yachting regatta meaning

What Is “Regatta” In Sailing? (Explained For Beginners)

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If you are new to sailing, you may have heard the term “regatta” or even been invited to take part in one. But have you ever wondered what a regatta involves? 

In this article, we will explain what a regatta is and what to expect if you attend as a spectator or even if you want to take part:

Table of Contents

yachting regatta meaning

So, What Is A Regatta?

A regatta is an event or series of events in which boats of the same class or type race against each other. Traditionally, these boat racing events consisted of rowing or sailing competitions, but more recently, even some powerboat races have been called regattas.  

Many regattas are named after a specific type of boat or class. Some of the more well-known are Olympic sailing classes like the 470s or the Laser class. However, a regatta can also be named after the town or venue where the racing takes place.

Two more well-known regattas are the famous Cowes Week held annually in the Isle of Wight and the Royal St John’s Regatta in North America. Regattas are mainly hosted by either yacht clubs, sailing associations, places, or the sailing schools themselves.

What Happens At A Regatta?

A sailing regatta can be a one-day or multi-day event lasting up to a maximum of one week or even longer for the ocean crossing events. Many regattas are amateur or non-professional competitions, while others are more glamorous events such as The America’s Cup.

The one thing that they all have in common is that they are usually well-organized events, with established rules and regulations which describe the procedures, duration, and timing of the races.

No matter the format, a regatta normally starts with a procession of the boats, not only competing ones. Some bigger events may also include boats of historical interest, such as tall ships, which add a certain drama to the event. All the boats will fly their signal flags during the procession, making it a very colorful event for the spectators.

The procession is followed by actual racing, where boats and teams compete in different classes. A class is where boats of the same design race against each other. The racing occurs during a sequence of events that may take all day or be held over more than one day.

A regatta can be organized as a championship for a particular type or class of boat. However, they are often organized by local clubs just for the thrill and excitement for people who love sailing, as a learning curve for amateur and professional sailors, and for advertising the sport to gain more members.

Regattas are very social events with teams expected to stay for the duration and participate in all aspects of the racing. Spectators are welcome to watch by booking a space on their boat or a spectator boat, as long as they stay off the course.

Most evenings, there will be parties, dinners, or other social activities, with the actual regatta culminating in a prize-giving ceremony where the winners are awarded cups, monetary prizes, or wreaths. Plus, the winners will get an honorary mention in their yacht club newsletters.

What Is The Meaning Of The Word “Regatta”?

The dictionary describes the meaning of the word regatta as a boat race with rowing boats, sailing yachts, or other vessels. It also describes a regatta as an organized series of boat races.

However, the word regatta originates from the early Venetian word “regata,” literally meaning a fight or contest. The word regatta was first documented in the 15th century when sailors used it for a gondola race in Venice.

The word regatta has been used as a name for boat competitions since the 18th century.

How Long Is A Regatta Race?

A regatta race will depend entirely on the different classes, the organizers, and the rules implemented by the different sailing associations. In addition, a regatta race can have many different classes within one race!

Regatta sailing is one of the most complicated sports in the world. However, regatta sailing is still popular among amateurs, leisure sailors, and professional sportspeople alike.

There are two main types of regatta sailing that will determine how long a regatta race is:

Short Course or Buoy Racing:

Short Course or Buoy Racing is where sailboats start simultaneously and sail around a set course (usually marked by buoys, hence the name buoy racing) for a pre-set or pre-agreed number of times. 

The first over the line usually wins as long as no penalties have been incurred. These round-the-buoy races last anywhere between 5 – 30 minutes.

Distance or Offshore Racing:

Distance or Offshore Racing is where sailboats race over longer distances and use landmarks, buoys, or other objects to mark their course. 

These races can last a few hours, days, or even weeks. The Sydney to Hobart annual regatta is a great example of this and takes place on Boxing Day each year and usually lasts between 2 – 4 days.

How Hard Is It To Sail A Regatta?

While there are many myths about taking part in a regatta, the races are open for all levels, from beginner to professional. While no one expects an amateur sailor to join a round-the-world yacht race (without some training), your local yacht club should be able to accommodate everyone!

If you are keen to participate in a regatta but don’t have any experience, then your local yacht club should be your first port of call. Many of these will have weekly racing programs where guests can join a members’ boat to gain some experience or see if this is a sport for you.

If you decide that sailing and racing is your thing, then the next step would be to join a beginner sailing course to learn the basics and to be able to follow commands. Safety is always a priority on a sailboat, especially during regattas, as there is always a chance of a dramatic moment on a racing yacht, and things can happen fast.

A crew member may get tangled up in the lines, someone else will not hear a command and can get hit by a boom, or there is even a danger of someone falling overboard!

As you become more experienced, you will then be able to appreciate the tactics involved in sailing a regatta. But like anything, sailing a regatta may seem hard at first, but you must learn to walk before you can run, and then everything will fall into place.

Is Regatta For Everyone Or By Invite-Only?

Whether a regatta is for everyone or by invite only will depend on the status of the race.

Many club-level regattas are open for everyone to join, and they even encourage novice sailors to participate. 

However, at a national level or one-class racing events, these regattas are more likely to be invite-only as they want the best of the best to compete:

Why Are Regattas So Popular?

Regattas are so popular because not only are they fun to take part in, but they are also fun from a spectator’s point of view.

A regatta is often a social event with spectator points along the shore, spectator boats to watch all the action from the water, parties, live music, and events for the kids.

You can also choose to attend all kinds of regatta, from a classic yacht regatta, with beautiful wooden boats, to a modern racing yacht regatta with their modern racing machines. Every regatta is different, and it’s not only about enjoying the boats.

You can also enjoy the varying landscapes, the view of the sails on the water, the mood of the sea and the wind, plus the action of the crews themselves working like a well-oiled machine.

A regatta is a healthy and fun outdoor experience which, once you get addicted, you will want to take part in, as either a spectator or a participant, time and time again.

Regattas 101

What Is A Regatta?

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yachting regatta meaning

Sailing 101: Defining a Regatta

yachting regatta meaning

Ahoy sailors, if you needed some definition or even convincing to explore the world of regattas, look no further. This article is for you and will give you a general idea of what you’re getting yourself in store for.

Have you ever wondered or even considered what it would be like to participate in a regatta? Then continue reading. Regatta is a word that was first documented as a gondola race in Venice, Italy. Initially, the word regatta was used to define the general name for boat competitions since the 18th century. Today regattas have expanded, including rowing, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing. Regatta sailing is a very complex, worldwide sport but remains very popular among amateurs, leisure sailors, and professionals.

A sailing regatta, by definition, is a sporting event consisting of a series of boat or yacht races. The competition was formerly a defined route driven by a minimum of two boats within a given period. Some competitions may be less than an hour or while others may take up to several months. A differentiation is made between single-class regattas, where only boats of the same class are allowed. However, some regattas allow boats of different classes to compete against each other.

Different courses are assigned, and the athletes must race off of it depending on the classification of the race. A regatta typically has several different races, and individual results are determined according to a fixed formula to determine a winner. In contrast to a traditional scoring system, the sailors with the fewest points are awarded better placement.

Regatta participants strive to cross the finish line first. However, speed is not the only deciding factor for victory in these diverse races. Strategy and tactics used by the individual sailors are a strong contributing qualification to becoming the winner. The successful execution of tactical maneuvers, accurate observation of the opponent, and assessment of wind directions will determine whether the sailor can sail faster and reach the finish line first. All the while, the sailors must still abide by various rules, which referees determine on water and a jury on land.

