What's a Race?

A race is sailing around a number of buoys (Marks) in a certain direction. This is the 'Course'. You have to go around each buoy in the correct direction, buoy X to Port or X(P) means you go around it anti-clockwise so that it is on the Port side of your boat. X(S) means you go around clockwise so that the buoy is on the Starboard side. The course is written out for you in the clubhouse before each race and you need to make a note of it, maybe drawing it out as below in FIG 1.  Some people know the buoys well and just write down their names as in FIG 2.  further details of the racing marks in the harbour are available in the club.  I was very keen and very worried in my first few races, it takes time to get used to the system but it is very exciting and there are always things to learn. In our first few races we kept clear of the others in the race and concentrated on sailing the course - and having fun! Now in our second year we are trying to get faster and beat some other sailors!

Figure 1

Figure 1.


Figure  2 small

Figure 2.



Lowering a flag and sounding a horn signals the start of the race. No boats should be over the line when the starting signal is made.
Ooops! If you are over the line, go back to the correct side and restart. Keep clear of other boats

Most dinghy racing is done on handicaps so even if you don't finish first on the water you can still win the race! The final times are calculated using the handicap or Portsmouth Number of each boat.

Basic Racing Rules - Every sport has rules.

Port Gives Way to Starboard (If you forget which tack is which try putting a big S on your boom on the starboard side!)

Figure 3Figure 3.


Overtaking Boat Keeps Clear - If you come up to overtake another boat you must not hit the other boat and must keep well clear. Ouch!

Figure 4Figure 4.


Windward Boat Keeps Clear - The boat nearer to the wind must keep clear of other boats.

Figure 5Figure 5.

Do not Touch Buoys (Marks) If you do touch a buoy then sail clear and do one complete turn of 360 degrees, then carry on. If you hit another boat and you think you were in the wrong you can do two complete turns (720 degrees) and continue the race.
Other Rules There are other rules, which you will learn as you continue to race, if in doubt you can ask afterwards or go to one of our rules evenings.
Your First Race.
Everyone is very welcome to come along and race. Those who are doing well in the fleet will be happy to beat more boats and those nearer the back will welcome a chance to perhaps beat someone! Don't worry if you are last, just come and have a go!
Sign on for the race - there will be a sheet in the clubhouse.
Know the Course - note the course and starting sequence by looking on the board, checking with the race officer or someone else in the race before you go out on the water.
Know the number of laps and where to finish.
Have a course card, like the one shown in Figure 2 and put it in a plastic bag taped to your boat.
Know the time of the start and try to be ready well before this, time flies away as it gets near the start time.

Start Plan to start on a starboard tack about a third of the way from the starboard end of the line.


Figure 6Figure 6 - First Start

Try a few practice runs; see how far you travel in 60 seconds. If the wind is light stay nearer the line.


You can go over the line until the 1 minute signal goes, after that you should be behind the line ready to start (at Dell Quay you can, in fact, go over the line even after the 1 minute signal but it might be wiser not to). At Dell Quay we have a signal 5 minutes before the start, another at 4 minutes and then the signal for 1 minute, then the starting signal and go! A watch is useful to anticipate these signals and be ready to start.

(b) First Beat Usually the first buoy or mark is upwind of the start so you have to beat towards it, tacking as you need to get to the mark and around it. Here we're going to Port of the Mark. Don't worry if everyone is faster than you, you can watch them and learn.

Figure 7Figure 7 - First Beat.

The Reach Once around the windward mark you should be on a reach. Ease out the sails a bit and put the centreboard about halfway up and head directly to the next mark.
Congratulations you're racing! Keep following the course until you have completed the correct number of laps or are told that the race has been shortened. Sometimes slower boats do fewer laps and you may hear the finishing signal a lap sooner than you thought. At the finish line sail all the way through the line, wave to the race officer after you hear the finishing signal and breathe a sigh of relief and don't forget to sign off.

What Did You Think? You may be hooked for life! You may want to learn more and improve; you may become a winner or just do it for fun. See you in the next one!