Race Preparation 



Bassenthwaite Sailing Club is one of the top 10 sailing clubs in the country, and holds Champion Club status to support this claim. In order to obtain this status we have to provide RYA sailing and race training to encourage students to join in races. We then have to encourage students to travel to other clubs to join in junior or class open meetings to improve their standard of racing so that they can start winning races. 

Bassenthwaite Sailing Club encourages members to race rather than cruise. 


Although you can join our club by applying online we do encourage future members to visit the club to talk to club officials, sailing instructors and those training to sail. We can explain what sail training is on offer , what you need to wear, when we sail, what social activities we have and what it will cost. We also have open days to try out sailing.


The handbook gives a diary of the days that we sail, the time of the first race, the type of race and the names of those who have been volunteered to help organise the race.

The website gives the above information and also details of training being organised during the year.  There is a separate section relating to social activities.


Our general advice is not to buy a boat until you have completed your training and tried out several of the different boats being sailed at our club.

Almost everyone buys a second hand boat and beginners normally buy older second hand boats as these are cheaper and it matters less if you scratch or dent them.

You will need to decide if you want to join in Class racing at the club or in our region or whether you want one of the hundreds of types of boat that can race against each other using the Portsmouth Handicap racing system.


Most modern boats such as Topper, Laser, RS TeraRS200, RS300, RS400, RS Vario, Topper Topaz, Laser Pico, Laser Vago, Laser Bahia, Laser2000 are strict one-design boats with the hulls and sails being made exactly the same size and shape. These do not need to be measured to confirm that the hull and sails are within the design tolerances.

Most boats designed to be made out of wood by amateurs do require to be measured and issued with a measurement certificate, even if now made of Glass fibre. This includes, Flying fifteen, Wayfarer, Enterprise, GP14, Solo, StreakerMirror. If it does not have a certificate to say that it is that type of boat is is not that type of boat. 


a) Glass fibre or polythene boats require much less maintenance and last longer than wooden boats. They also keep value much better. 

b) Strict one design boats in GRP or polythene remain more competitive as they get older.

c) The value of sails is a significant part of the value of older boats so try and buy a boat with good sails.  

d) Talk to people who sail the type of boat you want to buy. There may have been step improvements as boat builders have changed. There may be faults or areas where boats rot first.


A trailer is worth £150-£300 if sold without a boat, so many older boats do not come with trailer. It is cheaper to buy a boat with a trailer. Preferably buy a boat with matching trailer and launching trolley combination as this makes loading the trailer a one person job.

Most trailers and trailers are galvanised giving them a long safe life.

Many trailers are home built using non-galvanised steel. Jump on it to make sure it will not break on you.

Trailers should have a safety chain or wire to attach around the tow ball, in case the trailer becomes detached. This is a legal requirement.

Boats must have working lighting boards when being towed. Most lighting boards are prone to loose wires and corroded contacts so check regularly.

Trailer wheels have ball bearings. These rust if the boat is launched from the trailer or the trailer is kept outside. They also need greasing each year. If they start to rumble they need changing. Do not buy the cheapest replacement bearings as they will only last a few months. 

Like bearings the tyres age quite quickly if not used regularly, kept outside or deflated.

Carry at least one spare wheel.

Pneumatic tyres on Trolleys do not last long at all. Consider the Green puncture proof tyres or solid tyres.Paint your trailer distinctive colours. Don’t leave it silver with blue mudguard. 

Use plenty of rubber or foam on the hull supports to prevent scratches when you put your boat on trolley/trailer as scratches will slow your boat down.

Unless you are buying a Topper you will need a tow bar. A company called PF Jones in wales sells witter branded tow bars you can fit yourself and get your local garage to connect the electrics., or get local garage to fit it. 


Older members, regular sailors and those with heavy boats keep their boats on the two rows closest to the water.  Here floods several times each year so watch the weather and be prepared to go and move it before it floats across the lake.

Younger members, those with lighter boats or those used less frequently should be put in the upper boat storage area. The Lasers should be kept together. 


Your class association web site will probably have instructions on how to rig your boat and have dimensions/rig tensions on how to set it up for different wind strengths. The previous owner may also be able to help you with this.

Your class captain at the club, or other person with your type of boat will willingly help too.


Bassenthwaite Lake is one of the coldest places in England. You will need a good fitting wetsuit, thermalunderwear, wet boots and spray top or dry suit most of the year. 


The club provides RYA training to Start Racing standard free of charge to new members .

Learning to this standard takes at least 100 hours spread over about 10 weeks. 

We encourage all new beginners to attend training as this is the best way to learn and quickly brings you to a good standard.


Like the highway code that governs safety on the roads there are International Regulations for preventing collisions at sea. These regulations are consistent with the Racing Rules of Yacht racing and Inland Waterways rules. 

For sailing boats the first basic rule is that a boat on Port Tack (sail on right of boat) gives way to a boat on Starboard Tack (sail on left of boat). The second basic rule is that when boats are on the same tack the boat to windward shall keep clear of a boat to leeward. The third basic rule is that an overtaking boat shall keep well clear of the slower  boat they are overtaking. The fourth basic rule is that when boats are approaching a mark of the course at a radius of three boat lengths from the buoy the outer boats shall keep clear of boats inside them. There are also fundamental rules that we will act in a sportsmanlike manner (eg doing penalty turns when required ) and we will rescue those in danger.  The definition of keeping clear of another boat is generally interpreted as being at least half a boat length away from their bow or sides. 


