ship with pride.  It is her heritage and her right”


Captain Richard P Yeoward