Everything you need to know about High School Sailing Regattas
There is a lot to know and learn in regards to High School Sailing Regattas, but more than anything know they are dynamic, a thrill to watch and always fun!
Ok, this part gets a bit confusing - but no one said sailing was a simple sport!
When trying to understand how a typical High School Regatta works always keep in mind the goals our sport are trying to achieve:
- #1 Maximum participation, which means as many sailors getting sailing time as possible
- #2 Maximize the number of races to achieve maximum participation
- #3 Fair and Affordable play! Meaning the boats used are made as equal as possible, and teams spend as little as possible to make that happen
So a typical regatta will have a fleet of anywhere from 10 to 30+ boats, all the boats must be the same design for "one design racing". It would be like going to a NASCAR race and every competitor needs the exact same type of car down to the AC unit. There are 2 types of boats that are the most popular nationally for Scholastic racing based off of their durability, enduring design, size, simpleness to rig, and other factors. These are the Flying Junior (FJ) and the 420.
Both have 2 sails and are raced with 2 people. While extremely similar boats, they can't be raced against each other. Teams have one or the other type of boat, and if they don't have the right type for a regatta they charter.
NWISA favors Flying Juniors.
Sailors compete in teams of four, so two sailors from a team (a crew and skipper) will go out and sail two 15-20 minute races. Then they will return to shore and their teammates, another skipper and crew will sail two more races. This process repeats the whole regatta and the scores from each pair of two are combined to produce a total score. This is called an "A fleet, B fleet" rotational format. Lowest score in sailing wins.
So a large team can have multiple teams of fours sailors, like Lincoln High School in the score-sheet pictured above. They have three teams, each is composed of fours sailors. So, yes, that means teammates from the same school can, and do compete against each other. Coaches create A and B fleet teams based on skill, experience, attitude, and other factors. In this regatta the coach put their four top sailors together to create a strong A fleet and B fleet balance - winning the regatta with 23 points.
High School regattas are 1 to 2 days, and sailors will sail all day Saturday, wind permitting, and till the afternoon on Sunday.
Typical Regatta Schedule:
- 7am meet at the OYC to rendevous*
- 8:30am arrive at the venue
- 9am check in
- 10am races start
- Lunch - Sailors just eat when they have** breaks
- Sunset - races end
- 8am arrive
- 9am races start
- 3 or 4pm races end
- 4pm pack up and head home
*We always meet at the OYC the morning of a regatta (yes, sometimes it's very early!) to do a head count, collect fees, forms, and make sure no one is without a ride or slept in.
**Sometimes meals are provided, sometimes not so sailors should always bring snacks/food.
How to be Prepared
Always pack for the worst possible weather the regatta could have, that means: check the weather forecast, know the time of year you're sailing, the type of boats, the venue, etc. It never hurts to be over-prepared.
Cold weather check list:
- Snacks and water bottle!
- Warm hat - cannot emphasize this one enough.
- Sunglasses - cannot emphasize the difference having these makes.
- board shorts
- sailing gloves (atlas gardening gloves work great!)
- Underarmour/long underwear
- fleece pull over
- rain jacket/spray top
- fleece/synthetic leggings
- rain pants/bibs
- wool socks
- old sneakers/sailing booties
- wet suit or dry suit
- EXTRA LAYERS
Parents/Spectators dress appropriately for the weather
- Food! Water! Coffee??
- Rain shells,
- camping chairs, etc.
Since we travel so much to regatta's and pay fees for all of them, plus the price of gas, food, etc. It can get pricey. While some families can absorb this, others cannot, and the very act of competing and pursuing one's passion can be the very reason for some sailors to stop competing or not doing so as regularly as they could. The NWISA District, and others, including College Sailing Teams using a "billeting" model to reduce costs.
Whenever a team, or program hosts a regatta, they take it upon themselves to also open their homes and host teams who have traveled to stay with them free of charge, and avoid paying hotel fees.
Not only does this make traveling to regatta's less cost-prohibitive, it fosters team bonding and socializing time, and a great way for sailors to get to know their competitors. It's also a unique travel experience which is a structured time and place to mature and gain self confidence.
Billeting Check List
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping pad / cot / air mattress!
- Ear plugs (makes a big difference!!)
- Eye mask
- Extra clothes
- Card games / Board Games
Why are there so many regattas?!
Whatever you want to call them: races, scrimmages, meets, games etc. Regattas are competitions - and sailors go to a lot of them; probably more than you're used to seeing in other sports. Why?
Because sailing is so variable, you could have sun and light breeze one day, and wind and rain the next. Imagine if every soccer practice the field changed, sometimes it had obstacles like holes and trees on it, other times one side of the field was higher than the other, or part of the field had gravel and the other dirt. That's what it's like for sailors every time they compete, so they need to practice and compete a lot to get good, to get used to changing variables, new ones, to learn how to adjust and literally change course to do better.
Not only that, but regattas are longer than a typical practice, meaning there are simply better odds that at some point there will be good conditions: like wind!
So, it's not unusual for High School and College Sailors to have regattas almost every weekend, year round. The short and the quick of it, is: if you want to do well, sailing is a 100% commitment sport - and you get everything you put it into back, and more!