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Home / Sailing / Start Racing

Start Racing

Welcome to club racing at Coniston:

There is no doubt that participating in racing will develop your sailing skills to a higher level in the shortest period of time.


Club races normally start at 19:00hrs on Wednesdays and 11:00hrs – 15:00hrs on Saturdays and Sundays (March to October) check the Race Programme for details. 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.


If you are a club member, self-taught or formally trained to around RYA level 2, just turn up with your boat.


  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 of time to get to the start line and view the course and plan your start. The course is displayed on the white notice board outside the race hut.
  2. Signing on:sign-on, usually in the race hut. You will always need your name, sail number and class – ask the OD for your PY number if you don't know it (this is the number used to calculate your time in the race with different boat types racing). If you are under 16 you will also need the name of your responsible shore-based adult.
  3. Note down the course:The course is displayed as a sequence of buoy numbers. The buoy numbers will have an S or P after them S-Starboard, P-Port which indicates which side they must be passed. All the buoys must be passed in the correct sequence and rounded from the correct side. The number of laps will also be written on the board. If you are not good at remembering numbers and letters, it's a good idea to write them down somewhere on your boat (masking/electrical tape is good for this!). If you are unsure of the course instructions please ask the OD or another sailor.


Flags are the primary means of starting a race. In addition to flags a horn is used. The first horn blows 5 minutes before the start when the class flag is raised. The horn blows again at 4 minutes with the ? flag raised, again at 1 minute with the ? flag lowered, and again at 0 minutes when the class flag is lowered. This is THE START of the race.


Keep racing around the course until you cross the finish line and hear a single horn sound as you cross the line. The horn marks THE END of your race. Don't worry, an escort boat will come and tell you if you're still going around after the end of the race.


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 Buoy The 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. Obstructions There 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 Rules There 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.

Last updated 12:11 on 23 February 2024

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