Racing with the NLSA

There is no better place to start than with the NLSA!  All racing is done on a friendly informal basis and you are particularly welcome if it is your first time, although there is no requirement to participate, and you are free to sail on your own. 

Formal racing series takes place a number of times a year, with the Icicle Series being a particular highlight. Informal racing happens throughout the year. 

The only requirement to join the racing is that you know the very basic rules that you will have learnt as part of your Level 2 qualification. Of course, if you are a RYA rules expert then you are expected to abide by the ones you know! 

On the day, the race organiser will set the course and indicate where the start line is.  Boats will line up and will be set off according to their handicaps/advantages in accordance with their sail or type of boat. 

RULES - Very useful interactive website...  

HANDICAPS - Here is a link to an animated site that might help you to handicap yourself. 


1) Feel the force

On the upwind leg of the course the aim is to get to the top mark quickly by sailing close to the wind while still maintaining speed.  Too close to the wind and the boat slows, too far away and it’s a longer route than necessary and ground is lost. However, during the leg the wind is likely to shift in direction. It’s relatively easy to identify when the wind direction changes against you so that it is coming from a direction more ahead  (i.e. a header). If you don’t bear away (steer a bit more downwind) or alternatively, tack then the sails start to flap and you eventually come to a halt. How about when the wind direction changes in your favour though (i.e a lift)? It is not uncommon to see people miss this entirely and sail off to the side of the course while someone else sails directly toward the mark.

If you are in a Bahia then there are telltales on the far side of the jib. When they start to point upwards you should steer upwind until they stream horizontally again. However many of the boats don’t have telltales and those that do are often reluctant to work.  There is another way to tell in any type of boat. This is to head up a bit and to see what happens.  Head up (steer into the wind) until either you detect the front part of the sails start to lift or the boat balance changes slightly and it starts to lean over on top of you. Then bear away so that everything is once again ok and you are on the optimal course.  The interesting part of this tip is how frequently should you do this at the reservoir. My opinion is about every eight seconds or so with maybe a bit less in very light wind conditions. What do you think?

2) Tack on a header. 

There is a lot that can be said about sailing in sync with the wind shifts but a simple basic rule is that when the wind direction changes it is coming from a direction that is more ahead of you (i.e a header) then that’s the time to put in a tack. There are exceptions to the rule but generally, it works and can get you sailing a shorter upwind leg by as much as 30%.

3) Keep the damn boat flat! 

Easy one this - a flat boat is a fast boat.  There are exceptions but the interesting question is how do you manage to keep it flat. A gust comes and before you know it the boat is heeling to leeward and you are more worried about trying not to capsize than about maintaining maximum speed. Opinions differ but here are some ideas. 

Sheet out. (Obvious)

Hike hard. (Maybe even pre-hike)

Bear away. (No good if you are trying to go to the top mark)

Head up and feather. (Isn’t that the opposite of the one above?)

4) Racing Basics

Some videos to help you understand the basics...

Roll Tacking

Roll Gybing *There is a nice breakdown in the second half of the video.


*Sailing videos below are provided with thanks to RYA and Dinghy Racing Channel.

Getting a better start

Windward mark rounding

Downwind tips

Leeward mark rounding

Top 5 rule 42 mistakes

How to avoid them in single-handed dingy sailing

Roll tack - Light winds

Gybing techniques


Information on the official racing rules can be found here 

Introduction to racing rules

Getting started, right-of-ways rules

The Start

Backing a sail, right of way, pin end

The Windward leg

General limitations and obstructions

The Marks - Part 1

Marks and who is entitled to room

The Run

When do I have to sail my proper course?

The Marks - Part 2

Marks Masterclass

TEAM RACING - Info and useful videos

Here is some more advanced information that will make your headache. 




Random Pairs Combinations