Setting a Race Course
Planning the summer cruise with the family or some friends can be a leisurely affair. There might be some discussions around the dinner table, perhaps a few winter evenings with the charts unrolled, tidal atlases and cruising guides out in front of the fire. And then – depending on how organised you like to be – maybe the designated navigator will set to plotting waypoints and perhaps entering them into the boat’s chartplotter.
It’s an altogether different business when the boat is going racing – perhaps the classic example is the way that Solent race courses are issued to the fleet. Waypoints can be chosen from a list of over 150 possible rounding or passing marks. The course is then read out on a specified VHF channel (and these days sometimes also sent by SMS text or WhatsApp) informing the fleet of the marks, the order, and the side they are to be passed using a series of alphanumeric codes. It all happens once you are in sequence for the start, and it puts the navigator in ‘ticking clock’ mode as they work to understand the demands of the race course before the gun goes.