Keelboat Racing Primer
Useful information for keelboat racing on Lake St. Louis
Race Organization and PHRF
Races on Lake St Louis are organized by either individual yacht-clubs, i.e. RStLYC , PCYC, BYC, or the St Lawrence Valley Yacht Racing Association.
The RStLYC posts the race schedule and documentation on the Official Notice Board & Results page on its website.
- SLVYRA organizes the Good Neighbor Series (GNS) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from May through August and Sundays in September.
- If the race is not organized by the RStLYC or a GNS event, the name of the organizing club will be indicated in parentheses after the name of the race on the RStLYC’s Official Notice Board & Results.
- If the race is a keelboat race, it is identified as PHRF, which stands for Performance Handicap Racing Fleet. This handicapping system used for yacht racing in North America allows for different classes of sailboats to be raced against each other. The aim is to cancel out each class of boat's inherent advantages and disadvantages to reflect crew skill rather than equipment superiority.
If you are new to Keelboat racing, the RtSLYC organizes Friday Fun Races during the summer. Rules and handicaps are modified to encourage those just learning to race to come out and join the fun. PHRF official handicaps are not required for Friday Fun Races. Instead, handicaps are based on the performance of the boat and crew.
For all other races, you will need an official PHRF handicap. Go to the SLVYRA site and open the Handicap’s tab to verify if your boat has an official PHRF handicap. If not, please contact our club handicapper to apply for a handicap. The identity of the handicapper is under the heading Sailing Committee and his personal details are in the Club roster, in the members section of the RStLYC website.
- Once you have a handicap, decide which series and class you wish to participate in. Download the Notice of Race (NOR) and Sailing Instructions (SI) from the Official Notice Board & Results These two documents will tell you the scoring, warning gun times, Class Pennate colours, start sequences and courses for your class, etc.
- Starts for keelboats are held off PCYC in the general area south of day marker AD 20. Following the channel, the distance from the Club to AD 20 is approximately 4 miles due west.
- Evening races generally start between 6:30 PM and 6:45 PM, so plan your departure time from the club accordingly.
- Upon arriving, « check in » by passing the stern of the Race Committee boat with the mainsail hoisted. The Race Committee will acknowledge the « check-in » with a hand signal (thumbs up, ok, or wave). When multiple races are scheduled, boats need only comply with this process before the first race. For the GNS Series, boats must also pre-register by filling out the Registration Form.
- Start timing sequences are 5-4-1-0 minutes. Zero is the start for the named class and the 5 minutes warning for the next class in the series.
Valuable Tips & Information for New Racers
- How Starts are organized: 5-4-1-0 (see Sailing Start Sequence)
- Animated version of the essential racing right of way rules (see Animated Handy Guide to the Racing Rules video)
- One way to get a clean start (see The Starting Box Explained)
- Rounding Marks (see Sailing Explained: Windward Roundings Part 1)
- If you are new to racing, sailing is a team sport. Designate which crew members will be responsible for what. It’s difficult for the helmsman to see other boats (especially to leeward at the start). Designate a lookout to watch for other boats at the beginning and call out their position to the helmsman. Use the ride up to the start line to try out duties, set up the boat for the current wind, and practice some tacks. The helmsman controls course changes. Call them out, so the rest of the crew have time to organize themselves.
- You can get a free pdf copy of the Racing Rules of Sailing 2021-2024
For a good reference book on sailboat racing, get: Getting Started in Sailboat Racing by Adam Cort.