Download the
entire article
as a PDF

Get Racing

2: Choices, choices

The first decision is what basic type of boat you’d like to start sailing — an easy singlehanded or twoman dinghy, maybe a catamaran, or perhaps you fancy a small keelboat? There’s a bewildering choice of individual types. For many people, the boats sailed at the club they choose to join will reduce the options to a manageable short list. Another defining factor is your own height and weight — some boats are relatively tolerant of a variety of crew sizes, but others are very much geared around a relatively specific size band.

Most clubs also offer handicap racing, normally using the RYA’s Portsmouth Yardstick Scheme, ( m) in which boats of different designs are assigned a ‘yardstick’ or handicap number that enables a ‘corrected time’ for each race to be calculated. Many clubs have both fast and slow handicap fleets, so that the boats in any individual race are not too disparate in terms of speed. Most races for sea-going yachts are handicapped using the somewhat more complex IRC rating rule (

The main advantage of sailing in a handicap fleet is that you have more freedom to choose the design of boat you want to sail. Against this, however, is the disadvantage that you won’t know your actual position in the race until after you’ve come ashore and the race officer has calculated the overall results. With class racing, however, you’re racing identical boats so you know your position all the time, and because everyone’s going a similar speed you have the added challenge of more boat-on-boat jostling for position, which adds to the excitement and creates a greater tactical challenge.

Previous page:1 Introduction to racing

It's a chance to escape from the stresses and worries of day-to-day life

Next page:3 Singlehanded dinghies

If sailing alone, you won't have to worry about arranging a crew

More articles on starting sailing or racing