Racing is a great way to improve your sailing skills as well as being an excellent way to get to know other members of the LDSC. Our racing program is geared to people of all levels, not just for experts. Here’s what you need to get started:
- a sailboat, either your own or one of our Club Boats if you are a Club Boat Member;
- a waterproof watch with a count-down timer; and
- a sense of humour!
Our races take place on most Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. The Race Committee will generally try to run three races on Sundays and two on Wednesday evenings.
Check the sailing calendar (not yet available) for start times.
Upon arrival on race day, pertinent information regarding the race (wind speed, weather forecast, description of racecourse) available on the deck in front of the clubhouse.
The course used for races at LDSC is referred to as the "Olympic Triangle". It is a right-angle triangle, its orientation based on the direction the wind is coming from.
The windward mark is the mark closest to the wind, the leeward mark is the one furthest from the wind (to the lee of), and is directly downwind from the windward mark. The other mark is known as the "gybe" mark, because you must gybe to round it.
The start/finish line is perpendicular to the line between the windward and leeward marks and is located about 1/3 of the way up from the leeward mark.
LDSC’s race committee boat marks one end of the start line, and a smaller buoy or flag (which is sometimes referred to as the "pin" ) marks the other end.
When describing the race course you will hear phrases like "a triangle and a sausage" (sounds bizarre, doesn't it?). What this means is that racers go around the triangle once, and then back up to the windward mark, and then instead of heading for the gybe mark again, beetle right back down to the leeward mark, go around it, and then back up and across the finish line. Or you might hear "two triangles" which would mean that racers go around the full triangle twice. The details of the course will be noted on the blackboard (look for triangle shapes and ovals), but generally we default to a "triangle, and a sausage".
The start sequence for races follows a "Get ready", "Get set", "Go" format, at five minute intervals. (This is why you need a countdown timer on your watch.) The start sequence is Yellow flag , Blue flag, and Red Flag.
The race course for Catamarans is generally just the windward mark and the gybe mark, and they will have their own windward mark placed further away. The Catamarans will sail “two sausages”, instead of the "triangle, and a sausage". As well, catamarans start separately from the monohulls. The catamarans start is typically done first, followed by the monohulls five minutes later. The Hobie Waves start with the other Catamarans but tend to race the same course as the monohulls
Race Sequence (what the flags mean)
Yellow Flag Up (0 minutes, 00 seconds)
Warning Signal – yellow shape raised, marks the start of the sequence. There will be one toot on the horn.
Blue Flag Up (1 minute, 00 seconds) (Get Ready)
Preparatory Signal – blue shape raised. There will be one toot on the horn.
Blue Flag Down (4 minutes, 00 seconds) (Get Set)
Warning Signal – blue shape lowered. There will one toot on the horn.
Yellow Flag Down & Red Flag Up (5 minutes, 00 seconds) (Go!)
Start Signal - The yellow shape is lowered, and the red shape is raised. There will be one toot on the horn. The raising of the red shape signals the start of the race for the catamarans and a warning for the monohulls.
Blue Flag Up (6 minutes, 00 seconds) (Get Ready)
Preparatory Signal – blue shape raised. There will be one toot on the horn
Blue Flag Down (9 minutes, 00 seconds) (Get Set)
Warning Signal – blue shape lowered. There will one toot on the horn
Red Flag Down (10 minutes, 00 seconds) (Go!)
Start Signal - The blue shape is lowered, and the red shape is raised. There will be one toot on the horn. The raising of the red shape signals the start of the race for the monohulls.
Tip: Keep your watch set on a five-minute countdown reset cycle, so if you miss starting it when they raise the yellow flag, you will still have a chance to start it when the blue flag is raised. The idea is to be as close to the start line as possible when they raise the red flag, but you don't want to be over it.
The sail numbers of anyone over the line early will be called and they will have to come back and start the race again after everybody else has started. If there are a bunch of boats over the line early, the committee will signal a "general recall" and the race sequence will start again for all boats.
General racing rules
The Racing Rules are quite complex and updated every four years. Visit Sail Canada for the most up-to-date rules. Here’s three quick rules that never change to get you started:
- A boat on starboard tack (wind blowing over the right hand side of the boat first) has right of way over a boat on port tack.
- A windward boat must get out of the way of a boat to leeward.
- Within two boat lengths of a mark, the boat on the outside of the turn has to give the inside boat room to get around the mark.
These hints are intended for beginning racers but are just as valid for Olympic level yachtsmen. Sailboat racing is a complex and varied game that many people have studied for a lifetime and have not mastered. The joy is in the journey.
Practice your starts by trying to sail past a mooring or buoy exactly at five minute intervals. On race day, get on the course area half an hour before the scheduled start time to get comfortable with the conditions. Invite another boat to sail upwind with you and have the slower boat copy the settings of the faster boat. Ideally you want to “brush” against a faster boat to copy their jib lead position, cunningham tension, and traveler position.
Check if one end of the start line is further upwind than the other. If so many boats will try and start there. As a new racer, avoid this jam up by starting on a starboard tack and sailing upwind to cross the start line. Starboard tack has right of way and windward boats must keep clear.
Time how long it takes you to sail the length of the start line, and then set yourself up with about a minute of sailing distance to your planned start position on the start line with two minutes to go. This gives you the opportunity to speed up or slow down and make a good start. Sail close to other boats like yours and copy their boat trim (position in the boat), and their sail trim (lead settings and tension). Position yourself more forward in the boat and ease the sails slightly to gain speed. Try it!
Look behind you when you tack from starboard to port tack. Keep a good lookout when you are on port tack (The other boats have right of way, so you have to keep clear!)
When it’s all over, don’t forget to thank the race committee and ask for feedback from other sailors. Then it’s time to check the race results and compare your corrected time (after the handicaps are assigned) against the winner's corrected time. Use your results to measure your progress over the season!
Finally, don't blame your sails, rudder, centreboard, crew, compass, etc… The race leaders of today started at the back of the pack too.