The start is an essential element in a regatta and it is essential to know the procedure at the tip of your fingers.
Before anything else, you will need to go ashore and look at the Sailing Instructions (SI). They contain crucial information such as:
The course diagram
The way in which repairs are to be carried out (1 or 2 laps)
The expected race time
Your series/class flag corresponding to your group
Once the SI are known, let's look at the starting procedure. It is divided into 5 steps:
1 - Opening of the starting line
Once the line is wet, that is to say that the sighting device and the committee are in place and that the line is thus delimited, the committee decides to throw the orange flag on the sighting device and on its boat.
The orange flag announces that the line is ready and "open", and that in the next 5 to 10 minutes (depending on what has been announced in the SI), the warning signal will be given.
Why doesn't the committee launch the warning directly? This lapse of time between the orange flag and the warning signal actually allows the racers to test the line and find (if there is one) a favorable edge.
Once the 5 minutes are over, the committee sends the warning signal.
2 - Warning signal (5′)
The warning signal is hoisted 5 minutes before the start with a sound blast. It thus indicates that which class will be concerned by the start.
A flag is hoisted and it is the class flag. It often contains the logo of the boat concerned. Sometimes, it can contain a letter or simply a color which indicates a group or a category of boat.
At the beginning of the procedure, the committee also indicates the chosen course as well as other information such as the right to pumping (see other useful flags).
3 - Preparatory signal (4′)
The throwing of the preparatory signal at the fourth minute identifies the rule that will be applied before the start. There are a total of 6 flags for 6 rules:
P: This is the most used flag. A penalty will be applied if a boat is over the line at the start. To repair the fault, the boat will simply have to go back under the line completely to be able to start afterwards. If the boat does not fix it, it will be disqualified for the race.
Black: This flag is usually thrown following one or more general recalls under P. If a boat is over the line within one minute, it will be directly disqualified, without possibility of repair. The disqualification is maintained even if a general recall is done.
I: If a part of the boat is over the line during the minute before the start, it must pass under the starting line again by passing through the ends. If the repair is not or not correctly done, the boat will be disqualified for the race.
Z: This is a rarer flag, but one that can be found and is important to know. As for the I, the boat that is above the line at the minute will be penalized. For the Z, it is a 20% penalty in points on the ranking of this race. Example: the boat finishes 50th out of 100, it will finally be 70th.
U : Finally, the U is equivalent to the Black with one exception. If the start is restarted, the boats that have been disqualified under U will be able to restart, contrary to Black.
4 - Display of the preparatory signal (1′)
At the minute before the start, the preparatory signal is lowered with a long sound signal. From this point on, the previously mentioned rules apply.
5 - The start (0′)
At the start, the class flag is lowered and a long sound signal is sent. All the boats may start the race. However, the committee's role does not end there.
Good luck for your next races! Don't hesitate to tell us if you liked the article in the comment area. You can also write your questions there if you have any.