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A Beginner’s Guide to Dinghy Racing

When are races held?

A program of sailing, including racing, is sent out to all members and is published on the club website and also on the noticeboard in the clubhouse. The main racing day is Sunday and races start at 1:30 pm, There are three races each Sunday, finishing around 5:00pm. Sunday racing is in Fleets, however we also have pursuit racing on Wednesday evenings .

What boat can I sail?
There are 4 fleets, The Laser, Fast Fleet (mainly Solo), GP14 and Slow Managerie (Mirror and Comet). We use a handicapping system to allow sailors of different ability to race against one another with both scratch and handicap prizes for the various series, spring, summer etc and Trophy races held each year.

How good at sailing do I need to be?
So long as you know what happens when you waggle the stick at the back and feel confident, you’re good enough. Everybody has to start somewhere .Racing is by far the quickest way of improving sailing skills and every one of us started off knowing very little and we’ve all got more to learn.

How do I let people know I’m new to racing?
One idea is to tie a red ribbon to  your rigging. This lets other boats know you are a novice.

What rules do I need to know?
A boat on port tack (the wind coming from the left, the boom on the right) gives way to one on starboard tack (wind from right, boom on left). A boat on Starboard tack with right of way may shout ”Starboard” if you are on Port tack and they think you are about to get in their way. You must give way.
A boat to windward (closest to where the wind is coming from) gives way to a boat to leeward (the boat further away from the wind).
At a mark, the boat on the inside, nearest the mark, will usually need to be given room to round the mark without hitting it or you.
These basic rules should prevent most collisions. There are many more and as you become more experienced it is worthwhile investing in the latest copy of the racing rules book. (e.g. The Rules in Practice by Bryan Willis, pub Fernhurst Books). Rules can be downloaded from ISAF website[13376].pdf
If you’re displaying your ribbon then the more experienced sailors will be prepared for the fact that you are not familiar with the rules.

How do I enter a race?
The Officer Of the Day (OOD), who is in charge of that day’s racing, will put a signing on sheet on the desk in CLUB HOUSE. Fill in your name and the class and sail number of the boat you’ll be sailing.

What course do I sail?
The OOD will set a course and display it using buoy numbers on the Race Box and the Committee Boat, courses at N&BCSC normally use all six bouys on the lake.

The colour of the board showing the buoy number, Red or Green will show which side the buoy should be rounded on, ie Port or Starboard. If Red pass the mark on the left side of the boat. If Green then pass the mark to the right of the boat.

An approximate number of laps will also be displayed on a black coloured board.

There is a large map at the base of the race box showing the approximate position of the marks. If you are still unsure, ask someone to point out the buoys to you from the shore or even on the start line . When on the water, follow someone who looks like they know where they are going.

How do I start?
The start line is a straight line extending from the centre of the committee boat to the first mark, the pin. Where the start line is will depend on the wind direction, the first leg is always a beat, ie upwind.

The starting sequence goes as follows:
5 minutes to start – hoot of horn you will see the committee boat normally set off for the start pin, you should also start to make your way to the start line.

Each fleet starts 2 minutes after the preceding fleet, we have 4 fleets so the start sequence is 8 minutes long. At the start of the 8 minute sequence a hooter sounds from the committee boat, this is the get ready signal for the Lasers, after 1 minute a hooter sounds again, and 1 minute after that the lasers start,(2 minutes after the first hoot). 2 minutes later the Solos start (4 minutes after the first hoot). After another 2 minutes the GP14 start, (6 minutes after the first hoot). 2 minutes later the and Mirrors start. (8 minutes after the first hoot)

Flags will also be used, each fleet has its own flag. However listen for the hooters and use a digital watch you can see zeroed to the committee boat.

What about those horrible crowded start lines?
When you first start racing, you could hang back a bit at the start, crossing the line after others have gone through.

What’s  a pursuit race?
In the summer on Wednesday evenings we run a Pursuit series. Using the handicapping system, the boats taking part start in order of speed, slowest go first (e.g. Mirror) fastest go last eg Laser and everyone else is spread out in between. The aim of the race is to overtake the slower boats and to prevent the faster boats from overtaking you.
Each race lasts 20 minutes.

How do I finish?
In Pursuit races, everybody finishes at once when the horn hoots, but keep sailing until the rescue boat notes your position. Your position is when the horn goes, so no overtaking afterwards please.

In Sunday racing, the finish line is normally a line between the start box and
buoy 1. You’ll either finish after the number laps on the course board, or if the race was going to take too long, after the OOD has sounded 2 long hoots on the horn.
Each boat that finishes receives a hoot assuming they have sailed the proper course.

How do I find out where I finished?
In Pursuit racing the results are as seen on the water – the boat in the lead wins the race.The same is the case for scratch results.
Handicap races, however, need to have calculations made by the fleet captains to make allowances for the different helms. This is usually completed at the end of each series of races. You can see the results on the website under the ‘Race’ tab on the top menu.

How do I qualify for a series?
At N&BCSC completing any race in a series qualifies you to compete for prizes in the series.

Any other questions?
Contact John McDonald 07496 152296 or one of the Fleet Captains.

Thanks to Rudyard Lake SC for this article.

You can read more about the basic rules here.

You can read more about racing including how to contact the Fleet Captains here.


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