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Home / Sailing / Sail Training / Start Racing - A beginners guide / Racing - what to do before entering
Home / Sailing / Sail Training / Start Racing - A beginners guide / Racing - what to do before entering

Racing - what to do before entering

What you need to do before entering a race

The first race you enter may be a bit daunting! The details on this page are designed to provide you with a check-list of items that need to be done before you enter a race. Many experienced people may find this list useful as well, as its all too easy to forget something! For example, at an Olympic Class Regatta in Miami, one of the UK's top Laser sailors, after doing all the following:

    1. training all winter
    2. organising the trip out there
    3. getting himself mentally prepared
    4. starting well
    5. sailing a superb race

…then realised that he had sailed in the wrong fleet, so his race win didn't count! So, please use the checklist to help you get to the correct start at the correct time.

For racing at Burghfield

  • Check the calendar. Make sure the race you are expecting is taking place on the day you expect it to. Also check the club website to see if something changes at the last moment.
  • Check the weather on the club website and makesure the weather is suitable. If the forecast is less than 5 mph, or greater than 15mph, you may want to choose a different weekend - unless you are wanting the experience of those conditions, or practice capsizing or being rescued!
  • Gear. Make sure you take everything you need to the Club: Boat, sails, rudder, centre-board, sheets, life-jacket, boots, gloves, wet-suits, spray-top, helm, crew, watch, waterproof tape etc.
  • Time. Get to the club in plenty of time: typically, an hour or more before your race starts.
  • Preparation. Get the cover off the boat, and the boat near the water. Check it very carefully to make sure nothing needs replacing and you have everything ready.
  • Sign-on. In the Race Hut on the north edge of the club house, the Race Officer will put out signing-on sheets. There will be a separate sheet for each fleet that is racing. You need to fill in your name and boat number on the correct sheet before going racing.
  • Get changed. Make sure you have the correct clothes for the weather conditions. It is normally colder on the water than it is on the shore, but the sun can be fiercer where it reflects off the water. So warm clothes, a spray-top and wooly hat, as well as sun-block and sun-glasses, is typical kit.

Check the course

  • The course is shown on the board, at the front of the club-house, below the balcony. The numbered buoys go around the lake in an anti-clockwise fashion.
    1. The odd-numbered buoys are Orange, and the even numbers are Yellow.
    2. Buoy 1 is just outside the club, buoy 10 is in the far north / northeast corner, buoy 8 is towards the windmill, and buoys 3 and 4 are in the south west corner.
    3. There is also a floating mark X, that can be laid anywhere on the lake. It is normally used to try to avoid the wind shadow under the trees.
  • Check the course carefully and write it down. It is amazing how many experienced people sail the wrong course - sometimes a whole fleet will follow the leader around the wrong mark! Check the position of the start and finish-line. If there are lap-timed handicap races taking place (typical for a Sunday), then you will need to go through the start-line on every lap. While on the shore at the course board, work out which leg is the beat and which ones you will have spinnakers up for. Rig the boat and sail off in plenty of time. If the start-line is down the far end of the lake (normal for a west or south-westerly wind) you should be leaving the shore about 12-15 minutes before your start.

What about Pursuit Races?

On Wednesday Evenings and Bank Holidays, the club runs Pursuit Races. This is a single race for all boats, rather than having separate races for the different classes as happens on a Sunday. In a pursuit race, the slower boats start first, followed by the faster ones. The exact time of your start will depend on your class (and on a Wednesday on your personal handicap as well). You can identify your particular start-time from the board in the club-house at the time you sign on for the race. On the water, the actual time is indicated by number boards or the electronic numbers on the back of the start boat. You should start when your start number appears. The finish of the Pursuit Race is always at a predefined time (e.g. 70 minutes after the first class to start). The finish is handled by the finish boat (committee boat) motoring from the front of the fleet to the back of the fleet at the time of the finish, so that all boats effectively finish at the same time.


And, on a Wednesday, once you have finished, there is another race that starts! You now need to get ashore as quickly as possible in order to get to the bar and the food before anyone else!

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