Beginners Guide to Racing

Who is this introduction for?

This introduction is intended for beginner racers who have completed at least CanSail level 2 to enable them to take part in the SOSA evening races in a reasonably safe and enjoyable manner.  It provides a minimum of knowledge on which to build experience and skill racing.

Some Explanations you need to know

Windward and Leeward: The leeward side of your boat is the side where your mainsail lies.  The windward side is the other side.

Port and Starboard tack:  You are on port or starboard tack according to your windward side. 

Advisor: A person appointed by the race organizers to assist competitors in understanding the rules and, when appropriate, to penalize a boat.

What rules do I need to know?

Basic Rules

1. You must comply with the principles of good sportsmanship.

2. You must try not to collide with another boat.

Rules When Boats Meet

3. When you and the other boat are on opposite tacks, if you are on port tack you must avoid the boat on starboard tack.

4. When you and the other boat are on the same tack, you must avoid the other boat (a) if she is in front of you, or (b) if she is on your leeward side.

5. After starting, when you and the other boat approach a mark or an object that both boats need to avoid, and the other boat is between you and the mark or other object, you must give her sufficient space to pass it safely on the same side.  However, when the boats are on opposite tacks at a windward mark, this rule does not apply.

6. When the other boat is required to avoid you, if you change course, you must give the other boat an adequate opportunity to avoid you.

Other Rules

7. There may be more than one start.  Make sure you know which is yours and the class flag to be used. Keep clear of other starts before your own.

8. Starting signals for each start will be given at 5 minutes before the starting signal and then at 4 minutes and 1 minute.  A warning may be given at approximately 6 minutes before the start as well. (see below)

9. At the starting signal you must be behind the starting line.

10. After the starting signal, you must sail the course described by the race organizers.

11. You must not touch a mark of the course.

12. If you think you or another boat has broken a rule or if you are unclear about the rules at any time during the race, you must describe the incident to the advisor after the race who will advise you on what to do.

13. If you touch a mark or break a rule, in most circumstances you can exonerate yourself by sailing clear of other boats and making a 360 degree turn (tack and gybe in same direction) unless the sailing instructions prescribe a 720 degree turn instead. 

Responsibilities of Race Organizers

A) To run fair, enjoyable and safe races.

B) To inform all the competitors about the sequence of starting signals, the starting and finishing lines, the course to be sailed and the marks to be rounded.

C) To score each boat points equal to her finishing position, after adjusting for handicaps when appropriate. For SOSA club racing, we use a personal handicap system where better racers are given more of a handicap and the less experienced have less handicap. This evens things out and gives everyone an opportunity to win as they improve, as well as making it more challenging for the better racers.

D) To appoint an advisor on the rules and procedures for racing.

What course do I sail?

The Race Officer will set a course and will brief you on the day.

A typical course is a race around the three buoys in our sailing area with the start/finish line between the committee boat (Boat with the Race Office and Flags) and the orange buoy.

How do I start?

Our starting sequence is as follows:

5 minutes to start – hoot of horn and 1st (warning) flag up. This flag is start specific and will be different for each start.

4 minutes to start – hoot of horn and 2nd (preparatory) flag up. This will be a blue flag with a white square in the centre.

1 minutes to start – hoot of horn and 2nd (preparatory) flag down

The start – hoot of horn and 1st flag down and the race is on.

At the start, there may be an additional hoot of the horn to indicate there were boats on the wrong side of the start line.

A third horn indicates abandonment of that race start and that it will be restarted.

Watch this video for more explanation of how a race is started and managed:

Jon Emmett on starting and boat speed

Starting & Boat Handling – Self Coaching Tips with Penny Clark – Single & Double Hander