A Beginners Guide to Dinghy Racing

Why Race?

Starting Dinghy Racing is often a daunting prospect for a new sailor but I would encourage everyone to give it a try. Its a great way of improving your skill. If you’re not a competitive person having a given course to sail helps improve your boat handling skills. Sailing  the same course as other people lets you see what they are doing differently to you and helps you learn.

If you are a competitive person then sailing is the ultimate sport !

P.G. Hamerton said “Sailing is a game in which the mental power and physical activity of the sailor are pitted against the forces of nature. All other games are essentially rivalries between opponents in the exercise of some skill. But all of life is not combat; it is often the exercise of our ingenuity in dealing with natural forces over which we have no direct control. So sailing gratifies one of our deepest human instincts: it mimics the struggle of humanity to progress by taking advantage of the forces of the natural world.”


What boat can I sail?

Virtually any dinghy may be raced. We use a handicapping system to allow boats of different types to race against one another and still let the best sailed one win! Examples of boats raced at Rossendale include!


How good at sailing do I need to be?

As long as you know what happens when you waggle the stick at the back, you’re good enough! Racing is by far the quickest way of improving sailing skills and each and every one of us started off knowing very little and we’ve all got more to learn!

Dinghy Racing, RVSC, Rossendale Valley Sailing Club

Wednesday Race Night

What rules do I need to know?

A boat on port tack (the wind coming from the left, the boom on the right) gives way to one on starboard tack (wind from right, boom on left). A boat on Starboard tack with right of way may shout ”Starboard” if you are on Port tack and they think you are about to get in their way.

A boat to windward (closest to where the wind is coming from) gives way to a boat to leeward (the boat further away from the wind).

At a mark, the boat on the inside, nearest the mark, will usually need to be given room to round the mark without hitting it or you!

These basic rules should prevent most collisions.


What course do I sail?

The OOD (Officer Of the Day) will set a course and display it on the blackboard by the entrance to the changing rooms . The board will display the name of the mark to be rounded and the direction in which it is to be rounded. Red marks  pass on the left side of the boat. Green marks  then pass the mark  to the right of the boat. An approximate number of laps will also be displayed.

How do I start?

The start line is a straight line usually between the committee boat and a buoy. But it is always shown on the blackboard.

The starting sequence goes as follows:

3 minutes to start – hoot of horn

1 minutes to start – hoot of horn

0 minutes – The start – hoot of horn.


What about those horrible crowded start lines?

When you first start racing, you could hang back a bit at the start, crossing the line after all the keen ones have finished getting in each other’s way.  But this always looks worse than it is and if you approach the line on a starboard tack you should be fine.


How do I find out where I finished?

We use a handicap system where the OOD needs to make some calculations that allowances for the different types of boat racing. This is  usually be done on the day of racing. Results will then be available in the clubhouse after racing. Results will also be made available as soon as possible on the website and usually posted on facebook.


The most important thing is that you HAVE FUN.

All our sailors welcome new races and you will not get in anyones way and you will not upset anyone. If you make a mistake then I can assure you I have made more mistakes than you have and in 20+ years of racing at all levels I have never fallen out with anyone.


Any other questions?

Just ask one of the experienced sailors or contact me on  –  Andy Ratcliffe andy.ratcliffe@key-digital.co.uk  or 07971 690821.