Racing Tips – or how not to come last!
These are some introductory tips for racing – I hope you find them useful!
There are 3 basic rules, which are mainly to do with avoiding contact with other boats
Port gives way to starboard. This is most commonly used when you’re tacking on your way to the first mark – although the rule also applies when two boats are running downwind. “If you are sitting on the right, you’re alright
Windward boat gives way. If both boats are on the same tack, then the boat closer to the wind gives way. There are various exceptions, but this is the basic rule
Rounding a mark. When you’re approaching a mark and you’re within 3 boat lengths, then you need to allow room for any boat that also wants to go round the mark on your inside if they’re overlapped with you (i.e. if the front of their boat is ahead of the rear of your boat.) You can usually tell as they’ll be yelling “water” at you!
Starting the race
The start line will be between off the port side of the committee boat, between the main mast flying an orange flag and a dan buoy also flying an orange flag, usually about 150 metres to the left. Ideally this should be a right angles to the wind direction, so you need to beat into the wind when you’re starting.
The starting sequence depends on how many boats turn up in each class. Basically, boats at Rutland are divided into the following fleets, each of whom are allocated a fleet flag and start in the following order:
- Cruisers and Keelboats: Naval Numeral 9
- Catamarans: Red Flag
- Faster dinghies (PY<960): Green Flag Fast Handicap
- Lasers: Laser flag
- Slower dinghies: Yellow Flag
So you need to know which fleet you’re in –ask similar boats if you’re in doubt.
When your fleet flag is displayed, then it’s your start next. Fleets may be combined so more than one fleet flag could be raised at a time.
When your fleet flag is removed, then it’s your start.
The first fleet to go will start 6 minutes after their fleet flag is displayed as a “preparatory flag” is displayed 3 minutes later.
The subsequent fleets go at 3 minute intervals.
The full sailing instructions are here
Prior to the start – i.e. for the 3 minutes leading up to the start – a commonly-used procedure is to circle round behind the line:
About 45seconds before start, tack onto starboard and approach the line slowly with sails eased. Sheet sails in just before start and cross start line within 1-5 secs after start:
As you get better, you might want to see which end of the line is optimal for the start – i.e. you need to check the “bias”:
Understanding the course
The course is displayed on the back of the committee boat. Usually the course is “around the cans” – i.e. the permanent marks on the lake. A map showing these marks can be downloaded here <RSC marks> and a copy can be obtained from the office. Marks shown in red are to be rounded leaving the mark to port, those shown in green are to be left to starboard.
At the end of each lap, you will normally have to go through the start – finish line so that the number of laps that you do can be counted.
Examples of types of courses include the windward – leeward, the triangle and the inverted “P”:
If you’re just starting, then consider the following:
- Have a go! – You’ll never win if you don’t take part!
- If you’re unsure about starting, then it can be intimidating – apply the right-of-way rules and be prepared to react quickly. Feel free to assert your rights but not to the point of a collision.
- Keep back from the start line until your fleet flag is displayed – other fleets may be wanting to start before you.
- The start is the most important so try to cross the line as soon as you can after your fleet flag is removed. If you’re unsure, then often the line is less crowded about 2/3rd of the way down as the better sailors are likely to have spotted which end of the line is best. Aim to be on a starboard tack so that you only need to give way to boats coming from your left (i.e. to leeward of you.)
- Try to get a buddy – talk things through with a more experienced sailor. Your fleet captain will be able to fix you up with a more experienced sailor who can get you going.
- Think about signing up for a training course with the Sailing School.
And here are some ideas as you get better:
- Get a course card from the office
- Laminate it
- Tape onto side/fore deck
- Get a chinagraph pencil
- Use only half
- Velcro pencil and on side of boat below deck
- Use to write course, laps and key instructions
- Get a waterproof stopwatch
- Casio /Musto are ideal
- Set to 3-minute countdown and auto repeating
- Know the start sequence
- use the laminates I prepared and tape onto foredeck
- watch the flags
- set your watch accurately
- set the time at one of the 3-minute intervals
- check at the next one
- Consider where to start on the line – check the bias
- Stay in the “BOX”
- Approach the line on starboard tack from at least 45 seconds before the start
- “Approaching the Start”
- Correct Approach
- 3-6 minutes before – decide where on line you want to start
- At 1 minute before the start, get into position to get to that point
- From 1 minute before the start approach the line slowly on starboard tack
- Sit close to a mark for as long as possible and hold position
- Practise approaching a mark from 1 minute before
- Sailing Upwind
- Get onto the tack that takes you closest to the windward mark
- Use reference points on the shore to detect change in wind direction
- Sailing Downwind
- Go as “deep” as possible
- Sail directly to next mark on a reach
- But watch for “clear air”
- Rounding the Leeward Mark from a reach/run onto a beat
- Approach wide and turn to leave the mark as tight as possible
- Prepare before the mark – board, sail trim, spinnaker down
- Round up onto the beat, sheeting in the sails as you turn
- Get the boat moving properly before thinking about a tack
- Only after checking around you should you think about tacking
- Trimming the sails
- Put tell-tales on the main and jib
- Know the correct sheeting settings for different conditions and calibrate
- Get sails set up properly for the wind conditions
- Constantly adjust trim of sails
- Sail as low or deep as possible without losing speed
- Spinnaker or Asymmetric
- Don’t “over sheet” the sheet and guy – it acts like a brake
- Keep the tack on the edge of collapsing for optimum trim
John Fothergill – with help from David Wilkins and friends!