What is Inshore Yacht Racing?
What do I need to know?
How do I get involved?
Inshore Racing at a local level in the UK is organised by sailing clubs. Many clubs have evening race series (sometimes called twilight or even beer can racing) in the summer for cruiser / racers and this is often very social racing. The more serious racing is normally at weekends, such as the Warsash Spring series, where racing is provided to all and many local clubs will come together. The best way to get involved will be to join a club and meet the members. Keelboat owners are very often looking for crew and many are only too pleased to teach you all they know – they may even buy you a drink too!
The highlight of most clubs’ calendar is often an annual regatta. Big regattas such as Cowes Week (Cowes Combined Clubs) or Scottish Series (Clyde Cruising Club) can attract a large number of visiting sailors and cater for sailors of all levels from professional to first timers. Whilst some might be chasing the silverware, for many more competitors these weeks are their summer break and the party atmosphere is their target. Every regatta has its own style so do some research on previous years, talk to the clubs and pick a regatta suited to what you want.
One Design National, European or World Championships are normally run by the class associations. For the IRC classes the Championships are run by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC). At these events the racing is the top priority and they often have best race management teams and the most competitive sailing - but don’t be afraid to take part as there is always a range of abilities and there is no better way to learn than by racing against the best!
Many people like handicap racing which enables boats of all types to race against each other with a time correction factor to equalise their performance. Handicap rules are never perfect but for many people that is the attraction as in theory every boat should have its own favoured conditions / points of sail. This can lead to different race winners and a little more jeopardy in the results. It can also lead to some owners investing a lot of money to optimise their own rating / chances of winning. The two most popular rating systems in the UK are NHC (National Handicap for Cruisers) and IRC (International Rating Certificate).
The RYA handicap system for cruisers is called NHC (National Handicap system for Cruisers). NHC handicaps individual boats through elements such as sail size and configuration, number of crew, weight of the boat, equipment on board, engine type, number of berths, etc. The handicap numbers are Time Correction Factors (TCFs expressed as 1.000 for example) which are used to calculate a boat’s corrected time (the time used to score a race) allowing clubs to dual score with IRC. For more details on NHC see here.
IRC, managed by RORC, is the principle rating system for cruiser/racers and racing boats in the UK. If you are new to IRC we suggest you take a read of their website starting here - What is IRC? - Rating for keelboats of all size and shapes
A course for aspiring skippers with some yachting experience and basic navigation and sailing skills
A great introduction to navigation and safety awareness for new or inexperienced skippers and crew, and those wanting to refresh their skills
The RYA Marine Radio Short Range Certificate (SRC) is the minimum qualification required to operate marine VHF radio equipment on a UK flagged vessel
Visit the nearest sailing club that offers the kind of racing that interests you and introduce yourself to the local members – people are generally very helpful and welcoming! - Jack Fenwick, RYA Keelboat Development Manager
Above all else be prepared to lend a hand and be willing to listen, learn and get stuck in – people always need good, keen crew.
Sign up as a crew member with a Recognised Training Centre or charter company that has an entry for a regatta or big race like the Round the Island Race, or make a holiday of it and try a regatta or offshore race abroad