Despite what is considered the ‘norm’, there are no ‘hard and fast’ rules for setting a course. I will however base these notes on what I think makes a ‘good’ course, for an enjoyable sail for the competitors.
- Try and set a course with all the points of sailing (beats, reaches and runs – one or more of each).
- Try and make the beat as true as possible. If the wind is ‘shifting’ in direction then it is a good idea to put in two beats at slightly different angles to try and get at least one ‘true’ beat.
The reason this is important (and is probably the thing most complained about when the Race officer gets it wrong) is that this leg gives the competitors the best chance, on the course, to overtake. If it is ‘one sided’ then this opportunity is lost and the course may be described by some as a ‘procession’.
- This may seem obvious, but always ensure that the finishing line is on the natural route of the course (It will normally be between the last buoy and the first, but does not need to be.). Note that if the start and finish line are different then you CANNOT use average laps, and all boats must complete the same distance.
- It is normal (but note the introductory paragraph) to have the start/finish on one of the ‘beat’ legs of the course.
- Set the number of laps to ensure a race of about 1 hour (20 – 30 mins for the 10:30 race) always go on the long side – you can shorten a race, but you cannot lengthen it! Please display the number of laps on the board visible from the water OR ensure that you use the shorten course flag.
That is basically it. People do not expect the course to be perfect – none of us are professionals. If someone recommends a change, ask them ‘Why?’ and if they respond with one of the above then, perhaps you missed something when you set the course – consider changing, at least in the subsequent races.