Before starting a regatta, a skipper meeting is held for tenders to spell out the essentials and requirements of the regatta. Following registration, the parties are given thorough sailing instructions, including the announcement, rules, and signals. However, to qualify for participation in a regatta, registration and applications are only some of the tasks at hand. Sailors need to be able to read their boat like the back of their hands and know precisely how a tactical situation on the water needs to be manipulated in order to work to their advantage.

Participating in a sailing regatta isn’t always easy on the wallet. Aside from the price tag that hangs from a sailboat, equipment, insurance and transport, registration fees, and participation fees are also added to the tab. For example, participating in a regatta on a level such as America’s Cup can get you a bill for millions, but it all depends on the regatta. Nevertheless, many national and international sailing regattas allow sailors to partake in the event of a much cheaper caliber and with normal means.

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Everything You Need to Know About Regattas

You don't have to be an Olympic-level professional to participate in a regatta; you can enter the sailing sport literally from scratch and at any age.

Sofya Tatarinova

Sofya Tatarinova

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What is a regatta

A regatta is a sailing sport competition, or in simpler terms, races on sailing yachts. Once an elite and expensive sport, it is now accessible to many without gender, age, or other limitations even in serious global competitions. For most Europeans, regattas in the Mediterranean are the most accessible: during the yachting season from April to November, there are numerous events, and in some places, like Cyprus, races are even held in winter. You don't have to be an Olympic-level professional to participate in a regatta; you can enter the sailing sport literally from scratch and at any age.

yachting regatta meaning

Purposes of Hosting Regattas

The objectives of organizers and participants in regattas vary widely. Firstly, it helps promote yachting as a sport or hobby, either generally or in a specific region. Secondly, such races support yachting traditions and aid in passing on experiences to others. Another goal is to increase the visibility of brands that sponsor many regattas (for instance, brands like Rolex, Rixos, Volvo, Heineken sponsor numerous prestigious regattas). Of course, making a profit is also not insignificant. Often, well-known personalities are invited to participate in regattas to enhance their prestige.

Why Sailors Participate in Regattas

There isn't a single definitive answer, of course. However, many would agree that they primarily want to satisfy their sporting ambitions. If you're someone who enjoys thrills, then a regatta is definitely for you, as the intensity of the race is always exhilarating. Many simply live for this; among them are those who earn money from regattas and those who spend quite a bit on them. An important aspect is that a regatta is a great way to hone yachting skills in competitive conditions. For many, the social aspect is crucial - gatherings, new acquaintances, networking with like-minded individuals, and sharing experiences.

yachting regatta meaning

Cost of Participating in a Regatta

Participation in a club's one-day regatta can cost from €50, while the fee to join a professional team in a prestigious regatta can reach several thousand euros. On average, participating in a week-long amateur regatta might require around €1000, though the range can vary widely. Regatta Classification

Regattas are classified based on several parameters. Here are the main ones:

Based on Difficulty Level Regattas are categorized as either for professionals or amateurs based on difficulty level. Professional regattas vary widely, ranging up to the level of the Olympic Games, and also include club, interclub, regional, and international regattas. Amateur regattas are organized to popularize yachting, for commercial purposes, and sometimes as a tribute to tradition. Amateur regattas themselves can differ significantly; in some, sportsmanship is the main focus, in others, evening entertainment and socializing take precedence, while some maintain a good balance. There are numerous options for amateur regattas, allowing participants to choose the most appealing format for themselves.

Based on Yacht Type For one-design boats (monotype fleet), participating yachts have the same size and are built according to specific identical rules. For cruisers, it could be a specific model, while for racing yachts, it might be a specific class, such as IMOCA or J70. For open class yachts – this is the most common format for amateur regattas. In this case, participants are divided into divisions and/or results are recalculated using a special coefficient (handicap). For exotic and extreme yachts. For example, races involving traditional "Yoles" boats in Martinique.

Based on Distance Type Loops and triangles This is a classic sailing sport format. Their length is usually small - just a few miles. Buoys and a referee boat are used as start and finish points. Racing loops and triangles are one of the best ways to test the coordinated teamwork skills of a crew. Course races Course races proceed from one point to another. Distances vary: they can take several hours or even an entire week. The length of a course race can span hundreds or even thousands of miles. Usually, cruising yachts are involved in course races. Sometimes, to make the course more challenging, races like loops and triangles, islands, and lighthouses that yachts must navigate around are included. Races can take place day and night, regardless of the weather, often in a non-stop format, without stops for several days or even months in circumnavigation cases.

yachting regatta meaning

Based on Route Length and Distance from the Shore

  • Coastal Competitions take place within sight of land. The distance is up to 20-25 nautical miles (1 nautical mile equals 1.85 kilometers). Typically, the starting and finishing points coincide.
  • Offshore Races held in open seas cover distances ranging from 150 to 1000 miles. Here, sailors must demonstrate not only yachting skills but also endurance.
  • Oceanic These regattas traverse an ocean or a significant part of it. The route's length must be at least 800 miles.
  • Around-the-World Not every skipper or yacht qualifies for around-the-world regattas; specific requirements must be met. Not all teams reach the finish, withdrawing from the race, but participation itself holds prestige. The distance of such a race exceeds 20,000 miles. The most prestigious round-the-world event, often referred to as the "Mount Everest of Sailing" due to its stringent rules and complexity, is the Vendee Globe.

yachting regatta meaning

Based on Geography Regattas can be club-based, regional (from a city to a country), and unlimited, extending up to around-the-world races.

What is a Handicap

A handicap is a special coefficient designed to level the playing field for yachts of different models in a race, essentially a system that equalizes the time taken to cover a distance. The handicap takes into account the speed potential of yachts. It involves a measurement system to find the ratio based on sail area, yacht shape, and size. The winner of the race is determined by the minimal corrected time.

There are several handicap systems, and new ones constantly emerge. Unfortunately, the sailing world is far from having a unified opinion on this matter. However, when registering to participate in a specific regatta, it's essential to understand that you are accepting the rules of the handicap calculation proposed by the competition organizers, so it's advisable to familiarize yourself with them in advance.

In sailing, like in other forms of competition, there are principles that all participants must adhere to. Primarily, this includes the principle of fair sportsmanship. Additionally, there are established rules of conduct that apply to all participants.

yachting regatta meaning

Now that you know more about sailing races and the principles of their conduct, it's time to head to your first regatta!


All You Need to Know About Regattas: Types, Classifications, and Handicaps


A regatta is a competition of sailing yachts, ranging from short races to circumnavigating the globe, with both single “babies” and huge multi-masted ships. You can find more information about this here.

All you need to know about regattas

What is a regatta.

The goals of organizers and participants of regattas are diverse. First, they help to promote yachting as a sport or hobby, either generally or in a particular region. Second, such races preserve yachting traditions and pass on knowledge and experience. Another aim is to increase the brand awareness of sponsors who support many prestigious regattas, such as Rolex, Rixos, Volvo, and Heineken. Of course, making a profit is also an important consideration. Famous personalities are often invited to participate in regattas to enhance their prestige.

Why do yachtsmen participate in regattas?

There is no one answer, but many would agree that the primary motivation is to fulfill their sporting ambitions. If you enjoy gambling, then regattas are certainly for you, because the excitement of the race is intense every time. Many people live for this, and among them, there are those who make money from regattas and those who spend it, sometimes quite a lot. An important point is that regattas provide an excellent opportunity to develop yachting skills in a competitive environment. For many, the social aspect is also important – meeting new people, exchanging experiences, and communicating with like-minded individuals.

