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Start Racing


These notes have been put together for club members who are new to racing to provide a minimum of information to get you taking part in your first race. There's lots more details but let's leave those for another day and try to ensure your racing is as enjoyable as possible right from the start.

  • TO ENTER Write your name, boat class and sail number on the Signing-on Sheet by the notice boards. The Race Officer needs this to recognise your boat as a racer (not a casual sailor).
  • COURSE Copy the course onto something that will survive getting wet. You could write it on the back of your hand, others use white insulating tape.

Note the number of laps. It is written as (eg) Start + 2 laps which means sail the course from the start line to the finish line, then start counting whole laps finish line to finish line.

  • LAUNCH IN GOOD TIME Be on the water 10-15 minutes before the start. This will allow time to adjust to the conditions and sail to the start line area. You do need to be afloat by the time the 4 minute signal has been made (see below).
  • START SEQUENCE Single Start




Start 5 minutes

2 lights + horn


Start 4 minutes

No lights + horn


A few seconds later

1 light comes back on

Start 1 minute

2 lights + horn

1 minute


No lights + horn


There's usually just one start for all the boats.

START SEQUENCE Mulitple Class Starts

  • If there is going to be more than one start then the starts will roll on, one after the other - the warning for the next start is the 1 minute signal of the current start.
  • This occurs for the Sunday 13:30 class race: There's three classes: Fast, ILCA/Laser and Slow Handicap.
  • Each has their own start spaced 4 minutes apart, (i.e. Fast at 13:30, ILCA/Laser at 13:34 and Slow at 13:38).
  • STARTING RULES If you're over the line at the start return to the pre-start side by sailing round one of the end marks and restart.

Don't charge in at the starboard (right hand) end of the line it always looks like there's space but it isn't allowed.

Until you get the hang of it you might prefer to hang back a bit to avoid the crowd of boats on the line.

  • SAIL THE COURSE The course will usually involve sailing upwind first followed by reaches and or downwind legs. You will have learnt the following basic rules on your RYA Level 1 & 2 courses, there are lots more but these three will keep you safe. Remember the aim is to avoid any collisions:
    • Port & Starboard Port tack boat keeps clear of starboard tack boat
    • Windward & Leeward Windward boat keeps clear of leeward boat
    • Rounding Marks Give room to any inside boats (ie boats closer to the mark)
  • FINISH Keep on sailing the course until you get a finish signal Horn + red light

The race may be shortened signalled by 3 lights and 2 horns finish the next time you sail through the finish line.

A note about the Sunday 13:30 class race: There's three classes: Fast, ILCA/Laser and Slow Handicap. It may be that your race finishes a lap before or after the other classes. To avoid confusion just remember if you get a horn as you cross the line then you've finished.

  • AND FINALLY Well done your first race completed. Go ashore and SIGN OFF on the race sheet telling the Race Officer you completed the race within the rules. You need to do this within 30 minutes of the first boat finishing. If you decided to retire from the race say so on the race sheet "RETIRED" or "RTD".


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