During James Dadd's recent trip to New Zealand, Australia and SE Asia, yet again the question of course types came up, and in some areas a reduction in entries for windward/leeward style races.

Here is an extract from the Advice for Race Organisers on this and other issues:


There has been much discussion in recent years concerning the dominance of windward/leeward courses and that many competitors find these either boring or not suited to their boats and crews. The IRC Technical Committee also considers that if all races were windward/leewards designers would inevitably optimise designs for this style of racing, eg. heavy, narrow designs with poor reaching performance.

Noting also that a balance of course types is a fundamental part of fair yacht racing, it is strongly recommended that race committees should set a variety of courses.

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Image: Phuket King's Cup, Thailand. Guy Nowell www.guynowell.com 

With the ever increasing range of boat types racing under IRC, it is inevitable that courses and conditions will have an effect on race results. Race Committees can go a considerable way towards minimising these effects by considering carefully the types of courses set. Conditions are of course beyond the control of a race committee, but even then course location may be significant. Some of the issues that a race committee might then consider are:

Course Type. Courses without runs and with only reaches will inevitably favour bowsprit rigged boats and lighter boats generally. Conversely, all runs will favour boats with conventional spinnaker poles and the heavier boats. Including both types of course will give everybody a chance on their day, but over a series a balanced range of courses is very desirable.

Current. Beats against the current will tend to favour faster, more windward-oriented designs and vice versa. As an extreme example, an all downwind, down current course will almost inevitably produce a winner from the small, slow end of the fleet. When possible, selecting courses to minimise these effects will produce more equitable results generally.

A second issue with current is that boats will inevitably try to minimise (or maximise as appropriate) current effects. This becomes particularly relevant when there are current gradients across a course and boats are trying to get out of a foul current. Unless the shoreline is very steep to, the smaller (shallower draft) boats will be able to do this more effectively. In these circumstances, it can be worth considering either moving the whole course away from the shore so that everybody is in the full current all the time or alternatively including a series of passing marks to force boats into the current.

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Image: Phuket King's Cup, Thailand. Guy Nowell www.guynowell.com 

Weather Conditions. No race committee can influence the weather! They can however influence where the course is positioned. If it is particularly rough, larger heavier boats will be favoured upwind. So if a series features a number of heavy air races, it might if possible be worth considering a less exposed course area on occasion if this is a possibility. Similarly, very constricted course areas (narrow channels for instance), particularly in light airs, will favour the lighter and more nimble boats in the fleet.