Introduction to Racing

After mastering the basics of sailing your Optimist, why not join the fun and excitement of our national racing events? At our events there is a fleet for everyone, with a choice of Main Fleet, Racing Regatta Fleet or Coached Regatta Fleet. At the National Championships we also divide the Main Fleet into  Junior and Senior, with Main Fleet sailors with an Oppie age of 13 or above sailing in Senior Main. 


Which fleet is right for me?

All children start sailing at different ages and progress at different rates, so there are no age limits to our fleets  - if Racing Regatta is the best fit there is no pressure to move up until you are ready.

The Main Fleet is intended for experienced racers able to be reasonably self-sufficient for several hours afloat at a time. The fleet will generally be scheduled to spend longer on the water than other fleets, with up to 4 races per day and a target time for the winning boat of 45 minutes. Sailors should expect to be on the water for around 5 to 6 hours so will need to carry food and water with them. In addition, races may run in challenging conditions - the guidance for PROs includes a maximum average wind speed for racing of 25 knots. By entering the Main Fleet a sailor is accepting a challenge to test their skills not only against the best sailors at the event but also the conditions, which may be variable and physically demanding. The Main Fleet results are included in the IOCA Rolling Ranking.

The Racing Regatta Fleet is intended to provide a full, competitive, race experience for developing sailors proportionate to their experience and capabilities, without the physical demands of the Main Fleet. The Racing Regatta Fleet will sail in their own race area, with up to 6 races per day and a target time for the winning boat of 20 minutes. Depending on weather conditions, the Racing Regatta Fleet will usually aim to stay afloat for the duration of their racing, with a lunch break supported by the Safety Boat fleet.

To get the most out of the Racing Regatta Fleet a sailor should be confident with their boat control, even in quite windy conditions, and already have an understanding of racing. If they have completed their RYA training, then Level 4 is the appropriate level. If they haven’t progressed from the IOCA Coached Regatta Fleet, we would expect Racing Regatta sailors to have previously competed at regional Open events.

The Coached Regatta Fleet aims to provide  balance of fun, coaching and racing. It is intended for younger, less experienced sailors, generally in their first year of travelling to events. Sessions afloat will be shorter than other fleets and coach support will be provided. The sailors will return to shore for lunch. 

The IOCA coaches will provide a mixture of coaching activities and racing depending on the ability of the sailors and the conditions. A typical day would include coaching in the morning and racing in the afternoon. The racing will either be on their own course, or on the same course as the Racing Regatta fleet but on a separate start, for example sailing the inner loop on a trapezoid course.

This fleet would be suitable for someone who has got the basics, is capable both of completing a triangular course in a moderate breeze and of capsize recovery without assistance. This would be equivalent to RYA Level 3. They may have begun to race at their clubs or have competed in a local Open event.

Sailors will get plenty of help with improving boat handling techniques, as well as developing  their racing skills. For those who have just started racing, there will be plenty of support during races, and the goal is to make it a fun and positive experience for younger or less confident sailors.


Thinking about making the jump to Main Fleet?

Moving from Racing Regatta to Main fleet is in some ways a bit like moving up to secondary school. Be prepared to find yourself at the back of the fleet instead of the front. However, your sailing will rapidly improve! Even though it might seem quite overwhelming at first, it won't be long before you look back at the Racing Regatta Fleet as a long distant memory.

Also, don't forget your friends! Sailing can be fiercely competitive, but it's lots of fun too, and most of that fun comes from being with your friends. If you move up fleets at the same time as a few of your friends, or you know a few people already, you will enjoy it a lot more and it won't feel like such a big deal.


On the water support

Sailors will be supported on the water in all fleets and rescue boats are very happy to assist sailors on the water between races, so don't be worried about entering an event - there will be plenty of friendly faces to support your sailor. Rescue boat crews are always very happy to help unwrap a snack, and share a friendly word between races :)

Still not sure? Feel free to get in touch with to have a chat about your circumstances/options.


What's my Oppie age?

Your Oppie age is the age you will be on 31st December in that year. You can sail an Optimist until the end of the year in which you are Oppie age 15.

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