Start Racing with the LWA
We were all beginners once, so we’d like to give you as much help as possible in getting started. This section details just about everything you will ever need to know about taking part in racing with the London Region.
You don’t need to know it all by heart, you don’t even need to read it before you come to an event - but obviously it will help as there are a few safety rules you must observe and they are explained here.
If you feel you’d rather not jump in with both feet, come along to one of our events and just watch what happens, chat to the competitors who are all very friendly and ask as many questions as you like.
A BOARD WITH A DAGGERBOARD - AND THIRD PARTY INSURANCE:
All you need to race is a board with a daggerboard and a sail, preferably with an official number on it, but if you haven't got one we can sell you a couple of numbers.
NUMBERS ARE ESSENTIAL AS IS 3rd PARTY INSURANCE - which is automatic if you are a member of the RYA or the UKWA - the UK Windsurfing Association - which we recommend you to join because you can then take part in the programme of UKWA National events when you feel ready for it.
You must ALWAYS bring a buoyancy aid as sometimes venues will insist on this. ALL sailors under 18 MUST wear buoyancy at ALL times.
The information above is just about sufficient for you to get on the water and start to race – however we strongly suggest that you glance through the following information and if you have any questions or queries either email us at: or phone 01895 846707
CLASSES RACED AT LWA EVENTS:
Raceboard 9.5: - Longboards with daggerboard inc RS:X (and other hybrids) and max 9.5 sail size for men (over 17).
Raceboard 8.5: - Longboards with daggerboard inc RS:X (and other hybrids) and max 8.5 sail size for ladies and youths (over 17 and under 20).
Raceboard 7.8: - as above but with max sail size 7.8. Previous to June 2011 the limit was 7.5, but it has been raised to permit Techno sailors to use their 7.8 Techno sails on a raceboard.
Unlimited: Any board, long or short (except Div 2), with any sail size. You can change board and/or rig between races. A few Unlimited sailors use a Raceboard in light winds with up to 10.5 m sail and a Formula board when it blows.
However as the International Raceboard Rules now specify 8.5 for ladies and 9.5 for men and there is no official Unlimited class any more, virtually all the sailors in LWA events now conform to these sail sizes.
Formula Windsurfing:- FW boards and any sail size.
Whilst we are very happy to welcome Formula sailors to our events, they should be aware that as all LWA events take place inland the wind is
rarely suitable for Formula boards as it is not as consistent as on the sea, although when there is sufficient wind Formula boards usually score highly. One or two of our venues, Fisher’s Green for example, are NOT recommended for Formula boards but usually provide very tactical longboard racing because of the trees and low hills surrounding the lake.
We are very happy to welcome young sailors to our racing and if necessary we will set up a separate start for them and a special Briefing.
Techno 6.8: Under 15
Techno 7.8: Under 17
Techno 7.8: Open
3.5 Open - Any board with max sail size 3.5
4.5 Open - Any board with max sail size 4.5
5.8. Open - Any board with max sail size 5.8
5.8 Techno 298 - with max sail size 5.8
Other boards may be used at the discretion of the LWA Committee but NOT for competitive advantage - please check with us first!
In the Raceboard classes the most commonly used boards are the F2 380 Race, Mistral Equipe II and Starboard Phantom which was introduced a couple of years ago and is now in its third version - with a low volume back-end and wings! The Fanatic Cat and Mega Cat and Mistral Pan Am are still very competitive and make an occasional appearance. They are all around the 3m80 mark in length and have a large carbon fibre daggerboard, a sliding mast track and loads of footstraps. Many of these boards are quite old, more than 10 years or so, but they have been lovingly repaired by their owners. These are getting scarce now but they can sometimes be picked up on Ebay or at windsurfing car boot sales (or even on the LWA Sales & Wants pages) for a couple of hundred quid! You should be able to get started in the raceboard fleet with reasonable secondhand equipment for change out of £500. Even an old F2 Lightning Race or an original Mistral Equipe could still be competitive in stronger winds but they lack the back-end volume to compete in lighter wind conditions.
Sails and Rigs:
Most people use a 9.5 sail, which is the International regulation limit for Men (Ladies & Youths are limited to 8.5). The most popular sail types are the Demon RG5 9.5 and the Tushingham XR:Race 9.4 although other types are used including Tushingham Lightnings and RS:X sails. In the average sailor’s hands the Demon seems to have an edge up to about 8 knots then as soon as the board starts to rail the Lightning gets back on even terms and as the wind increases remains more manageable than the Demon as it has a higher top end. The Lightnings can be picked up secondhand in the region of £200, the Demons are however more expensive in view of their higher initial cost, but they are very durable. They do however need a very long mast whereas with a Lightning you can use a 520 or even a 490 with an extension.