A regatta is a sailing competition, or simply put, a race on sailing yachts. Once an exclusive and expensive sport, it is now accessible to many, without gender, age, or other restrictions, even at serious world competitions. For most Europeans, regattas in the Mediterranean are the most accessible, with a large number of races during the yachting season from April to November. In some places, such as Cyprus, races are even held in winter.

To participate in a regatta, it is not necessary to be a professional at the Olympic Games level; you can start sailing from scratch at any age.

How much does it cost to participate in a regatta?

The cost of participating in a regatta varies depending on the type of regatta. One-day club regattas can cost as low as €50, while the fees to join a professional team in a prestigious regatta can reach several thousand euros. On average, participation in a weekly amateur regatta costs around €1000, but the range can vary widely.

Classification of regattas

Regattas are classified based on several parameters, including:

  • By level of difficulty . Regattas are classified into professional and amateur events based on the level of difficulty. Professional regattas vary in level, from the Olympics to club, inter-club, regional, and international competitions. Amateur regattas are organized for various purposes such as to promote yachting, for commercial purposes, or even as a tribute to tradition. These regattas differ greatly, some emphasizing sports, while others focus on socializing and entertainment.
  • By type of yacht . Regattas can be held for different types of yachts, including monotypes, free classes, and exotic or extreme yachts. Monotypes are yachts that have the same size and are built according to identical rules, while free classes are the most common format of amateur regattas. Exotic or extreme yachts, such as traditional boats like “Yoles” in Martinique, also participate in some regattas.
  • By type of distance . Regattas can also be classified by the type of distance involved, such as loops and triangles or route races. Loops and triangles are short-distance races that test the teamwork skills of the crew, while route races involve sailing from one point to another, covering distances that can range from a few hours to several days or even months in the case of round-the-world trips.
  • Regattas are classified by the length of the route and distance from the coast : Coastal: These competitions take place within sight of land, with a distance of up to 20-25 nautical miles (1 mile – 1.85 km). Typically, the starting and finishing points are the same. Offshore: Racing on the open sea covers a range of 150 to 1000 miles. Yachtsmen must show not only their yachting skills, but also endurance. Oceanic: These regattas involve routes that pass through or cover most of the ocean, with a minimum route length of 800 miles. Round the world: Not every skipper and yacht can participate in the round-the-world regatta, as certain requirements must be met. Though not all teams reach the finish line, participation is already prestigious. Such races have a length of more than 20,000 miles. The Vendee Globe is the most prestigious circumnavigation of the world, also known as the “Everest of sailing” because of its strict rules and complexity.
  • Regattas are also classified by geography: Local clubs: These are small regattas that are limited to a particular club or location. Regional: These regattas cover distances from city to country or region. Unlimited sailing: This classification includes races that cover long distances, such as round-the-world races.

What is a Handicap?

A handicap is a special coefficient used to level the playing field between yachts of different models in a race. Its purpose is to ensure that the chances of winning depend solely on the team’s training level, rather than the yacht’s speed characteristics. The handicap system takes into account the speed potential of the yachts, using a measurement system to find the ratio based on the area of the sails, the size, and the shape of the yachts. The winner of the race is determined by the minimum corrected time.

There are several handicap systems in use, and new ones continue to emerge. Unfortunately, there is no consensus within the sailing world regarding this issue. When applying to participate in a specific regatta, you must understand and accept the rules for calculating the handicap offered by the organizers of the competition. Therefore, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with them beforehand.

In sailing, as in other types of competitions, all participants must adhere to certain principles. Fair play is the most important principle, and uniform rules of conduct apply to all participants.

Now that you have learned more about sailing races and how they operate, it’s time to enter your first regatta!

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Definition of regatta

Examples of regatta in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'regatta.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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Italian regata

1612, in the meaning defined above

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The guide to the different types of sailing regattas

The guide to the different types of sailing regattas

Sailing competitions are sport races in many various formats. The yachting community calls them regattas (Italian "regata" derived from "riga" meaning "row line", "starting line").

Normally they are initiated by national or international federations of individual classes, yacht clubs or private organizers. As many competitions are held each year, they are arranged in calendars for each class of regattas separately, as well as consolidated ones for the entire season.

The general racing rules are defined by the  International Racing Rules of Sailing  (RRS) as well as the rules for each individual class. In the case of a rules violation during a race, one or several competitors lodge a protest citing a clause of the Rules, with the referees deciding who is the guilty one and inflicting penalties. Apart from that, the referees are entitled to set the penalty right away, such as for a false start.

According to World Sailing (formerly ISAF) sailing competitions are classified in terms of yacht class, format, site of regatta, distance, type of crew membership and level of skills.

In this post we will take a closer look at the two most important classifications of regattas: by format and professional level of participants.

Formats of regattas

In terms of formats, all sailing events can be conveniently classified into match racing, fleet racing and handicap racing.

Match racing

Match races are duel ones, which means that only two teams compete in each preliminary round. Only same-type yachts/catamarans take part in those races, with the weight of the crew being restricted to tight specifications. Each race may have only one winner who gets one score point, while the loser gets zero points. Thus, each participant must race against all the others. As a result of the matches, a table is compiled where the results are ranked in terms of the number of victories for each team. The world’s most famous match races are America’s Cup and World Match Racing Tour.

America’s Cup is the oldest sport competition in the world. Its history began back in 1851, 20 years before the first World Soccer Cup was held and 45 years prior to the first Olympic Games.

The first race, which was dubbed “The 100 Guineas Cup,” was a challenge of one of the world’s most prestigious Royal yacht clubs, Yacht Squadron, to the “America” schooner. The latter was presented at the World Industrial Exposition from the USA as the country’s fastest craft. The challenge took place around the Isle of Wight and resulted in the American triumph. Since then the Cup has been played in series of match races where one participant defends the previous season winner’s yacht club from new challengers.

The qualifiers for the Cup take place at Louis Vuitton Cup (from 2017 - Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs). In 2017, AC50 hydrofoil catamarans took part in the Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron yacht club) beat the trophy-holder Oracle Team USA (Golden Gate Yacht Club) by a score of 7:1. The competition took place in the waters around the Islands of Bermuda.

Match Racing

America’s Cup / Shutterstock

Fleet / One-design races

Competitions on the same-type boats are called one design racing. This means that the competitions are restricted to yachts of the same design and rigging  to the rules set by the association of that class. Nevertheless, many classes have a possibility to do a little fine-tuning. For example, in the Olympic 470 and 49er classes you can pull the shrouds up, which impacts the flexibility of the mast, or adjust the sails for weather conditions.

This format is typical of the Olympic competitions where the level playing field is a prerequisite for the fair play and getting the most transparent results. Oftentimes at professional and amateur regattas the same-class yachts are united into individual divisions, which perform in separate heats.

Examples of regattas in the one-design/fleet races are The 2018 Sailing World Championships, The 2019 J/70 European Championship, Melges 32 World League, Star Sailing League.

Olympic sailing 49er

Olympic 49er class / Shutterstock

Handicap races are competitions among various yachts with adjusted times

Fleet races can also be held among yachts belonging to different classes. However, the organizers are then faced with the challenge of how to level the playing field. There are special measurement and ranking systems in place to that end.

Levels of regattas

In terms of levels or status, all sailing events can be conveniently classified into professional and professional-amateur ones. The first group includes Olympic events.

Olympic events

The Summer OIympic Games traditionally host sailing events. They had their debut in Paris in 1900. Up until 1988 mixed gender teams took part in the competition. The Seoul Games first introduced 470 and Finn classes which had separate scores for men and women.

