Frostbite Racing 101


Stay Safe When racing you are responsible for your own safety, and that of your crew and boat. Know your own limits. Do not sail in conditions stronger than you can handle. If you are not comfortable with the conditions then don't be afraid to drop out. A busy race in cold weather is not the time to push your limits.
If you are not racing you can always help out with the rescue boats, they will really appreciate any assistance especially on windy days.
If you do sail and conditions deterioriate and you are overpowered, then try to reduce you sail area...take a reef or if necessry furl your jib. If you are not in control of the boat or capsizing repeatedly then go home. If you are cold or if your crew is cold then go home.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately.


Be On Time If you put your name down to race it is vital that you turn up. If you cannot race contact the Captain(on weekend) or Organizer (during week before) as soon as possible. It is vital to be in the Coal Harbour at the agreed time. If you are late please text the captain and let them know when you expect to arrive. Sometimes it unavaoidable but one person turning up late causes problems for everybody.
Yes, your plans may go awry but there is no excuse for not keeping others informed.

Launch And Recovery

The boat yard and slip can be very busy when there is a race.
Take care moving boats that you don't hit people or other boats with booms or rudders.
Be considerate of other on slip...Try to launch/recover quickly and not block the slip.
If moving a boat with sails rigged try to keep head to wind and be prepared to hold the windward trapeeze lines.
Always keep jib furled if possible.
Stay out a little longer if there are too many boats at the waters edge.
Have a plan for launch and return and make it clear to crew.
When landing raise centerboard and rudder in good time and drop sails immediately once ashore.
Control your speed especially when landing with an onshore breeze....think first, have a plan.
Help others.

PY Class Start Sequence

There is first a warning signal indicates that the start sequence will begin in one minute. As the race starts the following flags are displayed on the committee boat and accompanied by sound signals.
On a windy day you may not hear the sounds so it is important to know the flags.

3 Minutes Z Flag
2 Minutes Z Flag P Flag
1 Minute Z Flag
Start Laser Flag


In short each class has a flag.

PY (Portsmouth Yardstick)Z Flag
LaserLaser Flag
RSR Flag
FireballF Flag

For each class the sequence is    3 min: Class Flag
   2 min: Class Flag + P
   1 min: P is lowered
   Start: Class flag is lowered

The P flag is a blue rectangle aka "Blue Peter" which traditionally means a ship is about to sail. The PY class flag is "Z" and is the only one you need to recognize. Each flag signal will be accompanied with a sound.

Timing Your Start

Watch If you don't have a watch, buy a cheap waterproof watch. You'll get one in Argos for a tenner.
What you should do is set up your watch with a countdown timer set to 3 min.
At prepatory warning get ready to start your timer.
At 3 minute warning start timer so you are counting down to start.
At 1 minute warning get to where you want to be to make your run for line.
At start hit the line at full speed on STARBOARD tack.

Where you start is a series of trade offs. Approaching on a beam reach means that you have most speed, but the downside is that you have to give way to leeward boats on same tack. If one end of line is closer to the wind then this will be best place to start, but the downside is that everybody else will be trying to get to that same spot and you may run into lots of traffic and dirty air. If you lose 5 seconds crossing at the start it is unlikely to be the difference between winning and losing so just aim to get away safely.
note: You must stay downwind of the starting line once the 1 minute warning is sounded.
If you find youself over the line early you must sail around the end of the line(either Pin or Committee boat) and start again. (Details on Rule 30)

If you aim for the center of the line is usually the safest.
The start area will be busy. The helm will need to concentrate on other boats so the crew should be watching what's happening on the committee boat and doing the countdown.
Watch what other boats in your class are doing. (at least ones that look like they know what they are doing)
Avoid getting stuck head to wind near the start (or rounding marks) at all costs. You will have no rights and you won't make much progress.
Communication is to each other!
Crew should talking to helm constantly...tell them what can the see, other boats, marks, gusts of wind approaching, start signals
It's equally important for the helm to tell the crew exactly what they are doing in good time


The format of course can change. Please review the racing instructions. Having said that the format is nearly always as follows....Trapezodial Port Course.
Committee Boat
A Red flag on committee boat indicates a port course i.e. Pass all marks to Port i.e. Anti-Clockwise
A Green flag on committee boat indicates a starboard course i.e. Pass all marks to Starboard i.e. Clockwise (never used)
A board on committee boat displays number of laps e.g. 5 in picture above.
If no course flag is shown then the dafault Trapezodial course will be in use.
Alternatively a black triangle indicates a 3 lap olympic course (triangle-sausage-triangle). (never used in practice)
A numeral 7 flag indicates a triangular course. (never used in practice)
Windward/Leeward Flag
A numeral 6 flag indicates a windward leeward course. (very rarely used)

Windward/Leeward Flag
The Start line will be between committee boat and the pin (usually red/white stripy mark). The trapezoid will be 4 large orange marks. Having (almost) completed the required number of laps you need to again cross the start/finish line (This bit of the windward leg you didn't do on first lap). When you cross the finish line the committee boat will give you a beep.
As you sail down to the leeward mark for the last time, figure out where the finish is and plan how you will sail there. Racing Marks
If you are a long way behind the leaders then your race may be ended a lap early and you will get an adjusted time. The committee boat will display an "S" flag and usually tell you to go home if you are in earshot
Sometimes the number of laps is reduced and the S flag displayed. S Flag
If a mark is moved, a "C" flag will displayed on a boat close to the previous mark, and a board will be displayed with the compass bearing of the next mark. It's not much use if you dont have a compass but you can always ask the boat crew where the new position is.
C Flag

Cancellation Flag Sometimes racing may be cancelled. The committee boat will display a "N" flag(Blue/White chequered Flag) and give three sound signals.