You should only participate in a race if you believe that you and your boat can sail in the conditions without suffering breakage. If it is likely that you will capsize you must be able to right your boat and carry on unaided as the safety boats may be providing rescue to someone else. 

You must wear a well fitting buoyancy aid so that you can swim after or around your boat to bring it back upright. 

Having a mast-head float of about 3 litres of air will prevent most boats turning turtle and getting their mast stuck in the mud. This makes recovery much easier. 


Inexperienced sailors frequently come unstuck, damaging their own boat or other peoples, or getting stuck on rocks or reeds when launching or recovering their boat. Practice this when it is not busy so that you are prepared when there are dozens of boats around you. 

Painting your launching trolley a bright distinctive colour, so that you can ask someone to bring the yellow one with pink stripes, helps.

Inexperienced sailors can launch their boats with sails down, tie to the jetty and then put up sails before going out. You can take mainsail down before coming in too


a) Arrive at least one hour before the scheduled start of the race. Rig your boat and get changed, in either order. 

b) Check the type of race and start sequence. Ask in the Committee Room behind the bar or other competitors. It is in the handbook but difficult to understand. Most racing is mass handicap start using a red and yellow pennant as a class flag. This is put up 6 minutes before the start. At 3 minutes before the start a blue square flag with white square on it goes up. At the start both flags come down. The time that each boat finishes is recorded and computed to find out who came first. If it is a pursuit race each class is given a time to start after the slowest boats have started. In this type of race the first boat to finish has come first. We also sometimes have class racing for Flying Fifteens, Toppers and Gp14’s as well as handicap. These classes have their own Class flag and six minute count down before the next class starts.

c) Boats should not be the wrong side of the start line during the minute before the start. 

If you cross the line early you have to go back over the line without getting in anyone elses way. You should also keep clear of the start line until it is 3 minutes before your start, otherwise the boats starting will shout at you to go away. 

d) On the side of the large dark blue start boat there will be a large aluminium frame that holds red, green or black plastic squares with letters or numbers on them. This is the course to follow. Racing marks are the red and yellow barrels around the lake. They are numbered zero to 9 going clockwise around the lake you can see starting with Zero by the club jetty. Marks 10 to 15 go clockwise around the part of the lake you cannot see.

The course will show the racing marks in the sequence you must go round them. If red you go round anti-clockwise. If green go clockwise. At the end of the course you normally have to go through the start line to start another lap. The number of laps is given, but just carry on racing until you finish. 

Sometimes there will be a second row of course numbers and letters. This will normally be a course for the slower boats such as the Toppers and Mirrors, but it may also be the course for the main fleet if the top course is for boats with asymmetric spinnaker  so only has two marks.

e) To the left of the Start Boat will be the start line, between an outer small buoy with a flag and the mast on the start boat. There may be an inner distance buoy to stop boats hitting the start boat. The start line could be square to the wind but should go slightly upwind at the outer end. If it is slanted you should be able to start anywhere on the start line without being disadvantaged. 

f) For the start you need to approach the start line slowly, on starboard tack (right of way) so that you cross the line within a second of the start. This takes lots of practice.

g) Before the start look at where the wind is strongest on the first leg and try to stay in the strongest wind most of the time.

h) Find out before going afloat which class starts before you, if a class start. Get your watch ready and keep close enough to the start boat so that you can see the flags and hear the horns. 

i) Use a proper sailing watch with countdown and audible alarm. Set it at 6 minutes and start it when your class flag goes up. Check it when your 3 minute horn goes. Slowly approach the start line on Starboard tack and aim to be a couple of metres away with 2-3 seconds to go. 

With a couple of seconds to go pull in sails and accelerate to full speed to cross on time.  

j) A simple course will be a triangle sailed anti-clockwise. The course to the first buoy will be a beat upwind requiring you to sail with your board right down and sails right in tight at 45 degrees to the wind direction. At the first buoy you let out the mainsail and go around the buoy anti-clockwise heading for the second buoy and raise your board half way. At the second  buoy you will probably need to gybe so pull in sail slightybefore the gybe, turn and correct your course as the boom comes over, whilst keeping the boat flat. At the third buoy you need to turn towards the buoy to the right of the buoy and put board down  so that you pass very close to it without touching it. Then tighten sails and head up to start line again at 45 degrees to the wind. Other courses will have combinations of these course changes. 

k) In order to finish you have to cross the finish line from the direction of the last buoy, so this should be just as you have been sailing previous laps. You will get a bell or horn when you finish. 


Occasionally we have very long races where we sail right down to the far end of the lake and back. In almost all conditions the strongest wind is along the shore opposite the clubhouse, and the wind changes direction as you cross the lake, so it is best to stay on the far side, going up and back. 

Just out of sight of the club is Scarness Bay. The entrance to this bay has a long shallow bar, so avoid the Northern edge of this bay.

It helps to know that marks 12 and 13 are the furthest from the club, with No 12 being the left hand corner and 13 in Right hand corner. No 11 is by the Calvert trust boat house and No 15 by the floating weather station.


We do not normally sign on and off, but if it is likely that the Race Officer does not know your name or your crew you could tell them before the start or afterwards. You may however need to sign in on  a Thursday evening as many people change boats for this race. 


Every Thursday evening between May and the end of September we have a single race on a Thursday. On this evening  the club’s training boats may be borrowed as part of the annual boat hire or £5 per day. Racing is calculated on personal handicap so the results can be rather random. As such this is our least serious race of the week and it is very well attended. 

Club members volunteer to make an evening meal after sailing so this is a very social evening too. Remember to sign up for food before you go afloat.

Neil Garrison
March 2015