Today World Sailing attributes the following events to Olympic ones:

  • 470  is a light-weight gliding centerboard dinghy with a trapeze and a spinnaker called so due to its hull length – 470 cm. This class was first included in the Olympic events back in 1976 on Lake Ontario between the USA and Canada.
  • 49er  is a skiff class called so because of the hull length of 490 cm. It is equipped with retractable wings, two trapezes, a gennaker, a self-extendable bowsprit and a demountable mast. It debuted during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
  • 49erFX  differs from the classic version only in having a smaller spar and smaller sails and is meant for female crews.
  • Finn  is a single-handed sport dinghy with a single mast and a sail, as well as the possibility of fine-tuning. This class was designed exclusively for the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games and is used for male races, as the boat is quite heavy and requires a high level of athleticism.
  • RS:X  is the sole windsurfing discipline among yachting participants of Olympic Games. The sail was designed during the NeilPryde RS series racing sails project which gave its name to the discipline.
  • Laser/ILCA  is a light high-maneuver dinghy with one sail and one mast which can easily be transported on a car roof. It was first presented at the World Championships in the Islands of Bermuda in 1974 and Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996.
  • Laser Radial  is different from the standard Laser in terms of just a smaller sail designed for women participating in the Games.
  • Nacra 17  is the only monotype catamaran in the Olympic Games program made specifically for coastal and inshore sailing areas. The special feature of this class is a mixed-gender crew made up of two persons.

The next Olympic Games taking place in Japan in 2020 will have the same selection of events. Thus, ten sets of medals will be awarded – five for men, four for women and one for mixed event. Each country can be represented by not more than 15 athletes and have only one crew in each event. Overall, 350 athletes from all over the world are taking part.

To get accreditation at the Olympic Games the athletes should prove their competence at the qualifiers. Thus, around 40 percent of the spots for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games were granted at the World Sailing Championships which took place in Denmark in 2018. The qualifiers will also take place at the Asian Games 2018, Pan-American Games 2018, World Championships 2019 for individual classes and at the continental qualifying regattas.

yachting regatta meaning

Nacra 17 is Olympic sailing catamaran / Shutterstock

Individual class competitions for professional crews

The sailing federations for individual racing classes and regions of each country hold their own national events whose winners represent the country at international competitions, for example at the European Championships. The highest rank here is the World Championship in one’s class. The prize fund can be not only in the form of medals and trophies but also a category upgrading (candidate master of sailing, master of sailing, honored master of sailing) and the draw of spots for the next Olympic Games.

Examples of prestigious non-Olympic professional regattas:

  • America’s Cup  is considered the pinnacle of sailing mastery of modern times.
  • Volvo Ocean Race  is a round-the-world race on the most innovative vessels.
  • Extreme Sailing Series  is a regatta with the shortest distance.
  • Vendee Globe  is the only round-the-world non-stop single-handed yacht race.
  • Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge  is a regatta featuring classic wooden yachts.

America's Cup is the professional sail racing

America's Cup / Shutterstock

Professional-amateur events

This category includes all the largest international regattas which not only give the possibility for non-professional athletes to take part in the competitions but also allow less experienced yachtsmen and amateurs with no master of sailing or Olympic Games participant titles to become part of a racing crew.

The following regattas can be attributed to this group:

  • RORC Fastnet Race  is a 608-mile offshore regatta in tough weather conditions.
  • Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race  is the 630-mile race considered one of the most difficult regattas in the world.
  • Copa del Rey —The King’s Cup  is considered one of the most prestigious regattas in Spain.
  • Cowes Week  — one of the largest regattas in the world.
  • Rolex Middle Sea Race  is a 600-mile non-stop race in the Mediterranean Sea sailing around the active volcanoes Stromboli and Etna.
  • Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez  is a regatta featuring classic wooden yachts and ultramodern racing bolides.
  • Rolex Giraglia Cup  — this regatta includes a night race and a fixed-route 250-mile race around the island of Giraglia in the Mediterranean.
  • RC44 World Championship  — RC44 class fleet races.

These regattas encompass many divisions at the same time, both monofleet and handicap ones, while the events can include up to 50 starts a day. Regattas take place under financial, technical and information support of sponsors and partners, while the prize fund may include not only luxury trophies and medals awarded to the winners in each division and overall standing but also large sums of money and valuable gifts.  Apart from that, it is common that large-scale regattas host the events of world series of individual classes, for example the “flying” GC32 catamarans will host an event of GC32 Racing Tour 2019 under Copa del Rey regatta. So, international collaborations are gaining momentum in today’s sailing community, which makes this sport more spectacular for the general public.

Rolex Fastnet Race

Rolex Fastnet Race / Shutterstock

Other types of regattas

According to the same  World Sailing  (formerly ISAF), there are several other types of sailing competitions in terms of:

  • yacht class:  dinghies, keel-boats, multihulls, cruiser yachts, ice class
  • site of regatta:  national (in the United States, France, Russia...) and international
  • distance:  short, coastal/inshore, offshore, trans-oceanic, round-the-world
  • crew membership:  single-handed, double-handed, paired or full

These types of regattas are less important than the two that we have analyzed above or are usually combined with them, that is, one regatta is classified by several principles at once.

We'll deal with these types later by updating this article, so bookmark it to come back.

This post was originally published in the Windy.app blog on July 22, 2019.

Text: Windy.app team

Cover photo: Daniel Stenholm / Unsplash

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yachting regatta meaning

How to sail: A-Z of Yachting Terms

When learning how to sail have you ever wondered when you are on a yacht what some of those yachting terms mean, we have asked our RYA Training Centre pupils which ones confuse the most. Here are a selection, which includes the obvious to the more obscure!

How to sail: A-Z of Yachting Terms

A baft: A location on the boat but further to the rear of the boat. “The tiller is abaft the mast.”

A beam: The beam is the widest part of the boat. When another boat is abeam, it is at a right angle off the beam to either the starboard or port side of the boat you are on.

A ft: When on a boat you refer to the stern part of the boat as being aft or to the rear of the boat.

A head: A term used to describe the area in front of the boat you are on. “Look ahead.”

A ids to Navigation: This includes all external systems like channel markers, preferred route buoys, danger and safe water buoys, isolated danger and regulatory markers etc. that help determine a boats position or course, the presence of dangers or obstructions and the preferred route to navigate.

A midships: In the middle of the boat between the stern and the bow.

A pparent Wind: The apparent wind is a combination of the true wind and the wind caused by the boat travelling through the water. On an windex, the apparent wind will cause the windex to show wind direction just in front of the true wind.

A stern: A location off the boat and behind it.

B ulkhead – Refers to an often watertight, interior wall on the boat

Backing Wind: Refers to the wind shifting direction in a counter-clockwise direction. This usually means that bad weather is approaching.

Backstay: A wire running from the top of the mast to the stern of the boat. The backstay stops the mast from falling forward and also helps to control the degree of mast bend when tuning a boat.

Battens: Wood, fiberglass or plastic strips slid into pockets along the leech of the sail. Battens help to shape and strengthen the sail to increase overall performance.

Beam: The widest part of the boat.

Beam Reaching: One of the points of sail. You are ‘beam reaching’ when sailing directly sideways to the wind on either a port or starboard tack. Think of a clock face – if the wind is blowing from 12 o’clock, sailing at between 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock would be a beam reach.

Bearing Away: Turning away from the wind or turning downwind.

Beating: Sailing towards the wind by tacking back and forth across the wind.

Belayed: Secured, tied to, made fast to.

Bend On: To secure one thing to another. Tieing two lines together.

