Green Book Information   Flag Etiquette

Various Merchant Shipping Acts have threatened heinous penalties for misuse of our national flags but custom and practice is changing. Correct flag etiquette is now considered a mark of form and permits an additional pride of ownership of a vessel.

The Ensign. British vessels wear a red ensign and never the Union Flag. Properly, an ensign should only be flown without a burgee when the owner of the vessel is not on board or "in effective control" (recurring flag etiquette jargon, taken to mean that the owner is in the vessel's vicinity - rather than on holiday in Spain.) A special or defaced ensign may be flown on the authority of an Admiralty warrant; usually available, at cost, to registered vessels and only via the relevant club. The defaced ensign should only be worn with the burgee of the appropriate club at the mast head and again only when the owner is in "effective control".

The Club Burgee. An owner who is a member of more than one club should fly the burgee of the club in whose the vessel is cruising at the masthead. A second (or more) club burgees can be flown from the starboard yardarm - if the particular club rules permit. If the vessel is outside the home waters of any of the owners clubs, then the flag and the ensign of the senior club should be flown.

The House Flag Owners may fly their house flag from the starboard yardarm (or from the port yardarm if the starboard is already in use). House flags are often used on the Broads as racing pennants. When racing, vessels traditionally signalled a retirement by lowering their racing flag. Today, raising an ensign is often used to signal retirement. This is an example of practice changing etiquette; an ensign should not be flown with a racing or house flag at the masthead, but many modern vessels have either no facility to lower their racing flag or simply no racing flag. Racing flags should properly only be flown at the masthead before, during and immediately after completion of a race

Flag Officers. A Flag Officer's (usually) swallowtail burgee, together with the appropriate ensign should be flown in preference to any other burgee, in any waters. It is becoming an unofficial tradition in some clubs for past commodores to fly a plain, squared version of their club's burgee.

A Pilot Jack may be flown from a staff on the bow (or beneath a bowsprit), whilst registered vessels are at anchor.

Dressed Overall for private occasions - such as an Open regatta day. Vessels dressed overall make a wonderful spectacle and add to the atmosphere of any regatta. At the mast head the correct burgee with an appropriate ensign should be worn; if the vessel has two masts then it may fly a house flag at the mizzen truck. There is no single correct order for code flags used in dressing overall, but it is important to avoid any unintended signal through a particular sequence of flags and desirable to evenly spaced pennants. The order given here has been approved by the Admiralty and will avoid any confusion:-

Bow to mast head:- B, Q, U, 2nd Substitute, L, Numeral 8, T, P, Numeral 5, S, Numeral 9, X, Z, 3rd Substitute, R, Numeral 0, C, G, Answering Pendant, D.

Mast head to stern W, Numeral 4, E, F, Numeral 7, N, Numeral 6, J, O, Numeral 3, H, Numeral 2, Y, M, Numeral 1, K, 1st Substitute, V, I, A.

On a national occasion, it becomes correct to fly an ensign at the masthead. If abroad it would be correct etiquette to fly that countryís ensign at the masthead, when dressed overall for its national occasion, but with our own ensign on the taffrail.

The above should cover just about every occasion that a private owner is likely to meet. If the owner is sufficiently privileged to own a schooner and entertain a visiting head of state at one of our national occasions, then itís time to buy a book on flag etiquette.