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NSYS Cruiser Racing - Every Friday night - Lwr Cork Harbour

posted 28 Jul 2016, 07:55 by Ronan Boyle

NSYS Cruiser Racing….Have a Go!!


1.      A chance to learn… (a lot!) Sailing a boat requires mastery of many skills, including leadership, navigation, ship handling, sail trim, meteorology.

2.      A chance to test yourself:  Sailing is the eternal “man vs nature” contest, up close and personal.

3.      Lively nautical terminology. You learn to shout a lot of nautical phrases such as: Starboard! Water! Bear Away! Luff Up! Lee Ho! Jibe! Beating to windward etc. A surprising number of common sayings are nautical in origin: Three sheets to the wind, know the ropes, by and large, close quarters, shake a leg, loose cannon, in the offing, Chock a block etc.. They all actually mean something specific to sailing.

4.      A tangible connection to history:  Man has used sailing vessels for transportation, exploration, and reward; to be first to reach an inward bound vessel, to be first to the fishing grounds, or to flee his creditors since time immemorial!

5.      Physical, and mental fitness:  Sailing is physically demanding, and you’ll enjoy it more and be much safer if you’re in shape.

Cruising Yachts and Handicaps explained:

Cruising Yachts are split into different classes for racing purposes.

Cruisers are boats that have cabins and are capable of sailing out of sight of land and are therefore equipped for all weather conditions. Significantly there are very few cruisers that are identical and so the relative performance of each boat is different. It is therefore necessary to use a handicapping system to calculate the winner of a race. A larger more powerful boat, usually the first boat to cross the finish line, will have to ‘give time’ to a smaller less powerful boat.

The time they have to give is calculated using one of the handicapping systems IRC or ECHO, and it is based on the boat’s elapsed time multiplied by some factor arrived at when all the boat’s performance producing parameters are taken into account. Quite often a particular type or size of boat will be better suited to a particular set of sailing conditions. Cruisers usually have at least five crew on board for racing, some of the bigger boats may have as many as 14, there is no limit to crew numbers except the decision of the skipper.


 IRC handicap is measurement based and is essentially the handicap of a boat while ECHO is performance based combining the measurement of the boat in addition to the performance of the crew. An IRC handicap will NOT change unless significant structural alterations are carried out on the boat while Echo handicaps are adjusted race by race (like golfing handicaps)

The Cruiser fleet is large and is divided into four classes - Cruisers 1, 2, 3 & 4 - roughly along size and all-round performance lines.

A subset of the Cruiser Class is the White Sails Class, which, as it name suggests, is a class for cruisers that race without using spinnakers (specialised downwind sails). Less crew are required to sail a boat that doesn’t use a spinnaker and many crews enjoy it as it requires less people on board, less work and can help introduce new people to sailing without overloading them with complicated boat handling manouveres.

Race Starts explained:

Starts: Get Clear Air and Have Speed at the Start.

In general, a course is called out over the radio some 5 minutes before the commencement of the start procedure of a sailing race. The start sequence is a 5 minute gun (nowadays a sound signal such as a hooter), 4 minute gun, 1 minute gun and go. Yacht races are normally started to windward, and as a sailing boat can only sail approximately 30 degrees into the wind, one must decide what tack (which side of the boat that the wind will be on) to be on at a start. Boats on a starboard tack (wind on the right hand side) have right of way over boats on a port tack (wind on the left hand side), while boats to windward must give way to boats to leeward.

With about two minutes to go, you need to know where you want to be, how fast you're going, and most importantly, how not to run into anything…there are no brakes! There are three questions you should answer during the beginning of the starting sequence: on which side of the line should you start, on what tack should you be at the starting gun, and to which side of the course should you go?

If you have full speed when you reach the line, you will sail away from most of the fleet, even if you're late to the line! Most racers concentrate on being in the right place at the start, but not on their speed. They will be on the line but not moving, so you can sail right past them.

Ronan Boyle,
28 Jul 2016, 07:55