Racing at FGSC

Racing at FGSC



We have a wide and varied programme at Fishers Green, with races that will suit all types of sailors of all levels:
  • Wednesday evenings from April to August – Social racing with toasties to follow.
  • Saturdays – Mo’s training once a month. Informal racing in the afternoon.
  • Sundays – Club fleet and Menagerie racing.
  • Open Meetings – We are joined by visiting fleets for class-specific racing.
New members are encouraged to give racing a try. Saturdays and Wednesdays are ideal for beginners or those wanting to improve their skills.  Club boats can be hired and there are always opportunities to crew for experienced helms – just ask.
The information below will give you a flavour of what we offer and an idea of the racing process too.

Wednesday evening

We hold one race starting around 7pm from early April to the end of August. This popular series is where the club seems to come together with more contenders than most other racing events throughout the year. It is often held in less wind than we observe throughout the day, but having said that we usually encounter a variety of conditions in a season ranging from flat calms to windy enough to make it very exciting.
The Race Officer aims to start the 5-4-1-Go sequence around 7pm, but will usually delay a couple of minutes if he sees boats still on their way to the start line. At either end of the season though we are faced with the problem of reduced daylight as we get closer to the race end, so he can’t hold the start off for too long. The race is usually 45 minues long (for the leading boat), but the RO has the option of finishing boats on one less lap than the leaders (so that people are not faced with the daunting prospect of packing up in the dark!).
As this race is an open handicap we get the full variety of classes competing, but some classes present enough numbers to have good racing between themselves – most notably Solos, Merlin Rockets and Laser Radials.

Saturday Racing

This comes in a few different formats. Usually the first Saturday of every month is dedicated to training which usually takes place in the morning (11am to 1pm). After a short lunch break we usually run informal racing: the most popular format appears to consist of several short (single lap) races in short succession. The main point of these is to allow the participants to practice race starts and get used to the race format (courses, mark roundings and rules related to when boats meet on the course). Announcements related to Saturday racing are often posted on the club social page on Facebook and for more formal events (like the Rosebowl pursuit race) an email is sent to all members.

Sunday Racing

This has a fixed format and the dates are published in the club calendar. The racing is divided into 4 series (winter, spring, summer and autumn) and consists of 3 races on each Sunday (2 for the winter series). The published start time is 11am with the second race following after the first one has finished. The start sequence is Menagerie first, followed by the Solos 5 minutes after. The afternoon race is a single start race (all boats race together) and usually starts around 2pm (after lunch). The intended race duration is 45 minutes for the leading boat, but this will vary with the conditions on the day and depending on the relative speed of boats competing.
The club also holds various Championship races throughout the year, with awards being presented at the end-of-year Icicle Race.
  • Club Championship: Five events counting towards the overall championship
  • Individual events: Pursuit, Easter and Icicle Races.

Open Meetings

The club holds various Open Meetings throughout the year where we are joined by visiting fleets of specific classes to race at the lake.  Club members are welcome to join these races subject to class rules.  Fleets include:
  • Merlin Rockets
  • Solos
  • Lasers
  • Comets
  • Phantoms
  • London Windsurfing Association

Typical Race Process

Depending on the wind strength, it may take a little while to launch, sail through the lagoon between the shore and the large island and out into the main part of the lake. In light airs (and most importantly when the wind is from the south) you will have a lot of ground to cover before getting to the starting area: it makes sense to leave at least 15 minutes to do all this and allow a bit of time to do a couple of practice starts, sail up the beat and get the boat set up.
RaceOfficer.jpgAt the starting area, you will usually see the race boat (Bittern) at anchor with an orange post buoy to one side of it: the line between these two (specifically between a post on the boat with an orange square and the orange buoy) is the start line.
On the side of the boat there will be a board displaying the course: the numbers/letters show the order the marks have to be rounded in. Marks displayed in red must be rounded to port and green to starboard. If the letter “G” is displayed (in black) it means that you must pass through the start/finish line on each lap. Finally, the last number on the board (also in black) denotes the number of laps to be sailed: this is often over estimated and the race officer has the option to shorten the course (more on that later).
The race start procedure is the common “5-4-1-GO” one: the first “hoot” together with the showing of flag “M” (white X on a dark blue background) start the sequence and mark 5 minutes before the start of the race. At this stage you are still free to sail wherever you want (it makes no difference whether you are on the line, over it, behind it etc: use the time to determine which side of the beat you want to sail up and where on the line you would start if you had the freedom of choice). The next “hoot” followed by raising the “P” flag (white square in a dark blue background marks 4 minutes before the start. If you use a sailing watch, use this signal to synchronize the countdown. 3 minutes later you will hear another “hoot” coupled with the lowering of flag “P”: this marks 1 minute before the start. At this stage you need to be fairly close to the line and looking for space around other boats to determine where/how you are going to start. Finally, the next “hoot” with the lowering of the “M” flag marks the start of the race. If there are any boats over the line, you will hear a second “hoot” and see the “X” flag (individual recall) hoisted to show that the race officer has identified some boats which will need to sail below the line and start again. If the race officer could not get a clear view of all boats over the line at the start, you will hear two additional “hoots” and see the first substitute flag (yellow/blue triangle) displayed: if this is the case, the race has been stopped and will be restarted.
A note on the sound signals for the 5-4-1-GO starting sequence: these are triggered from an electronic timing device on the race boat: for this reason, the precise moment of the race start is taken to be when the 4th sound signal is heard from the horn rather than the moment the class flag is lowered. This is in our sailing instructions (for timing purposes, the sound signals govern the race start, not the flags).
A couple of points on sailing the course: touching a mark (including the race boat and the orange pillar buoy) requires a “penalty turn” to be taken by the offending boat: this consists of a tack and a gybe in the same direction (in either order) – also known as a 360. The islands are generally surrounded by shallow water: it is a good idea to leave as much as 1 boat length (15 feet) between your boat and the islands although boats with deeper foils may need a bit more. For the purposes of racing, islands count as “obstructions” (but not “continuous obstructions” – see the racing rules of sailing for these definitions) and you are within your rights to ask for space to avoid them. Similarly the south west corner of the lake is marked with a line of white buoys from the weir extending up to the north west: this is a conservation area and must not be entered (this does indeed count as a “continuous obstruction”).

The race is concluded once you have sailed the indicated number of laps or the next time you cross the finish line after the course has been shortened: this is indicated by two “hoots” from the race boat together with hoisting flag “S” (blue square on a white background). Sometimes the fleet may be spread over the whole course so that shortening the course moments after a boat has just crossed the line is possible: in such circumstances that boat will have to sail the lap it just started in order to finish correctly.