course length

hi all
was talking at the pondside the other day with a friend from another club. and we were comparing our clubs. the one thing we got to thinking about was the lenght of the corses we sail. MY club uses a 50 meter long leg, bouy to bouy. basicly is the longest i can get at my pond. dave club on the other hand uses a much smaller course. his legs are only 25 meter and the far bouy( olympic style course) is only 15 meter from shore. I was just wondering what do we all sail?

Depending on where, up to 100 metres top to bottom. Personally I have come to favour windward return over triangle, with “spacer” bouys at both ends about 8mtrs wide.


What are the Spacers for?


I refer to them as “crutches” - where they are intended to remove tactics and rule concerns by providing a short reaching leg to separate the upwind boats from the downwind boats. Seems “some” of our sailors find it troublesome to learn the rules while racing, so instead of making it a requirement, we add a “gate” for them and it allows the fleet to"split" at each mark - some going to port, others to starboard.

I suppose my irritation shows? :grumpy:

We all complain about lack of rules knowledge and folks playing “bumper cars” and then instead of favoring those who know the rules, we encourage those who don’t. I guess as long as they can point and sail between two marks - what the heck! Many think a reach is just a “parade” - but stiff boats able to sail with full sail, and knowing whether to go high or low after rounding the weather mark all seem (to me) to be an integral part of sail boat racing.

(sigh) - just a personal observation

is it possible to attach a diagram of a IOM course with the gate included…so that can have a better picture…thanks

Take away the start line shown on the following page, and the diagram illustrates the two places in a course where there are buoys in ‘close proximity’ – the offset mark at the windward buoy, and the gate at the leeward end of the course.

Once again I have to throw in with Dick, that the lack of rules knowlege does impede the learning, fun, competition and improvement garnered by all involved… and is something that should be encouraged at every chance.

Something we did in the past was to split the fleet every now and then and race with the top guys using the voice activated servo managment systems… heh heh… the Gold fleet skipper talked to the Silver Fleet skipper that was holding the transmitter. He would tell him to sheet in and out… and to up/down helm, port/starboard helm, port rounding… etc… and before 2 races were run, the level of nothing more basic than the nomenclature was being firmly cemented in the heads of all involved. Furthermore, explaining to the skipper holding the transmitter WHY things were being done… for RoW, for upcoming windshifts, puffs… ALL made the picture come into focus for many indivuduals. Of course… turnabout is fair play… so you had to reverse the scenario on the honor system that the Gold skipper now with the Tx in hand would only make suggestions, and not input without being commanded to do so (collision avoidance not withstanding)

Secondly… I get a HOWLING reponse from so many of the “Gold” fleet when I want a course with a reaching leg. HEY… it is NOT just a “parade” or a “drag race” particulary when your boat is set up primarily for upwind performance and you take your chances going downwind. Reaching is still the fastest point of sail and there should not be a course without it. Funny… but in my experience, that reaching leg can really balance out the fleet. You will see the most skilled skippers arrive at the weather mark first almost everytime, but the reaching legs can be anyone’s game. I guess I like them because I am not the the first one to round the weather mark hardly at all.

As to length, we routinely run much longer legs. Look for the Nationals here in Texas in 2007 for the J Class, to have a single leg almost 1/4 mile in length.
No kidding. Bring your walking shoes, because we are going to let the ladies stretch out and show their stuff. This will be parallel to the dam with a nice broad walking area on top by about 20’ giving a wonderful view of your boat and the fleet in general. The J’s are large enough to not only deserve this kind of course, but are also large enough that you can stand in the middle of that leg and see the boat clearly at the far turn.

My “spacer” bouys are there to make life a bit easier for the PRO as it reduces collisions. Unlike the “crutches”, the bouys are all rounded the same way with a recommendation of no overtaking between them. Not always possible as the wind doesn’t always behave.


Excellent point Nick - NOT ! :sad:


  1. Get rid of all turning marks
  2. Eliminate (not recommend) all overtaking boats anywhere on the course.
  3. Eliminate wind shifts, gusts, waves, high winds, low winds.