The Tushingham XR:Race, developed specifically for the Raceboard Class in time for the 2009 season, was designed to have a better performance than the Lightning at the bottom end of the wind spectrum to enable it to compete with the Demons and XR:Race sails are now widely used and are continually being developed. For higher wind than force 4-5, you would be well advised to have a change-down sail, something between 7.5 and 8.5 or so.
The Demons use a shorter boom than the Tushinghams, but whichever sail you use you will find that an adjustable outhaul system and an adjustable uphaul system are very well worth fitting. For example if as you are waiting for a race to start the wind changes strength, you do not need to go ashore to adjust the downhaul or outhaul. As you become more experienced you will find yourself able to make adjustments whilst actually racing. Most people put their own adjustable systems together using rope, pulleys and boom and downhaul cleats. Have a look round at an event and talk to other sailors, they are usually very happy to give advice.
Although carbon booms are very stiff they are expensive and there are now some excellent alloy booms available more cheaply which will fit a 9.5 and which have multiple pulleys already fitted for use with adjustable outhaul systems.
You will also need harness lines, preferably ones which are easy to adjust when you are actually sailing, both for length and for position on the boom. Again, many people make up their own.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU ON THE WATER:
Wetsuit & footwear:
Winter or summer wetsuit, or neoprene shorts and top, or just shorts and rash vest depending on conditions. You will almost certainly need neoprene shoes or boots as bare feet can easily be cut at inland venues which are less foot-friendly that sandy shores.
You will need a “Bum Harness” or “Nappy Harness” for sailing a raceboard. A waist harness can be used but in lighter winds it is not a easy to apply “mastfoot pressure” with a Waist Harness as a Bum Harness and the speed difference is apparent. You will of course need Harness Lines on your boom, preferably adjustable for length as well as position along the boom.
As per RYA recommendations, all sailors of 17 and under must wear buoyancy at all times. However ALL sailors of whatever age should bring a buoyancy aid to all LWA event as it is within the power of a Race Officer to require all sailors to wear buoyancy if he consider conditions warrant it.
Most people will wear a waterproof digital watch of some kind which they set when the Five Minute Start Sequence begins so that they know exactly when they can cross the line. A watch is usually worn on the right wrist or arm on the assumption that most of the time the fleet will cross the line on Starboard Tack (ie with the right hand closest to the mast). This means that in those last few seconds you will not have to look back from the Start Line to seen the watch on you left wrist, thus taking your eyes away from looking forwards across the line.
Some people wear a “Camelbak” type container for water or energy drink carried on their backs. These are also useful for the odd choc or energy bar, batten key, spare bit of rope etc. Or if you have detachable arms on your wetsuit you can put them in here if it gets hot.
Sunlight reflects off the water and you can get burnt quite easily, so a high factor water proof sunblock is a good idea.
Compass and GPS:
You won’t have time to use a compass, unlike sailing in a dinghy and in major competitions GPS use is not permitted as it is an aid to navigation. However some sailors do like to check after a race how fast they have been travelling so this is not policed at LWA events.
WHAT HAPPENS AT AN LWA RACE DAY:
How do I find the venue?
- There are venue maps on the LWA Website.
Do I need to bring my own lunch?
- All venues have some form of catering, some better than others, so it’s always a good idea to have something to fall back on.
What time should I arrive?
- Most people turn up by 9.30 am to give themselves time to rig up and sign on as the Briefing is at 10.30 and first race at 11.00. Entry fee for adults is £20.00 Youths and Juniors fee is £10 for an LWA One-day Summer Series event (Two-day Events are charged differently), Under 18’s will need a parental signature. You need to sign on and pay your entry fee at the Registration Desk as soon as possible. If you do not have sail numbers you will need to buy some.
When will the racing start?
- The first race is scheduled for 11:00am. Weather permitting, we have 4 races, two before lunch and two after. It is quite likely that you will not have time to come ashore between races. Your best three races count towards the day’s results and also count towards the series results. The day ends around 5pm.
At the Briefing you need to find out how the start flags work. The LWA uses virtually the same flag sequence as the UKWA as detailed below. There will be an extra “Beginners’ Briefing” if requested to answer any further questions you might have. The rest of the fleet will be warned you are a beginner and will be asked to be especially kind and helpful to you, even to the extent of pointing out where the next mark is or telling what the flags mean!
At the Briefing you will find out about the course. Races usually last about 30 minutes, in the LWA we do not set a fixed number of laps. We run a “Grand Prix Finish” system, so that even if you complete only one lap you still get a finishing position. This means that if you are near the back of the fleet you don’t have to keep slogging round the course when everyone else has finished. As soon as the Finish flag is raised, everyone finishes when they next cross the finish line.