Here are some fireballs rounding the Gybe mark but they just can't match the speed of ITA.
Gybe Mark

Right Of Way

Aim to approach the starting line on Starboard tack. If you approach on Port you will have to give way to every starboard tacker coming towards you. Aim to reach the line at start but allow yourself leeway to sail across the line if you get there to early. Be aware that boats downwind of you on same tack have right of way and can luff you up. There is no "water" at starting marks.

Starting Line
A - is in danger of sailing past line before race starts.
B - In OK position except you have to give way to boat C (Windward/Leeward)
D - In terrible position as you have to give way to boat E (Windward/Leeward) also there is no "water" at the start so boat E will have to circle round to avoid committee boat.
F - In poor position on Port tack. Has to give way to all starboard tackers.
G - In terrible position on Port tack. Has to give way to all starboard tackers and boat F(Windward/Leeward).

Rules Of Road

Keep Watch: You must keep watch at all times. This includes the crew. Talk to the helm, don't assume they can see boats that you can see. Watch for blind spots behind the sails. Look over your shoulder before you tack/gybe.

Avoid Collisions: If you hit somebody it is 100% your fault regardless of right of way. You must avoid other can protest them if you wish. At close quarters, shout to the other helms. Don't assume they can see you. Boats will typically shout...
 Starboard! - I'm on Starboard, your on Port , Get out of my way
 Water! (Please) - I have an overlap on you, give me room to round the mark.
 (Luff) Up! - I'm to leeward of you, luff up and get out of my way

Shout to other boat
If they don't respond shout louder
If they don't respond take evasive action

When giving way you have to make an early and decisive action. i.e. Don't leave it till last minute and make sure to alter course in a fashion that it will be clear to the other boat that you are taking action to avoid them.
You cannot sail into another boats water so that that they do not have time to avoid you. e.g. If you are on port tack with another port tacker off your port quarter you cannot tack directly in front of them and then shout Starboard....there has to be enough room for you to complete your manoeuvre and for them to subsequently avoid you.
If you need to give way but cannot because there is a third boat blocking you, shout to both boats so that they are aware of what's happening.

Starboard/Port: Port Tack gives way to Starboard Tack
Windward/Leeward: Windward boats give way to Leeward boats on same tack
Overtaking: Overtaking boats keep clear.
Mark Room: When overlapped in the "Zone" you must give other boats room to round the mark.

Starboard: You are on Starboard tack when the wind is coming over your starboard side. Make sure you are aware of what tack you are on at all times. If you are unsure, get a marker and write "Starboard" on the starboard side of the boom and "Port" on the port side of the boom, so if you not sure what tack you are on, you can look up and it will be written in front of you. If you are sailing the boat normally, you will have right of way when you're sitting on right side of boat and you have main sheet in your right hand. Of course if you prefer to cower in the centre of the boat with the mainsheet in the cleats then ignore the foregoing.

Right Of Way

A Gives Way To B (Port / Starboard)
A Gives Way To C (Windward / Leeward)
A Gives Way To D (Port / Starboard)

B Gives way to D (Windward / Leeward)

C Gives Way To B (Port / Starboard)
C Gives Way To D (Port / Starboard)

Often when approaching the Leeward Mark (on port tack) a boat ahead that has already rounded may tack early(onto starboard) and sail towards must give way.
Also if you go right on a run you will then gybe and approach the leeward mark on will have to give ways to any boats approaching on starboard.

Windward/Leeward: Note: 'Proper Course' is the course you would normally sail to get where you are going in the fastest time. It is not necessarily a direct line. (e.g. on a run your proper course might be to broadreach-gybe-broadreach)

If you approach to overtake another boat on their leeward side, the onus is on you to keep clear and on them to maintain their proper course.
Once you establish an overlap the windward/leeward rule switches on and the other boat must now keep clear of you, but you must not sail above your proper course.
If you try to overtake a boat on the windward side you have no rights and they may push you up all the way to head to wind.

Before the start there is no proper course so other boats can push you up head to wind. After the gun they must not sail above their proper course.
If you are to windward of a boat that can point higher than you then its still your problem to keep clear so even though you are close-hauled you may still have to go up and keep clear.

Mark Room (aka Water)

There is an imaginary circle three boat lengths around each mark. If a boat has an overlap on you when entering this circle (Their Bow ahead of your Transom) then you have to allow them room to round the mark (including gybing) e.g. Boat A has to now take a wide turn around mark to allow B room to round.

Water At Mark

if you overlap a boat having already entering the zone you have no rights and must keep clear.
This does not apply at the Windward mark. You can't approach the windward mark on port tack and start shouting for "Water" to the Starboard tackers.

Penalties: Other boats may protest you but in frostbites they will tend not to unless you are competing at business end of fleet. Having said that you should penalise yourself if you do infringe the rules.
If you hit a mark you should do a 360 turn. If you impede another boat you should do a 720.
A turn must include a gybe and a tack. You must do your turn as soon as possible but you must find clear water and not impede any other boats.
If you cross the starting line early, you should return and start again but do not impede any other boats in doing so.


If you are involved in an incident...
Stay calm.
Try to establish if there is any damage to either boat.
Note the sail number of the other boat.
Retire from the race if your boat is damaged.
Report all incidents to the captain of the day when ashore.
If possible check with other boat when ashore and make sure they are OK.
If there has been damage, try to establish the facts of what occurred and make sure the captain of the day is involved.
Remember KEEP WATCH and the chances of being involved in any incident will be very much less.

This is a very brief overview of some rules. You should be familiar with and understand the "Rules of the Road" (IRPCS - 'International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea' or 'COLREGS') and the "Rules of Racing"

If you plan to sail during winter you must be appropriately dressed. Please review the Winter Dinghy Sailing Guide.