Bifurcation: A channel junction (two channels meeting) usually marked by a ‘bifurcation buoy’ indicating the perferred channel to follow.

Bight: A loop or bend in a line.

Bilge: The lowest inner part of a boats hull.

Bitter End: The utmost free end of a line. (The other end is referred to as the ‘Standing Line’).

Boat Wind: The wind created by the boat moving through the water. The true wind and the boat wind combine to create the apparent wind direction.

Boat Fall: Rigging used to raise or lower a ship’s boat.

Boat Painter: Rope tied to the front end of a boat used to either tow a boat or to secure it to a dock.

Bollard: Wooden or iron post on a pier to which the boat is secured.

Boom: The boom is the pole running aft from the mast to which (among other things) the foot of the mainsail is attached.

Bowline: A very strong and yet easy to untie knot that creates a loop in the end of a line.

Breastlines: Mooring lines that run from the bow and the stern at right angles to the dock to stop the boat from drifting out from the dock.

Broad Reach: One of the points of sail. Sailing downwind off to the port or starboard side. Think of a clock face – if the wind is blowing from 12 o’clock, sailing at between 4-5 o’clock or between 7-8 o’clock would be a broad reach.

By the Lee: Sailing downwind with the mainsail remaining on the same side of the boat that the wind is hitting. If you are sailing downwind on a port tack, typically the mainsail would be off the starboard side of the boat. When sailing ‘by the lee’, the mainsail in the same situation would remain on the port side of the boat out at a 90 degree angle to the boat.

C lew – The lower aft corner of a sail

Cabin: The below deck living quarters.

Cable: Measurement of distance equal to 0.1 nautical mile.

Cam cleat: A fitting through which a line is run through. The cam cleat consists of two cams that wedge against the line stopping it from being pulled out.

Cardinal Aids to Navigation: Buoys with indicate the location of hazards, safe water or deep water by reference to the four cardinal points of a compass (North, South, East, West).(See our section on buoys for a more complete explanation.)

Catboat: A boat with one mast flying no foresail (jib).

Cast Off: To release the lines allowing the boat to leave it’s mooring.

Chainplates: Very strong metal plates affixed to the hull to which the forestay, backstay and shrouds are attached.

Chart Datum: For navigational safety, depths on a chart are shown from a low-water surface or a low-water datum called chart datum. Chart datum is selected so that the water level will seldom fall below it and only rarely will there be less depth available than what is portrayed on the chart

Chock: a metal fitting, either oval or U-shaped, through which mooring lines are passed. Chocks help reduce abrasion saving the lines from excessive wear and tear.

Cleat: A small, metal deck fitting with horns used for securing lines (belaying).

Clew: The lower rear corner of a sail.

Close Reach: Point of sail – sailing against the wind at an angle somewhere between a Beam Reach and Close Hauled. Think of a clock face – if the wind is blowing from 12 o’clock, sailing at 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock would be a close reach.

Close Hauled: Point of sail – sailng as close to the wind (sharp angle to the wind) as possible without the sailings luffing (fluttering).

Cockpit: The open inset area from where the boat is steered.

Companionway: Stairs or ladder on a boat usually leading down to the cabin.

Cringles: Open metal rings inserted into the sail (also called grommets) used as reefing points for a sail but also found at the clew, head and tack of the sail to attach halyards, lines, outhauls etc.

Cunningham: A line used to adjust the forward edge of the mainsail. Usually runs from the tack of the sail to the front area of the boom.

Current: The horizontal flow of water. (Tide is the vertical flow of water.)

Cutter: A cutter has one mast but sails with two foresails.

D raft – This describes the depth of a boat measured from the deepest point to the waterline

Davit: A crane onboard that can be swung out over the side for hoisting or lowering boats.

Dead Reckoning: Navigational term – method used to plot the course already travelled by measuring speed and time to calculate distance.

Deep Six: A slang term meaning to discard something over the side of the boat.

Degree: A distance of measurement on a nautical chart. One degree equals 60 nautical miles. Each degree is broken down into 60 minute intervals. One minute of one degree equals 1 nautical mile.

Deviation: A ship’s magnetic compass reading can be affected by metal objects on the boat (electronic equipment etc). The difference between the correct magnetic reading and the ships compass magnetic reading is called deviation. Deviation will vary depending on the direction of the boat.

Dog: A metal fitting used to secure watertight doors, hatch covers and scuttles.

Downhaul: A line attached to the tack of the sail and used to pull down or tighten the mainsail to increase sale efficiency.

E ase: To let out or ‘ease off’ a line.

E nsign – The national flag of the boats home country

F Fairleads: A metal fitting through which lines are run to in order to change the direction of the lines while reducing friction on the lines.

Fairway: Sailing on inland waters, fairway means an open channel or being in midchannel.

Fast: To make fast. To secure (snugly tie) a line to something.

Fathoms: A unit of measurement. One fathon equals 6 feet.

Fenders: Cylindrical air filled plastic or rubber bumpers hung off the side of a boat or dock to prevent damage to both dock and boat.

Fetch: The distance over open water the wind has blown.

Faked: A line is faked by zig zagging it back and forth so that when it is used it will not tangle on itself.

Flaked:A sail is flaked when lowered. Flaking a sail is the process of folding the sail back and forth upon itself like the blades on a paper fan. Flaking a sail will help prolong the sail life.

Foot (Sail): The foot of a sail is the lower part of the sail. In the case of a mainsail, this is the part of the sail that runs along the boom.

F orepeak- The cabin most forward in the bow of the boat

Forestay: The forestay is a wire that runs from the top of the mast (or near the top of the mast) to the bow of the boat. The forestay supports the mast from falling backwards and is also used in shaping the bend in the mast for maximum efficiency. The luff (front) of the foresails (jib, genoa) are also generally attached to the forestay depending on the rigging system.

Forward: When on a boat, forward means towards the bow. “Move forward” – move towards the front of the boat.

Galley: The boat’s kitchen.

Genoa: The Genoa is a foresail that is larger than a jib. The clew (lower corner at the foot of the sail) extends aft of the mast unlike a jib.

Give-way Boat: Navigational rules – the boat not having the right-of-way. The Give-way boat must stay clear of the Stand-on boat. The Give-way boat must make it’s intentions known by making a decisive maneuver to alert the Stand-on boat.

Gooseneck: This is a metal fitting that attaches the boom to the mast.

G oosewinging – To sail downwind with the mainsail set on one side and the foresail on the other

Gybing: Sailing down wind and turning through the wind causing the sails to move from one side of the boat to the other.

Gybe ho: Term used by the helmsman to let his crew know that he has started to turn the boat into a gybe.

H alyard – A line which is used to raise things on a boat, so the main halyard line would be used to raise the mainsail

Halyards: Lines used to lower and raise sails.

Hanks: Clips found along the luff (front) of the foresail used to clip the sail onto the forestay (wire running from the bow to the top or near the top of the mast).

Hard over: Turning the wheel or pushing the tiller all the way over.

Head: Generally used to refer to the boat’s toilet. When talking about a sail, the Head is the top of the sail.

Head to Wind: The bow of the boat is pointed directly into the wind.

Heading up: Turning up more into the wind.

Heaving to: A way to, in effect, stall a sailboat by backing the jib, easing out the mainsail and turning the rudder hard into the wind. The forward wind pressure on the foresail wants to force the bow downwind. The rudder turned towards the wind wants to force the bow windward. These two counter effects balance each other causing the boat to hold it’s position with little movement. The mainsail is eased out all the way so that it does not catch any wind and therefore has no bearing on the boats postion.

