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This document is a very brief and rudimentary introduction to yacht racing at Cardiff Bay Yacht Club. If you have never raced before it will serve as a  place to start. There are many books and internet videos explaining things better than I can, and the club runs a ‘Start Racing’ course, but you’re welcome to come out, take it easy and see if you want to take it further.



1. When are races held?
2. What boat can I sail?
3. How good at sailing do I need to be?
4. What rules do I need to know?
5. How do I enter a race?

6. What course do I sail?

7. How do I start?
8. What about those horrible crowded start lines?
9. How do I finish?

10. How do I find out where I finished?

1. When are races held?

Cruiser racing takes place on Sundays and on Tuesday evenings in the summer. There are several series a year and details of start times for the current series can be found on the web site at Tuesday racing always starts at 19:00.

For races outside the barrage tide and start times are given, and occasionally a comment:

LWR is a Low Water Race, generally 4 to 6 hours and going down Channel past Lavernock

RoLW is a Race over Low Water, these are generally about 2 hours but start before low water


Otherwise races are about 2 hours over high water.

2. What boat can I sail?

Any keelboat capable of sailing in the upper Bristol Channel. There is a list of safety requirements in Appendix 1 of the Notice of Race, see again. Races are run in 2 handicap classes, IRc and NHC. NHC is appropriate for cruising yachts and is free, IRc is for more racing oriented boats and there is a fee to get a rating.

3. How good at sailing do I need to be?

If you can sail round a few buoys, say from the Outer Wrach to North Cardiff, then Mid Cardiff and back to the Wrach then that's good enough. Racing is by far the quickest way of improving sailing skills and every one of us started off knowing very little and we've all got more to learn!

4. What rules do I need to know?

Here is a VERY simplified set of racing rules for beginners. 

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 call out "Starboard" if you are on Port tack and they think you are about to get in their way. Sometimes if you are on port tack you may be told to hold your course.
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).


You will note that these 3 are the same as IRPCS.

At a mark, the inside boat, nearest the mark, will usually need to be given room to round the mark without hitting it or you! They may call out "Water" if they overlap within 3 boat lengths of the mark

These basic rules should prevent most collisions. There are many more and as you become more experienced it is worthwhile investing in the latest copy of the racing rules book.

Basically, don't jump the start, sail the course and don't hit anyone.

5. How do I enter a race?

Fill in and submit the entry form here. Note in the additional information if you need a temporary membership.

6. What course do I sail?

Racing is controlled by the Race Officer and all communication with them is on VHF Channel 37 (M1 on some radios).

For races outside the barrage the Race Officer will announce the course before the 5 minute signal, giving the buoys to be rounded and their direction in order, for instance 'North Cardiff to port' meaning go around the North Cardiff buoy with it on your port side and then proceed to the next buoy, and so on. There are usually different courses for NHC and IRc.


The buoys used and their positions are listed in the Notice of Race


For races inside the barrage the course is always a windward leeward, as described in the Sailing Instructions.


7. How do I start?

For races outside the barrage the start line is a transit between the flagpole in front of Penarth Yacht Club and the red triangle on the club wall, ending at the orange buoy, which may not be on the line. For LWR and RolW races the line extends as far as Mid Cardiff buoy.

The starting sequence goes as follows

All signals are broadcast on the VHF, the race officer will identify the signal and give a countdown to the exact time, for instance 'The IRc 5 minute signal will be in 5 4 3 2 1 Now'


5 minutes to start.

4 minutes to start. The full racing rules now apply, engines must be off

1 minute to the start

Start - and the race is on. 


Normally there are 2 starts, IRc first then NHC. The IRC start doubles as the NHC 5. Sometimes, if there are not many boats out, there may be a single start for both fleets, the Race Officer will announce on the VHF if that is the case.


If you are on the wrong side of the line at the start this will be announced on the VHF. You must go back over the line and start correctly. Note that while you are doing this you have NO RIGHTS and must keep clear of all other boats.

8. 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. However as the winners are often decided by who gets off to a good start so you will need to work on improving your starts.

9. How do I finish?
The finish line is the same as the start line. The direction to cross is should be obvious from the course, if not the Race Officer will give it as part of the  course

10. How do I find out where I finished?
Handicap races need to have calculations made by the Results Officer to make allowances for the different types of boat racing. This is usually be done after racing and results are made available as soon as possible on the website.


Some Final Important Points

You must have £3,000,000 third party insurance to race. Most cruising policies do not include racing risks, some allow for a small number of races per year, you must check your policy.


Like most (all?) sports yacht racing requires competitors to be a member of the governing body, the RYA, or a club affiliated to it. If you are new to racing, not a member of an affiliated club or a personal RYA member CBYC will grant a temporary membership for your first 3 races. Please note on the entry form if you want this.


As an introductory offer new racers will not have to pay the entry fee until after their third race. If you decide it's not for you before that there will be no charge.


If the wind is, or is forecast to be, over 30 knots the race will not be stated. Below that, or if it has already started, the race will run and it is your responsibility to decide whether to race, or to retire. (RRS Fundamental Rule 3)


Have Fun!

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