Imagine driving to a 'give way' sign and acting as if it was your right of way. You continue without stopping causing cars to swerve and collide with either you or other objects as they take avoiding action. Carnage follows and a lot of insurance claims. You then drive through every red light getting to your destination quicker than you would have done if you had followed the highway code but with vehicles dispersing in your wake! You may or may not get caught by the police or a dashcam and you most certainly will have caused a bit of road rage.
In sailing there is a highway code called the 'Racing Rules of Sailing' which can be downloaded from the world sailing website. But in sailing there is no driving test and no police so the sport relies on sailors getting to know the rules and sailing within them. It also relies on sailors doing their penalty turns when they have infringed. A sailor that hits every mark, punches their way through the fleet when they have no rights is like the driver paying no attention to the give way signs or running the red light - and rage from other sailors is inevitable! Such a sailor will get to the finish quicker but not fairly or legally. With no police it is up to those around to police the situation, giving clear signals of intent and protesting those who do not take heed.
A few weeks ago the turn out was fantastic with over 30 boats on the start line. With a short first beat 30 boats reached the windward mark all at the same time and a few of them shot through the 'give way' sign. There was a lot of hailing and bumping but no penalty turns or protests. There was some good discussion in the bar afterwards and it was raised at the sailing committee meeting to perhaps move to fleet racing or separate starts, however, after some discussion it was decided that the racing had been great and that the cause was rules adherence rather than quantity of boats. Last year the club ran a racing rules evening and we are looking into a follow-on so all are better educated on the rules of the race. In the mean time there are a few good resources out there for learning and testing your knowledge of the rules of sailing so that you don't get caught out and can sail with confidence in any situation.
To start you off here are a few links to cut and paste into your browser on mark rounding - see how many scenarios you get right (I would like to say I got 100% but I did get one wrong!):