Introduction to Racing

At some point during your membership at Welbeck sailing club you will want to join in one of our races. In order to navigate the set course in an efficient manner, you will need to familiarize yourself with the approximate positions of the buoys and the start and finish procedure. To help you do that, we have provided the below guide to dinghy racing at the Great Lake.

This is intended as a gentle introduction, it is not comprehensive and should not be taken to countermand any club, class, RYA or OOD instruction.

Starting the Race

The start line extends across the whole width of the lake from the white post on the far bank to the flagpole at the starters hut.

Racing is signalled by the ringing of bells (and the hoisting of flags). Typically there will be a preparatory bell at about 10 minutes, a 4 minute bell, a 2 minute bell and the start bell. You should be on the water before the 4 minute bell.

Races may begin by sailing down the lake (away from the Abbey), or up the lake (towards the Abbey and buoy10). You may sail across the start line during this preparatory period but obviously you must ensure that you are behind it when the start bell sounds! If you find yourself on the wrong side of the line at the go, you must return to re-cross the start line and begin the race again. The OOD will try to inform you, but if in doubt it is more sportsmanlike to return. Of course, the start line just before the off can get crowded with helms jockeying for the best position. The START line, (UNLIKE the FINISH line) extends the full width of the lake, and you may start from any point along it.

During the Race

The positions of the racing buoys.

As the buoys are re-positioned each season some variation is certain, so positions shown are approximate! Buoy #9 is the starting and finishing area.

Having negotiated the start, you must now navigate the course correctly. Each active race buoy must be passed in the set order, with the buoy passing on the appropriate side of the boat. So, a buoy designated by “S 2”, means that you must pass buoy number 2, with the buoy on the starboard (right!) side of the boat. On a race circuit composed of more than one lap, a buoy may change from starboard to port or vice versa after the initial lap.

Should you make a mistake, for example by going round the buoy the wrong way, or missing out a buoy you must retrace your steps and correct the error. Then continue the race as from that point. Should you fail to do so, you have not completed the course as set, and so must record this fact (see finishing the race).

You are not obliged to inform other competitors if you see that they have made an error, but it is considered more sportsmanlike behaviour to do so - especially if they have gained any advantage by it!

Buoys are intended to be rounded, not rammed! Should you make contact with an active race buoy (but otherwise round it correctly) you must exercise a penalty turn. A penalty turn typically involves making a 360 degree about when it is safe to do so – consult OOD if in doubt.

The rescue boat(s) are there for your safety and to observe the race. They have radios to communicate with each other and with the club house. They should be signaled if needed. Any instruction from the rescue boat(s) has the authority of the OOD. Typical instructions may include abandoning, shortening or even lengthening the race. They may also remind you of the correct course if you are seen to deviate, however it is the responsibly of each helm to sail the set course. It is helpful if you are able to pass on any instruction received to other competitors.

Other Race Etiquette

The Great Lake is a big lake, but despite all that water you will find you always want to be in a bit of lake presently occupied by another competitor. This can obviously be problematic. We are a small friendly sailing club, and lets keep it that way. There are various guides (RYA) to establish who has right of way when sailing, in practice however,the following points will serve for most situations at Welbeck.

1) Safety first. Do not endanger or impede the assistance of a capsized dinghy or distressed crew. If in doubt keep clear.

2) A boat not actively racing should give way to racing boats.

3) If two boats are on opposite tacks the boat on the port tack must keep clear. A friendly but timely shout of “starboard” from the priority dinghy often helps to clarify the situation.

4) If boats are overlapped the windward boat should keep clear.

5) If boats are not overlapped the rear boat should keep clear.

6) If boats are overlapped within three boat lengths of an active racing buoy then the “outside” boat should give the other boat “room at the mark”. A simple shouted request for “water at the mark, please” will help.

7) Always give way to allow boats to round an obstacle. At Welbeck this will usually mean the edge of the lake. Forcing an opponent aground is not acceptable! A simple acknowledgment of the situation and hails such as “tell us if you need to tack” or “we tack when you do” is appreciated. Boats should obviously communicate their exact intentions. The boat NEEDING (NOT just wanting) others to give way may request “room to tack.”

Finishing the Race

The finish line extends from buoy 9 in the centre of lake, to the flagpole at the starters hut.

The finish line does not extend the full width of the lake. It runs from the flagpole at the starter's hut to buoy 9. So in order to complete the race you must cross this line. As you do so, a bell will be rung to signify that you have crossed the line and your finish time will be entered on the race record sheet.

If you have not completed the race course as set (retired, abandoned, wrong course etc) you should finish the other side of buoy 9, and therefore not cross the finish line. This will signal to the race recorder that you have not completed the race. Occasionally, an enthusiastic recorder may erroneously “ring you in” - please be sure to clarify and amend your race status on the race record sheet.

Once ashore everyone must sign the race declaration on the race record sheet in the starter's hut.

If you have retired or otherwise not completed the course please enter “retired” clearly in the declaration column.

If you have completed the course, a signature is required to confirm that you have competed in accordance with all appropriate sailing instructions. If you don't “sign-off” the boat is considered to have been retired from the race.

The race record sheets are used to calculate performance in the race series – there is more information about that elsewhere on this site.

Competition on the Great Lake should be friendly and fun. Once ashore the fun will continue as the race is analysed over coffee and sandwiches.