Heeling: Leaning or heeling over caused by wind pressure on the sails.

Helm: The Helm is the steering mechanism of the boat (wheel or tiller). The person at the helm is called the helmsman.

Helms Alee: A term used by the helmsman to notify the crew that he has started to tack. Hypothermia: A dangerous condition where the body core temperature has been lowered causing extreme shivering, loss of co-ordination, in ability to make decisions and in extreme cases, loss of conciousness and even death.

I nlet – A recess, such as a cove or bay, along a coastline

In Irons: This occurs where the boat has been turned directly into the wind and has lost all forward momentum. Without forward momentum the boat loses it’s ability to steer.

J ackstay – A strong line, that can be made of wire, which runs fore and aft alongside the boat that can be used to attach your safety harness to.

Jacob’s ladder: A light ladder made of rope or chain with metal or wooden rungs used over the side or aloft.

Jib: The jib is a foresail (smaller than a genoa). The jib is about the same size as the triangular area between the forestay, mast and foredeck.

Jiffy reefing: This is a way to make the mainsail smaller by partially lowering it, tying or reefing the lower slack part of the sail onto the boom through gromets (holes in the sail) called reefing points. This is done in high wind conditions to power down the sail.

Jury rig: Makeshift – adapting parts and materials for a use not specifically designed for in order to get by until proper parts or repairs can be obtained.

K etch – A sailboat with 2 masts

Kedging: A method used to free a grounded boat by dropping it’s anchor in deeper water and then pulling on the anchor rode to attempt to free the boat.

Keel: The large heavily weighted fin like structure secured to the bottom of the boat. The keel helps to keep the boat upright and also reduces leeway (side slipping across the wind).

Ketch: A two masted boat. The second and smaller mast (mizzen) is positioned just forward of the rudder post.

Knot: Rate of speed. On land it is miles per hour, on the water it is knots (nautical miles) per hours. One knot equals 1.15 land miles – so one knot is just a bit faster than one mph.

L eeway – The sideways movement of a boat caused by wind and currents

Lateral Aids to Navigation: channel buoys (Red & Green), isolated danger buoys (Black & Red), safe water ahead (Red & White), regulatory buoys (Yellow), bifurcation buoys (Black & Yellow) plus channel identification markers and navigation markers are all considered Laterial Aids to Navigation.

Lazarette: A storage compartment, usually under the seats of the cockpit.

Lee Helm: Also called Weather Helm, this is the tendancy of the boat to turn into the wind once it has heeled over at a sharp angle.

Lee Shore: Feared by most sailors, this is the downwind shore from the boat.

Leech: The rear edge of the foresail or the mainsail running from the head (top) to the clew (rear corner) of the sail.

Leeward: Downwind.

Leeway: When a boat sails across the wind, the force of the wind causes the boat to slip sideways. This drifting or sideway motion is known as Leeway.

Lifelines: The lines running around the outside of the deck creating a railing. The lines are attached to stanchions (upright metal posts).

Luff: The forward edge of a sail running from head to tack (front corner of the sail).

Luffing: A sail is luffing when it starts to flutter in the wind. The term Luff is also used to describe the same situation. “The sail is starting to luff.”

Luff Up: To turn into the wind to cause the sails to start luffing.

M ultihull – Any boat that has more than one hull, such as a catamaran.

Made fast: Secured to.

Mast: The upright pole supported by the shrouds, forestay and backstay to which the sails are attached.

Masthead fly: A windvane attached to the top of the mast to show which direction was wind is coming from.

Monkey fist: A type of knot, heavy in nature and tied to the end of the rope. The weighted knot makes it easier to throw the rope a farther distance.

Mooring ball: An anchored ball to which you can secure your boat. Safer alternative to anchoring provided the mooring ball and lines are in good condition.

Mooring lines: Lines used to secure a boat to a dock or mooring ball.

MSD: Marine sanitation device (toilet).

N eap tide – When during the four week tidal cycle, the tide rises and drops the least.

Nautical mile (NM): International standard for measuring distance on water. One nautical mile equals one minute of latitude. (One nautical mile equals 1.15 land miles.)

O uthaul – This is a line used to tension the foot of the sail, to better control the curvature of the sail

P ulpit – A sturdy rail around the deck on the bow, normally surrounding the forestay

Pad eye: A metal eye (ring) through which lines can be passed in order to stop chaffing.

Painter: The bow line of a dinghy.

P-effect (Prop Walk): When a boat is in a standstill position and put into forward or reverse, the resistance of the boat to move and the motion of the propeller creates a paddlewheel effect pulling the stern of the boat to either port or starboard side depending on the spin of the propeller. This paddlewheel effect is known as P-effect or Prop Walk. P-effect is especially noticable in reverse where there is greater boat resistance to move backwards thus making it easier for the prop to pull the boat sideways.

PFD: Personal Floatation Device – life jacket.

Pintle and gudgeon: The pintle and the gudgeon together form a swinging hinge usually associated with the installation of the rudder on smaller tiller steered boats. The pintle has pins that fit into the holes on the gudgeon thus creating a hinge like fitting.

Points of sail: A reference for the direction the boat is travelling in relation to the wind. (in irons, close hauled, close reach, beam reach, broad reach, running)

Port: When on a boat and facing forward, the left hand side of the boat.

Port tack: Sailing across the wind so that the wind hits the port (left) side of the boat first.

Pulpit: Located at the bow of the boat, this area is enclosed by a metal railing.

Pushpit: Located at the stern of the boat and like the pulpit, this area is enclosed by a metal railing.

Q uadrant – This is a device connected to the rudder that the steering cables attach to

R egatta – Boat races

S hroud – The wires at the side that hold the mast up

Schooner: A sailboat that has two masts both the same height or on some schooners, the aft mast is higher than the fore mast.

Scope: Expressed in terms of a ratio, it is the length of the anchor rode let out compared to height above the sea bed. Height is measured not from the water line but from the top of the deck to the sea bed. A safe anchoring ratio is 1:7 which translates to 7 feet of anchor rode for every foot of height. Many sailors incorrectly assume that height means water depth and therefore find themselves dragging the anchor for lack of proper scope.

Seaworthy: A boat that is fit to be sailed at sea.

Self-bailing cockpit: A cockpit that allows water to drain automatically from the cockpit to the outside of the boat.

Shackles: Metal fittings (often U shaped) that open and close with a pin across the top of the ‘U’. Lines and halyards often use shackles. The mainsail halyard is secured to the head of the mainsail with the use of a shackle.

Sheave: A roller/wheel to guide a line or wire.

Sheets: Lines that are used to adjust sails by either pulling them in or by letting them out.

Shrouds: Also called sidestays, shrouds are the metal wires found on both sides of the mast running from the deck to the top or near top of the mast. The shrouds support the mast by providing lateral support.

Slack water: The period between the flood (tidal water moving in) and the ebb (tidal water moving out) where the water has in effect stalled – little or no movement.

Slides: The groove in the mast to which the luff (front side) of the mainsail is inserted. The slides hold the sail tight against the mast and allows the sail to be easily raised or lowered.

Sloop: a sailboat that has one mast and sails with the mainsail and one foresail.

Soundings: Water depths.

Spar: A spar can refer to any of the following: mast, boom or a pole.

Spinnaker: A large balloon-like foresail used for sailing downwind (running or broad reach).

Spinnaker pole: The spinnaker pole is boom-like in nature, but smaller and lighter, and attaches to fore part of the mast a few feet up from the deck. The other end of the spinnaker pole attaches to the leeward (down wind) base of the spinnaker.

