Start Racing

Once you have completed your basic level 1 & 2 course in dinghy sailing you may well enjoy recreational sailing and cruising and the club is pleased for you to do so. However, many of the members enjoy the thrill and challenges that racing offers and the club runs 2 or 3 races a week depending on the season. There is no doubt that participating in racing will develop your sailing skills to a higher level in the shortest period of time. This will involve considerable practice on the water but the presentation below provides theoretical as well as a practical guide and tips to racing at Attenborough.

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Club races normally start at 19:00hrs on Wednesdays and 14:00hrs and 16:00hrs on Sundays (March to October). REMEMBER this is the actual start of the race, so you would be well advised to allow plenty of time to get changed, prepare your boat and get to the start line.


All you need to be is a club member. In terms of experience, you can be self taught or had formal training, but you should be at RYA Level 2 standard or above. Other than that, just turn up with your boat, or use one of the club boats.


  1. Prepare your boat: It’s a good idea to be on the water 10-15 minutes before the start of the race. This gives you plenty oftime to get to the start line and view the course and plan your start. The course is either displayed in the race hut behind teh club flagpole.
  2. Signing on: sign-on, usually in the race hut. Sign-on details may vary but you will always need your name, sail number and class.
  3. Note down the course: The course is displayed as a sequence of buoy numbers. Each number is in green (starboard/right) orred (port/left) back ground to indicate from which side the buoy should be rounded. So a buoy number with a red background should rounded anti-clockwise (i.e. the port side of the boat nearest the buoy). All the buoys must be passed in the correct sequence and rounded from the correct side. If you are not good at remembering numbers, it’s a good idea to write them down somewhere on your boat.


Flags are the primary means of starting a race. In addition to flags a horn is nearly always used. The first horn blows 5 minutes before the start when the class flag is raised. At 4 minutes another sound signal Flag I or P is shown; at 1 minute to go a sound signal and lowering of I or P flag. At 0 minutes the class flag is dropped and a sound signal given. If there is more than one start this point will signal start of next 5 minute sequence.


A race will be a number of laps around the course. Generally at ASC this will range from 3-6 laps, but just keep racing until you cross the finish line and hear a single horn sound as you cross the line.


Long books have been written about dinghy sailing rules and regulations, but you don’t need to study these to get started in racing. For your safety and that of other sailors, you should make yourself aware of the basic principles of dinghy racing.

  1. Do not hit another boat.If you hit another boat (or force it to alter course to avoid you when you do not have right of way) then you must take a penalty or be disqualified. The normal penalty is a 720 degree turn, in other words 2 tacks and 2 gybes. Even if you are the right of way boat, you may be in the wrong if there is a collision, so a right of way boat may have to take a penalty turn as well. A right of way boat must do all it can to avoid a collision. If it doesn’t it must take a penalty, but if it’s done all it can and still cannot keep clear then it doesn’t need to take a penalty.
  2. Starboard tack has right of way.A starboard tack boat is one which has the wind on the starboard side. Therefore its boom will be on the port side. A port tack boat approaching a starboard tack boat has usually two choices, either tack onto starboard tack or go round the stern of the starboard tack boat.
  3. Windward boat must keep clear.The windward boat is the one nearest to the wind. He must keep clear of the boat to leeward, and this means all of him, including his boom and rigging. Therefore, if sailing with your boom well out you need to be quite a bit away to stop your boom hitting the hull, head or rigging of the chap to leeward!
  4. Boats on the outside at a buoy must keep clear of boats inside.
    This rule only applies when you are approaching a buoy,which is defined as within 2 boat lengths of it. The boat on the inside is allowed room to round the buoy without hitting it, so the boat on the outside must keep clear. Therefore the inside boat will often call ‘Water at the mark!’ when approaching the buoy, warning the other boat to keep clear.
  5. Hitting a BuoyThe penalty for hitting a buoy is a 360 degree turn, or one tack and one gybe. If you hit a buoy and do not take a penalty you will be disqualified.
  6. ObstructionsThere are a number of rules regarding obstructions. An obstruction is obviously a grass bank, but it could equally be another racing boat that you have to keep clear of. If you need to change course to clear an obstruction you are entitled to ask for room to do so, likewise, if someone asks for room you should give it to them. The most common call is ‘water to tack’. If someone calls this to you, you should tack immediately.
  7. Other RulesThere are many other rules and sub clauses, but mainly they define when and how the above rules are applied, so for starting out these rules are all that is required.