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Racing 101 - All you need to know about Sailboat Racing & Regattas

Racing Rules Seminar Materials, includes 2017-2020 changes

Why race?

There are lots of reasons to participate in competitive sailing.  Once the novelty of cruising around the lake wears off, many sailors find they enjoy testing their skill against other boats over a distance course. Others crave the thrill of buoy racing.  Lasting friendships form at the social events that accompany most regattas.

Whether you choose to participate in a few local regattas or aspire to land a crew position on a traveling boat and compete year-round; racing at PPYC makes you more knowledgeable, confident and safe in a sailboat.  At the very least, you’ll have a great excuse to get out to the lake and have great fun!

Getting Started

PPYC holds organized regattas in the spring and fall.  Less formal club races are held year-round in the evening or on weekends.  If you’re brand new to racing, it’s a good idea to get some experience in the club events before you sign up for a regatta.  If you’re brand new to sailing, you should check out PPYC’s Learning at the Helm (LATH) program before you try racing.

If you own a boat, we encourage you to race it.  If need be, we can help you find crew.  Contact the Race Director to find out about PPYC’s fleets and get a PHRF Number. 

In 2017, our Non-Spinnaker B Fleet was formed for boat owners who may not be comfortable with highly competitive sailboat Races. This fleet will have coached starts, special courses, its own start time and plenty of help on and off the water. If you want, we can get a ride along coach to join you on your first few races. We can help find you crew also. When you are ready, you can move up to join the A Fleet anytime. Contact the Racing Director for more information.

Newcomers to racing at PPYC sometimes get stressed by the idea of being “new” in an established fleet.   Relax! Our club is filled with people who want to help you learn to race whether you are a boat owner or crew.  You just have to be willing to make the effort. The Bee Fleet

Check the PPYC Calendar often for upcoming chances to sail.  Show up ready to meet new people and learn something new.  Be willing to ask skippers for a ride.  Try out different boats until you find one that works for you.  Be prepared to take direction when you make a mistake (rest assured, you will make many at first) but remember that every other skipper, every other crew member on the water started out knowing exactly zero about sailboat racing.  If they were able to learn, you can too!

Crew Positions

Each boat requires a different number of crew to sail it effectively in a race.  Click here to learn about the most common crew positions.

Racing Terms

During your first few races, the skipper and crew may seem to be speaking another language.  Get familiar with these common racing terms before you come out to race.  It will help you understand what’s happening. Don’t worry about knowing all the racing slang at first; you’ll pick it up as you get more experienced.


The above information is meant to be an introduction to racing at PPYC.   There’s way more to learn, but reading this guide is a start. Direct any questions you have about our racing program to the Race Director.  We hope to see you on the race course soon!

Percy Priest Yacht Club  .  PO Box 290485  .  Nashville, TN 37229