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Here are our top ten tips to help prepare you for your first-ever championship regatta!

1. Check your boat + have spares Give your boat a good MOT, not sure what to check? Get in touch with SMAP coaches, and they can give you specific advice on what to look out for with your Class. It’s always important to have spares with you whilst out on the water in case something breaks, a good carabiner clip or shackle and a 1m length of 3mm rope will get you around the racecourse after most breakages.

2. Check your sailing kit

Championship races mean you’re usually on the water for 4-6+ hours at a time, which mean you could have anything from heatwave to heavy rain in that duration.

  • Pack some layers like a spray-top, and go out wearing more than you think. Remember, it’s easier to take layers off than add them!

  • Don’t get caught out by the sheltered conditions on shore

  • Make sure your buoyancy aid fits well and is the right specification for you

  • Write your name on everything

  • Towel robes are great in a busy changing room

  • Have something to put your wet kit in at the end of the day

  • Hat – whether it’s a bobble hat to keep you snug or a cap to keep the sun off

  • Sunnies & waterproof suncream – Water reflects sunlight, so you’re even more vulnerable to sun exposure when you’re on the wet stuff

  • Drybags are great for keeping your spare bits dry when you’re racing

  • You need a watch! You can pick up decent waterproof watches for $50 at SMAP Shop, all you need is a countdown timer.

3. Fuel Correctly

4-6+ hours on the water means you’re going to be getting hangry and thirsty! There’s loads of advice out there on what to eat whilst exercising, but here’s a few sailing-specific tips.

  • Breakfast should be hearty and have lots of slow-burn carbs to keep you fuelled for the day

  • Try, if you can, to eat something else before you get out on the water

  • Get a good little drybag – there’s nothing more upsetting than soggy snacks after a tiring race

  • Eat food you like – there’s no point having the ‘perfect’ nutritionally balanced snack if you’re not going to eat it

  • Try and bring food you can predominantly eat one-handed as if you’re still fairly new to sailing, you’ll want to keep one hand on the tiller

  • Try and eat something substantial (sandwiches, wraps, pasta) within 30 minutes of getting ashore. This will help aid recovery

  • The general rule of thumb is on a hot sunny day, you need to be drinking one water bottle per race, so if you have three races that day, it’s three drinks bottles

  • Try not to drink just water! Exercising for a prolonged period can reduce your carb, sugar and salt stores. Sports drinks, sport hydration tablets (that you add water to) or a classic mix of half fresh orange, and half water with a pinch of salt are great for stocking your stores back up

4. Read the Sailing Instructions & Notice of Race

Although NOR’s and SI’s aren’t the most exciting of reads, they are packed full of information that will make you super savvy around the racecourse. What’s the start sequence? Are you racing in flights? How many races will there be each day? What is the course? What colour are the marks?

Print them off or save a tree and get them on your tablet, then highlight all the important info. You’ll thank yourself during the regatta we promise you! A particular item you should pay attention to is the race course and number of laps. This often comes in several options, each given a code that is then displayed on the committee boat. Make sure you have a note or picture to help when you remember when you get on the water

5. The Official Notice Board & Briefings

The Official Notice Board is the informational hub of the whole event, results, protests, changes to the sailing instructions and so much more will be posted on there! Make sure you find it on your first day.

Briefings are a great way to get the most from regattas. Most classes, especially junior classes, do really thorough and fun briefings for their sailors. Don’t be afraid of asking questions, there will be a lot of people in the room in the exact same position as you. They’re also a great way to meet people and make new friends!

6. Work out your logistics

There’s a lot of things to think about when it comes to logistics. Some sailors love arriving super early, some love leaving it down to the wire! Always do what works for you and has you best prepared for a big day on the water.

Here’s a few things to think about;

  • When does the event start?

  • Do you need to travel up the night before?

  • Is registration and measurement the day before?

  • How far is your accommodation from the club?

  • Where are you parking? Where are you leaving your trailer?

  • How long does it take you to rig your boat?

  • Are you changing before or when you’re at the club?

  • Do you want to be first off the beach or one of the last?

  • Where are you going to buy your food from?

7. Get to know the venue

You could be flying internationally or driving halfway across the country to a venue you’ve never been to before, but here’s some top tips to give you a feel of where you’re going before you get there.

  • Google Maps Satellite View – What’s the club grounds layout like? How far is the launching from the club? Where’s the carpark? What’s the sailing area like? Are there any features that could influence your racecourse?

  • Sailing Club Website – Check out their facilities and have a scroll through their photo albums to get a feel for the kind of conditions you could get during the week. Some clubs even have local tips and hints for their sailing area.

  • Charts – If you’re able to get your hands on a chart check out your sailing area and any key features that could give you a strategic advantage.

  • Speak to friends – Try and find a friend that’s been to the venue before and see if they’ve got any recommendations.

8. Check the weather forecast & tide times

There’s so many places to check the weather and tide online for free, here’s some of our favorites below – As we know the weather man can never get it right so use 2-4 forecasts and summarise your own findings! Why is it important to know what is in the forecast for the day ahead? The main question is whether to go afloat or not. Just because everyone is launching doesn’t mean you need to if the wind is due to build all day. At a more sophisticated level it can tell you whether to go left or right up the beat!

9. Brush up on some rules

The Rules of Racing are not as intimidating as you may think, and contrary to popular belief they are designed to keep boats apart not bring you to a 1-on-1 duel! When you work out the handful of pages you need to understand from the rule book as a fleet racing dinghy sailor, you suddenly feel more empowered to learn them.

Knowing the rules will give you confidence around the racecourse and ensure that you’re a savvy sailor. So sail fast and stay out of trouble!

10. Set a goal, smile & have fun!

Not many sailors go into their first event with their eyes on the top of the podium, but you should definitely set a goal! Check out this blog about SMART Goal setting. Try and make your goal(s) not focused around specific positions or results but more on your boat handling/strategy/tactics. You will have a lifetime of fun ahead of you in our incredible sport, see each regatta as a way to improve!

Be honest with your parents/loved one/supporters, are you nervous, excited, hangry, mad at your result? They’re not telepathic, and they will be able to support you so much better if you just say how you’re feeling.

We’d be lying if we said that turning up to your first sailing event wasn’t a little daunting but there’s so many other sailors (and families) in the same position. Smile at everyone, talk to everyone, ask questions and you’ll quickly find yourself with an awesome bunch of friends for life. Go to socials, AGMs, and briefings, and see if your supporters could volunteer to help at the event – you won’t regret it we promise.

Enjoy yourself and #sailitliveitloveit.

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