Spreaders: Bars extending sideways from the mast (gives the mast a cross-like appearance). The spreaders hold out the shrouds so that they do not interfer with the rigging.

Springlines: Springlines are used to secure a boat to a dock and stop the boat from moving forward or backwards. The aft springline runs from a point on the boat near the bow to a point aft on the dock. The forward springline runs from a point on the boat near the stern to a point forward on the dock.

Squall: A sudden isolated storm associated with potentially high wind gusts.

Stanchions: Upright metal posts running around the outside of the deck supporting the lifelines.

Stand: This refers to the short period of time where the tide is neither rising or falling. (At a stand still.)

Standing rigging: Standing rigging includes the forestay, backstay and the shrouds. Unlike the ‘running rigging’, the standing rigging is generally only adjusted when the boat is not underway.

Stand-on boat: The boat that must retain her current course and rate of speed in order to avoid a potential collision with an approaching give-way boat.

Starboard: As you face towards the bow on a boat, starboard is the right hand side of the boat.

Starboard tack: Sailing across the wind with the wind hitting the starboard (right) side of the boat first.

Steerage: The ability of the boat to be steered. In order for a rudder to be effective in steering a boat, there must be boat movement. A boat not moving cannot be steered.

Stern: The most aft part of a boat (the very back of the boat).

Storm jib: Same as a jib but not as big. The smaller sail is used in high wind conditions.

T ender – A small boat or dinghy used to ferry crew between the boat and shore

Tack: The front lower corner of a sail. Also means to sail back and forth across the wind in either a port or starboard tack.

Tacking: Also called “Coming About”. Tacking is when the bow of the boat is turned through the wind onto the opposite tack.

Tail: The bitter end of a sheet tailing out from a winch.

Tang: A metal fitting used to affix the stays to the mast.

Telltails: (Also called Ticklers) These are small strings (wool, plastic) attached to both sides of the luff of the sail. When the telltails on both sides of the sail are blowing straight back, this indicates that the sail has been properly trimmed.

Through hulls: Through hulls are holes that go through the boat. Each through hull will have a shuttle cock (value) to stop the flow of water. An example of a through hull would be the head (bathroom). A through hull value is opened so that water from outside the boat can be pumped into the MSD (toilet). The value is closed and the toilet pumped empty into a holding tank.

Tide: The vertical rise and fall the oceans.

Tide rips: This is an area of rough water where the wind is blowing across the water in the opposite direction from which strong tidal current is flowing.

Tiller: In boats that are not steered by a wheel, a tiller (long handle) is attached to the top of the rudder in order to facilitate steering.

Toe rail: A small metal railing running around the outside of the deck used to support your feet.

Topping lift: A line running from the top of the mast to the end of the boom. The topping lift supports the boom when the sail has been lowered.

Topside: The portion of the hull above the water line.

Transom: The flat area across the stern of the boat.

Trim: To trim or adjust the sail to make it more effective against the wind.

True wind: The actual wind felt wind the boat is not moving.

Turnbuckles: Adjustable fittings usually attached at the end of shrouds and stays. Turning the turnbuckle one way or the other tightens or loosens the wire.

U nfurl – To unroll a sail

Upstream: Moving from seaward into harbor, moving with the flood of the tide, moving up river toward the headwaters.

V ane – A wind direction indicator

Veering: A wind shift in the clockwise direction usually indicating that good weather is approaching.

W inch – A mechanical device for pulling in a line

Wake: The waves created behind a boat as a result of the boat moving through the water.

Way: Movement of the boat.

Weather helm: The tendancy of the boat to turn up wind after heeling (leaning over).

Wheel: Controls the rudder. Taking control of the wheel is taking the helm.

Winch: Provides a mechanical advantage. Used to raise the sails, tighten the sheets and other lines.

Windward: Towards the wind.

Wing to wing: Running (sail directly downwind) with the mainsail out one side of the boat and the foresail out the other side of the boat.

X marks the spot on the treasure map!

Y awing – The side to side movement of a boat on an uneven course

Yawl: A sailboat that has two masts. The aft mast (mizzen) is shorter than the foremast. The mizzen mast is located aft the rudder post. (On a Ketch, the mizzen mast is located fore of the rudder post – this is the distinquishing factor between the two.)

Z ephyr – A very light westerly wind

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The basic rules of sailing regattas

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What is Yacht Racing? (Here’s All You Need To Know)

yachting regatta meaning

Have you ever watched a yacht race, with its colorful sails gliding across the water in a graceful dance? Have you ever wondered what it takes to participate in yacht racing? This article will take you through all you need to know about yacht racing, from the different types of yachts and races, to sailing clubs and regattas, technical knowledge and skills, safety, and the benefits of yacht racing.

We’ll also explore some of the most popular events and races.

So whether you’re an avid sailor or just curious about this exciting sport, you’ll find all the information you need here.

Table of Contents

Short Answer

Yacht racing is a competitive sport and recreational activity involving sailing yachts .

It is most popular in areas with strong maritime cultures, such as the UK, US and Australia.

Races typically involve a course that boats must follow, which can vary in length depending on the type of race.

Competitors often use advanced sailboat designs, and use tactics and strategy to try to outmaneuver their opponents in order to be the first to cross the finish line.

Types of Yachts Used in Racing

Yacht racing can be done with a wide variety of boats, from dinghies and keelboats to multihulls and offshore racing boats.

Dinghies are small, lightweight boats with a single sail and are often used in competitive racing.

Keelboats, on the other hand, are larger and heavier boats with a fixed keel and two or more sails.

Multihulls, like the popular catamaran, are boats with two or more hulls and are designed with speed and agility in mind.

Finally, offshore racing boats are designed for long-distance racing and are typically larger and more powerful than other types of yachts.

No matter what type of yacht you choose to race, they will all have common features that make them suitable for racing.

All yachts must have a mast, sails, hull and rigging, and will usually feature a deck, compass, and navigation equipment.

Additionally, racing yachts are often fitted with safety features such as life jackets, flares, and emergency radios.

Each type of yacht has its own unique characteristics, and some are better suited for certain types of racing than others.

For example, dinghies are better suited for short-course racing, while offshore racing boats are better for long-distance racing.

Additionally, keelboats and multihulls are often used for more challenging types of racing, such as distance racing or match racing.

No matter what type of yacht you choose for racing, it is important to remember that safety should always be your first priority.

Be sure to check the weather conditions before heading out and make sure that you have the proper safety equipment on board.

Additionally, it is important to get professional instruction or join a sailing club to ensure you have the necessary skills to race safely and enjoyably.

Types of Races

yachting regatta meaning

Yacht racing events can take place in a wide variety of forms and formats, from long-distance ocean racing to short-course inshore racing in protected bays and estuaries.

Each type of race requires different skills and equipment, and the type of race you choose to participate in will depend on your sailing experience, budget and the type of boat you have.

Long-distance ocean racing is a popular form of yacht racing, with races often taking place over several days and often involving multiple stages.

These races often have several classes of boat competing, with each boat competing in its own class.

These races may involve sailing around a set course or route, or they may be point-to-point races, where the boats sail from one point to another.

Inshore racing is the most common form of yacht racing, with races typically taking place over a few hours or a single day.

This type of racing is often conducted in protected waters, such as bays and estuaries, and generally involves shorter course lengths than ocean racing.

Inshore races may involve multiple classes of boat, or they may be one-design classes, where all boats are the same model and size.

Multi-hull racing is another popular type of yacht racing and involves boats with two or more hulls.

These boats are generally faster and more agile than monohulls, and races are often held over a short course.