Am I getting old and cranky - or do I see the entire collapse of racing rules that seem to have worked for at least 100 years, in order to make it easier on a race committee or protest committee? If we do number’s one thru three - I could guarantee a complete elimination of collisions - and probably protests.

Come on - if you want to day sail - then by all means day sail, but if you want to race then at least stop trying to legislate on how boats sail on the water. I don’t care what/why you try to justify “gates” - the fact is they don’t require sailors to know mark rounding rules, overlap rules, or how to handle a boat on a reach in high winds.

In Lester’s example - since it was a “running start” I suppose a gate made a little bit of sense - but once the boats came windward, why was there a need for the off-set windward mark, and how exactly did that help with wind shifts? To comment a bit further - a sailing downwind start through a “normal” start line could function without the need for a gate. Doesn’t it count if you know how to sail slow (or slow down when sailing downwind) as part of good boat handling? I have started races downwind, reaching and upwind - and regardless of the general comments/complaints (by inexperienced skippers) the same winners usually prevailed - regardlesss of which way the wind was blowing at the start. I have also sat waiting for a “concrerned” race committee to reset the windward mark to “try” for a perpendicular starting line for upwards of an hour - only to watch the windshift turn the windward (beating) leg into a reaching leg late in the race! No attempt by the race committee to post a new course.

You can use all the excuses for “why” you need off-set marks at turns - I just don’t buy into them.

Hi Dick

Maybe (smile)!

IMHO neither of these marks (windward offset, or leeward gate) are related to making it easier as such. Of course, they can be used that way…

I believe the leeward gate is used on windward-leeward courses to provide some opportunity for tactics on the run. Not used on other courses.

The windward offset mark is used when the course as set interacts with the local geography (nearby shore, wind shear, bad chop, whatever), such that most/all boats approach the windward mark from the side of the course that the rounded running boats are in. In the diagram (and situation) I show, it was not feasible to come in on the starboard layline because of a shelving bank, and almost all boats came in on port and tacked around the mark. Not ideal, of course, but that was the reality. In this case the RO added the offset to take the running boats away from the beating thundering herd. A matter of boat safety, and this is the only good reason I know for an offset mark.

OK, my turn to join this “Gentlemanly” discussion :boxing:

I am in favour of setting courses of “MAJOR” regattas with the so called spacer buoys.
This is different from the “Leeward Gate” arrangement which seems to have crept in here in the confusion.
The spacer buoys are designed to avoid having the leading boats sailing through the middle of the chasing fleet.
I can appreciate the arguments put forth by both Dick and Larry as to the softening of the rules but the reasoning for the spacers is not to make things easier for the sailors but easier for the “Race Committee.”
If you have been a Race Officer for a regatta with twenty boat fleets you will know my concern. :batman:
Sailing to windward through a fleet this large of “Toy Yachts” all intent on being the next to round the leeward mark is a suicide mission.
And then the fun begins with the protests and the “Redress” when the leader is taken out by a running boat who was trying to give room and was not allowed sufficent room to move over by the six boats who were overlapped on the outside of him.
Sorry mate it is not worth the heartache and delay and does not make for happy punters.
Let the rules and the tactics be used elsewhere on the course to prove how clever you are.
As stated earlier by Dick (the same winners usually prevailed.)
It is not a “crutch” but simply wisdom to avoid stupid conflicts which can be harmful to all.
Mate, let your irritation show, that is what this forum is for, some healthy, spirited, but gentlemanly debate.
Bring it on and don`t let the P/C police make us all wimps. :darth:

Ian has it right. In large boat fleets the offset marks allows some seperation of the upwind boats from those coming downwind. It is truly a nightmare when the pack of lead boats comes off the mark right into the next group coming down the course. The offset makes a big difference.

As to the “gate”; it is there for tactical reasons in windward/leeward courses. The skill is to anticipate the wind and tactics for the upcoming leg and to see which side of the course is advantaged, if any. Usually, if one side becomes favored all the boats round that gate. This has nothing to do with a change in the rules.