Boards will be sent out for the first race by an LWA official and as soon as the fleet is assembled near the Committee boat the Race Officer will start the Flag Sequence as below. The start of Race One should be as close to 11.00 am as possible. Boards will sail backwards and forwards near the line and some may just hang around virtually stationary, especially near the Committee Boat. In the last minute before the start boards will jostle for position so as a beginner the best thing to do is to hang back a bit and stay out of their way and start with some clear space around you. Within a minute of the start all boards should be behind the Start Line.
WARNING: Please don’t be put off by all these flags and stuff, if you are confused, just ask another sailor before the start or even during a race, they’ll be glad to help if they know you’re a beginner!
LWA uses the ISAF “5-4-1-GO” start sequence as follows:
at 5 minutes
at 4 minutes
at 3 minutes
at 2 minutes
at 1 minute
flag “R” is raised
flag “I” is raised
flag “I” is lowered
flag “R” is lowered
Some other flags you should know. There are a few more but these will be enough to start with!
INDIVIDUAL RECALL FLAG:
If one or more boards are over the line at the start and their numbers have been taken, this flag is flown with ONE sound signal and the individual boards must go round the end of the line and start again or be disqualified.
GENERAL RECALL FLAG:
If boards are over the line at the start and their numbers have NOT been taken, this flag is flown with TWO sound signals and ALL the fleet must restart the race. One minute after this flag is lowered the sequence restarts with the 5 minute “R” flag.
When the Committee Boat is flying this “S” flag (technically “shorten course”), all boards will finish the race as they cross the finish line. Each board will receive a sound signal.
THE FINISH: Because the LWA uses a ”Grand Prix” finish system, when the race ends as long as you have completed one whole lap you will receive a place in the results for that race. Our software sorts out who has completed how many laps and who is ahead of whom, even if you have been lapped. For this to work properly you will have to cross the Finish Line between the Committee Boat and the downwind mark on every lap. You will be reminded of this at the Briefing.
The Race Officer can stop the race any time he wishes using this flag. Usually it will be after about 25 minutes and if at all possible when a group of slower boards are just starting the last leg of the course to the Finish Line. This is so that the slower boards do not have to sail another whole lap and tire themselves out!
When you cross the line and this flag is flying, your race has ended. You will normally also get a hoot!
THE NEXT RACE:
The Flag sequence for Race Two should start within about 15 minutes of the last person finishing Race One. Sometimes sailors will go back to the clubhouse between races but it is a risky thing to do as you could well miss the start of the next race. A less risky move is simply to go to the nearest shore and wait there, or just float about on your board near the Committee Boat.
After Race Two the entire fleet will go ashore for lunch and will be sent back on the water by an LWA official in time for Race Three.
It is always a good idea to do all four races if you can manage it, as your best three scores are taken for the final results, with your worst finishing position being discarded.
A COUPLE OF OTHER IMPORTANT RULES!
On the start line you must not be over the line within the last minute or you must "sail round the end" of either end of the line and recross the line. If you don’t do this you will be disqualified.
Whether you are actually racing or not, you to need obey the Port/Starboard rule - if you are on starboard tack you have right of way (if your RIGHT hand is nearest the mast) and you should shout “Starboard” loudly at a board on Port Tack who looks as though he is going to collide with you. The board on Port Tack must give way to those on Starboard Tack and take evasive action. This is especially important when approaching the windward mark. If you hit anybody they will probably shout "360" at you whereupon you must turn your board round through 360 degrees (one complete rotation) at the earliest convenient place, before continuing the race. But keep well clear of other boards when you do your 360!
You must be aware of the upwind/downwind rule - any board upwind of another MUST give way to a downwind board. This is particularly important when one person is sailing upwind and the other is sailing downwind, as the one sailing downwind can see better and must give way. This does not apply when rounding marks.
The only other rule to worry about is "Water at the Mark" - if at the point when you are two board lengths from the mark (not before or after), another board has an overlap on your inside, between yourself and the mark, he will usually shout "Water" and you must give him room to get round the mark inside you.
Any other Rules and Regulations????
Windsurfing Course Racing Events are all run in accordance with the International Racing Rules of Sailing and the Sailing Instructions for this specific Series. As a beginner you will have enough to occupy your mind at this stage without getting to grips with these, and we have selected the important bits and incorporated them into the paragraphs above, but when you get more into the sport one day you should certainly make a point of reading them. Start by reading the Sailing Instructions (S.Is) and the “Advice to Race Officers” which can be found on this website.
After all the competitors have come ashore and packed their gear away the results will be posted and sailors will have a few minutes to check them. Any necessary changes are made and then the prizes for the day area awarded. In LWA events these usually take the form of bottles of wine for adults and sweets and Certificates for Juniors.
This is just about all you need to know, after that it's just practice!
If you’d like any further information, just email the LWA on info@LWAwindsurfing.co.uk
or phone 01895 846707