“Sailboat racing becomes a game of chance only when you are not prepared.”Buddy Melges
“The good sailors all know how to race very well, but the champions have won the regatta before the racing begins.”Paul Elvstrom
If you’re new to sailboat racing, regatta preparation can be intimidating. Compared to other sports competitions, sailing regattas involve more equipment prep, more gear, and more variables. Also, you’re partially on your own: coaches can help, but there’s no team bus in sailing.
For this post, we decided to compile a list of regatta preparation items. We geared the list to Opti sailors, but most of the points apply to all fleets and ages. Although many of these items involve common sense, we hope a complete list will help newer sailors and parents avoid a few missteps.
Our thanks to guest contributor Shari Mueller, who provided the initial cut. We added items based on our own experience and several other sources.
Regatta Preparation Fails
We ran across a fun story about regatta preparation gone wrong on The Final Beat website. This is worth reading – if only just for the quality of writing and the humor.
Share your regatta preparation stories with us. We’ll compile them and award SailZing swag for the better contributions. Send to email@example.com.
Regatta Preparation Checklist
Several weeks before the regatta
- See the Notice of Race (NOR). There is generally a penalty for registering late. The NOR can be found on the hosting organization or yacht club website.
- You will need to know what fleet you are registering for and your sail number. For new Opti sailors, if you are unsure which fleet to register in, talk to your coach. Green fleet is for beginners and Red/White/Blue is by age.
- Determine if parent meals are available at the regatta. You can often sign up for these in your registration.
- Read the NOR and Sailing Instructions (SIs) for important information:
- Course designations (make sure you understand the courses)
- Color and shape of course marks
- Protest procedures and time limits
- Check-in requirements
- Set a goal for the regatta. For more on goals, see our posts on Mental Skills for Sailing.
- Arrange for lodging if needed. Many regattas have hotel room blocks reserved, but they frequently get filled up early.
- Determine travel schedule and logistics:
- Caravan with other families? This is good insurance in case of breakdowns.
- Share a trailer?
- Arrive a day early to practice at the venue?
- Check the boat thoroughly and make any needed long lead time repairs. For more, see our post Prevent Breakdowns – Top Tips.
- Learn about the host club:
- Will spectator boats be available? This is normal for youth regattas, but if spectator boats will not be provided, you may want to evaluate options, such as on-shore viewing or a private boat.
- Adequate parking? Shuttle from remote parking?
- Food available for adults and non-sailing children?
- Learn about the body of water:
- Typical wind and wave conditions
- Shallow areas and other hazards
- Any “local knowledge” about wind patterns
The week of the regatta
- Check the weather frequently
- Clean the boat
- Get plenty of rest and good nutrition
- Continue to practice
- Get organized to minimize distractions at the event:
- Think about how you will consolidate your gear into a few bags
- Label items with your name
- Print the SIs and NOR
- For many Opti regattas you will need your sail number on all boat parts (rudder, center board, mast, boom, sprit)
A day or so before leaving
Pack up the boat
- Sails. At some regattas, only one sail can be used, but you may want an extra sail in case of damage.
- Foils – center board and rudder with retaining clip in protective bag
- Spars – mast, boom, and sprit in bags
- Mast lock
- Air bags
- Wind indicator
- Sponge, bailers
- Protest flag
- Extra sail ties, electrical tape, duct tape, extra wind indicator, tape measure for mast rake, screwdriver, wrench, extra fittings
- Boat top and bottom covers
Pack the gear
- Life Jacket – US Coast Guard approved and in the right size
- Whistle attached to life jacket for Optis
- Swimsuit or other quick dry clothing
- Long sleeve rasher – even on hot days helps to shield the sun
- Sunglasses – polarized helps see the wind better
- Waterproof watch – set for count down for the 5-minute start
- Water bottle and small dry bag with a few healthy, easy to eat snacks. Some kids like to use electrolyte powder
- Dry clothes for after sailing or if there is an evening social
- Sailing gloves 3/4 finger
- Light-weight sailing pants
If cooler weather or rain predicted:
- Spray gear – both top and bib bottoms
- Sailing shoes or boots – some lakes have sharp rocks or shells
- Dry suit (general rule is to wear if air + water temperature is 100 degrees or less)
- Dry suit socks
- Lobster sailing gloves – waterproof fur lined gloves
- Hydrophobe top and long sailing pants (or neoprene)
- Warm hat
- Superwarms – type of wetsuit with bibs and a long sleeve top. They are challenging to get on but some kids love them
- Warm socks for under dry suit
- Boot dryer – helpful for multi day regattas to dry boots and gloves overnight
- Large roller duffel bag. Keep everything in there – you never know what you will need.
- Waterproof bag
- Rain Gear
- Emergency essentials – Tylenol, lip balm, bandaids, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, etc.
- Cooler with beverages/extra water/snacks
- Marine VHF radio to listen to the RC (generally they will tell you the channel at the skipper’s meeting)
- Rule book and class rules or link to these documents (if coaches will not have a copy)
At the Regatta
- Arrive on time:
- Early is better to avoid the rush and get the best spot for rigging
- Being late is a source of tension and distraction
- A good rule of thumb is to be rigged and ready to sail 30 minutes prior to the first meeting of the day. This will give you time to check your boat one more time.
- Tune the rig for the weather conditions. See our post on How to Tie an Optimist Sail – Best Techniques.
- Check in at the registration area:
- Some higher-level regattas will require a safety checklist and some require all of your boat parts to be measured. This will be noted in the NOR.
- Sometimes changes to the SIs will be posted at the event, so be sure to watch for that.
- Shore or on-water check in:
- Some regattas require the sailors to check in/out when they launch and return to shore. This is important as they will receive a penalty if they do not do so.
- Bring a positive attitude and have fun!
- Don’t create needless tension with your sailor.
- Emphasize the positive aspects of competition.
- Be helpful to the other competitors and parents.
- Thank the race committee and all of the volunteers!