On the subject of “reaches”, I’m kind of mixed. I’ve sailed courses where they are essential to get enough distance for a reasonable “lap”, I’ve seen other venues where they are simply parade legs that carry the boats out of reasonable sight lines.

Finally, as to course lenght, the original topic here, the thing we have found essential is the longer the first upwind leg the better the racing becomes. Basically, a long course makes having a “perfect” start less crtical, gives the fleet room to seperate, gives more opportunity to employ tactics and makes the effects of windshifts less dramatic.

Hi Roy -

I understand your reasoning - but point out that (to me) a reaching mark and an off-set mark are only different by the distance (and direction) from the windward mark.

Allowing one to easily sail to the preferred side of the course ? I can do that after going around the reaching mark. An immediate gybe at the “B” Mark puts me on a course to the opposite side where winds are more favorable. I’ve been doing that when needed, since the mid-1960’s when I started sailing on big boats. And - the decision and skills to gybe quickly, while rounding the mark and still protecting my position were an important part of the decision process. Gybe now, … or … carry it out a bit,… or … stay on unfavored side for a few hundred (big boat) feet before gybing, …or … getting the reaching spinnaker to gybe to the opposite side, all while maintaining maximum boat speed and covering my competitors while making this manouver…all parts of tactics, rules and boat handling skills. (oh almost forgot - while doing all of this and not spilling my beer ! :icon_tong )

As for windward/leeward courses - wouldn’t you agree that downwind (give way) boats having to cross to the far side for favored side have as much - or more - tactics and rules to think about than using a “gate” system? Again - if you want to race you can sail to any point on the course - but - knowing your rights, and the rights of other boats as “they” also transverse the course is what rules and tactics are all about. As for making it easier on the race committee - would this be the same group who (often) decide “marks to starboard” roundings are “interesting” - instead of making it “hassel free” by keeping marks to port and having one less thing to worry about? (ooops - off topic, and another irritation - sorry)

I have my preferences and I know that I may be in the minority - but if everyone thinks the “gate” system is wonderful - that is their opinion. As for better tactics, easier on race committee, etc. - as I said earlier, we’ve survived many many years of “Olympic triangle” course racing. I have yet to be convinced this gate system is better.

I am skipping any further responses here since I acknowledge ISAF/US ailing have adopted the system. I just happen not to see any benefits, other than the “dumbing down” of participants and their knowledge of racing rules, knowing who has right of way, and how to cross the fleet in a safe but quick manner.

In a large fleet of RC Yachts there are a lot of dumbed down sailors. Ideally they should all be Chris Dicksons but they are not. The “spacer” bouys don’t prevent upwind/downwind chaos they simply reduce it a little and it is there for the benefit of the PRO who has in inenviable job. When chaos occurs - and it occurs much more often in RC - it is very difficult in a fleet to know who exactly did what to whom and when. Often, and understandably, a PRO may make an error and be subject to the looks can kill stare from an innocent competitor who has been penalised. I think we should be aware of at least some differences between big boats and RC boats (where collisions are much more common) and it is bloody minded to assume otherwise.

i have been flat out at work, but am gonna be workin on my rc boat & one of my mates from work is gonna build some more, we have a nice place to sail them (out side his house) he has a tinny so we can use it to lay marks donno how big to make courses, maybe 200m beat with 150m reach or somethin

Just make the course as big as you can fit! You can move the marks later to suit yourself. Remember to have navigable water around the marks, like about 15-20m, maybe more if you’re in a corner with a tree creating a wind shadow or bend.

Just lay your marks, try it out and see.:slight_smile:

mmm, that would be a huge course, i got about 1nm to play with at least across the lake & probably 10+ nm length ways.
check this for pic

Hey Yachtie, 100 metre beats are a good length without being to far away to see your boat.
Also if you are sailing from your friends backyard you don`t want to have to get out of your chair and risk spilling your beer…right!

Your photo link does not work for me?

will have to get a map from somewhere else

here try this