Give Me 10 Minutes - And I'll Give You Top Secrets of a Sailboat Race!
A Sailboat Race is the most adrenaline rushing and heart pumping part of sailing that I love!
In racing there are many rules and strategies that you can use to improve you skills and not get penalised.
They will also help you to learn how to sail better and more efficiently in order to get from back of the fleet to the front of the fleet and start to win races.
There are lots of different levels such as club races like we do at my club, regional races, national races and even international races such as Olympic Sailing and the America's Cup.
When you race, you will have a 3 or 4 mark course (sometimes more) that you will have to traverse.
The most basic course is called the triangle course.
In this course there are 3 marks: the windward mark, the gybe mark and the leeward mark.
The start line will always be positioned towards the windward mark (which is the first mark).
After rounding the windward mark you will then have to round the gybe mark and leeward mark and cross the line.
Rounding marks is an art form that must be practiced constantly, but in the end you will get it right!
You then complete as many laps as required.
Of course it is more complicated than that (else a Sailboat Race would be boring!), but that is the standard start up for any race.
Here is an image for a triangular race course that is quite common in sailing racing:
The start line is usually between a committee boat and a white pin buoy.
All the boats must pass through the start line.
To learn about tips on how to do and improve your starts, click here.
If you are over the line when the race timer reaches zero, you have to go around the back of the line and go back through it.
It is very useful then to have a Stop Watch as it will increase your chances of going through the line at the right time.
The committee boat will usually show some really useful information about the race.
The committee boat will show the marks that you will have to go to in order (you should know the number of each buoy in your sailing area) and the number of laps, like here:
The committee boat also has flags that will show when special events are happening.
It is a good idea to watch the committee boat out of the corner of your eye at all times to find out any new useful information that others might not know yet.
If in doubt about anything in the race ask someone to teach you about A Sailboat Race and how to take full advantage of the information that is around you.
There are sailboat racing rules that should be learnt if you wish to do racing!
Races are divided in to handicapped classes.
For instance on the Welsh Harp Saturday interclub race, the Lasers start 5 minutes before the GP14s start.
With more boat classes this gets more complicated, so you should ask before the race in which start you have to start in.
Some races will be single class races and multiclass races, you have to find out.
The races are coordinated by an OOD (Officer On Duty) and Assistant OOD.
They create the course and decide if you were over the line or not at the start.
They have the power to disqualify you or ban you from future races.
So remember that their word is the law in the race.
They are usually assisted by one or more safety boats (depending on weather and number of boats).
These are usually experienced powerboat drivers, who have passed RYA Level 2 Powerboat and RYA Safety boat.
They are usually well involved in the sailing scene (I have RYA Powerboat level 2 and yet still sail).
The safety boats are responsible for your safety on the water.
If you capsize the experienced safety boat crew will assist you in all ways possible.
The safety boat is also used by OOD to change mark positions and place starter pin buoy.
Before the timer starts look for the safety boat opposite the committee boat, because if you can't see the pin then it is probably next to the safety boat.
The safety boats also come and tell you if you were over the line or have been disqualified from the race (due to a black flag being present).
The safety boats are equipped with first aid, radios and anchors and so are well placed to help with any emergency.
A Sailboat Race is an incredibly fun part of sailing and all sailors should get a taste of it before scoffing it.
However in certain heavy wind situations it can be dangerous and so it is up to your own judgement to decide if you want to go out on that day.
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