These races can be highly competitive, with teams of experienced sailors vying for position and race victory.

Offshore racing is similar to ocean racing, but often involves much longer distances and more challenging conditions.

Races may take place over several days and multiple stages, and require a high level of experience and skill.

Offshore racing boats are usually specially designed for speed and agility, and may have multiple crew members on board to help manage the boat in challenging conditions.

Sailing Clubs and Regattas

Yacht racing is a popular sport around the world, with sailing clubs and regattas held in many countries.

Sailing clubs are organizations where members can come together to race, learn, and enjoy their shared passion for the sport.

Membership in a sailing club usually includes access to the clubs facilities, equipment, and training classes.

Regattas are large-scale yacht racing events, often hosted by a sailing club.

The regatta can be organized for any type of boat, from dinghys to offshore racing boats, and the races can be held over a series of days.

The goal of the regatta is to crown the winner of the overall race, or the individual class honours.

Sailing clubs and regattas are a great way for sailors of all levels to come together and compete.

They give sailors an opportunity to hone their skills, network, and make friends with other passionate sailors.

Additionally, these events are often open to the public, so they give the general public a chance to see the amazing spectacle of yacht racing up close.

If youre looking for an exciting and fun way to get involved with sailing, look no further than your local sailing club or regatta.

Technical Knowledge and Skills

yachting regatta meaning

Yacht racing is a sport that requires a great deal of technical knowledge and skill.

Competitors must be familiar with the physics and dynamics of sailing, including how to read the wind and manipulate their vessel to maximize speed and maneuverability.

They must also be able to understand the principles of navigation, so they can accurately plot a course and adjust it to take advantage of the prevailing wind and current conditions.

Furthermore, competitors must be able to read the weather and use that information to their advantage in the race.

Finally, competitors need to have a good understanding of the rules of the race and how to adhere to them.

Yacht racing is a complex sport with a steep learning curve, and it requires a great deal of experience and practice to master.

Safety is a key element of yacht racing, as it involves operating large vessels in often unpredictable and hazardous conditions.

All racers must be properly equipped with the appropriate safety gear, such as life jackets, flares, and a first aid kit.

It is also essential that all racers are familiar with the rules of the race, and have a good understanding of the safety protocols that must be followed in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

All yacht racing events must be properly insured, and there are often medical personnel on standby in case of an emergency.

Before any race, all participants must sign a waiver declaring that they understand the risks involved and accept responsibility for their own safety.

Benefits of Yacht Racing

yachting regatta meaning

Yacht racing is a great way to challenge yourself and take part in a thrilling sport.

It offers numerous benefits to those that participate, from improved physical health and mental well-being to an opportunity to travel and explore new places.

Whether youre a beginner or an experienced sailor, yacht racing provides an exciting and rewarding experience.

One of the main benefits of yacht racing is its impact on physical health.

It requires a great deal of strength and endurance, as the sailors must use their arms and legs to control the boats sails and rudder.

Its also a great way to get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular health.

Additionally, sailing is a low-impact sport, meaning theres less risk of injury than other more strenuous activities like running or cycling.

Yacht racing also has many mental benefits.

Its a great way to relax and take in the beauty of the ocean, as well as the camaraderie and excitement of competing in a team.

Additionally, it gives sailors the opportunity to put their problem-solving skills to the test, as they must think quickly and strategize in order to succeed.

Yacht racing also requires quick decision-making, which can help to improve mental acuity and develop a more acute awareness of ones surroundings.

Finally, yacht racing is a great way to explore new places and meet new people.

Races often take place in different locations around the world, meaning sailors can get a glimpse into different cultures and explore new destinations.

Additionally, yacht racing provides an opportunity to socialize with other sailors, as well as make connections in the sailing community.

Overall, yacht racing is a great way to challenge yourself and reap the numerous physical, mental, and social benefits that come with it.

With its exciting races and stunning locations, its no wonder that yacht racing has become a popular sport around the world.

Popular Events and Races

Yacht racing is an exciting and popular sport with events and races held all over the world.

From the world-famous Americas Cup to local regattas, there are races and events of all sizes and skill levels.

The Americas Cup is the oldest and most prestigious yacht race in the world, with the first race held in 1851.

Held every 3-4 years in a different location, the Americas Cup pits the worlds best sailors against each other in a battle of boat speed, tactics and teamwork.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is another major race, held annually in Australia.

The race begins in Sydney Harbour and ends in the port of Hobart, Tasmania and is known for its unpredictable and challenging conditions.

The Whitbread Round the World Race (now known as The Volvo Ocean Race) is a grueling nine-month, round-the-world yacht race.

This race is one of the most challenging and dangerous races in the world.

In addition to these larger races, there are many smaller local and national regattas and races that offer an opportunity for sailors of all skill levels to compete.

From small dinghy races to larger keelboat and offshore racing events, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in yacht racing.

Yacht racing is a fun, competitive and rewarding sport and with so many events and races available, there is sure to be something for everyone.

Whether you are a competitive sailor or just looking to have some fun on the water, yacht racing is the perfect sport for you.

Final Thoughts

Yacht racing is an exciting and challenging sport that is enjoyed by many around the world.

With a variety of yacht types, races and events to choose from, there is something for everyone.

To get started, it is important to have a good understanding of the technical skills and knowledge needed, as well as the safety protocols associated with the sport.

With the right preparation and dedication, yacht racing can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

If you’re interested in taking up this exciting sport, make sure you check out your local sailing clubs and regattas to find out what’s on offer.

James Frami

At the age of 15, he and four other friends from his neighborhood constructed their first boat. He has been sailing for almost 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge that he wants to share with others.

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Yachting Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts During Regattas

yachting regatta meaning

Regattas are the epitome of yachting grandeur, drawing both seasoned sailors and enthusiastic spectators from all over the world. However, while the focus is often on speed, strategy, and skill, there’s another element that’s equally crucial: etiquette. The unwritten rules and protocols dictate the grace with which the sport is played, and they embody the respect sailors have for one another, the environment, and the tradition of the sport itself. In this article, we’ll delve deep into the essential do’s and don’ts of yachting etiquette during regattas, ensuring that every participant, whether a novice or a veteran, is well-prepared to navigate the waters of decorum.

Communication: The Importance of Clear Signals

Communication on the waters is paramount. Without the right signals, yachts risk collisions, misunderstandings, and strategic blunders. Flags, sound signals, and radio communications have specific meanings in the context of a regatta. It’s imperative to understand each signal’s meaning and to use them clearly and timely. Miscommunication or failure to signal can lead not only to race penalties but also dangerous situations. When hailing other yachts, use the vessel’s name, maintain a clear and calm tone, and always be concise. Remember, while radios are for essential communication, the human voice, especially in close quarters, is just as critical. Repeatedly calling instructions, updating teammates on changes, or signaling intentions to other competitors ensures everyone remains in the loop and acts accordingly.

Right of Way: Understanding Priority Rules

The right of way in yachting isn’t just about etiquette; it’s about safety. The basic principles revolve around which boat has the “right of way” and which must give way. Boats on a starboard tack generally have the right of way over those on a port tack. However, there are many nuances, especially when yachts are of different sizes, under power vs. under sail, or when navigating in tight quarters. Violating these rules can lead to race penalties and dangerous situations. It’s crucial for sailors to understand these rules thoroughly and always be alert to other vessels’ positions and intentions.

Sportsmanship: Competing with Respect and Integrity

Yachting, like all sports, is best played with honor. Respect for competitors, race officials, and even spectators is fundamental. This respect is reflected in fair play, avoiding gamesmanship, and acknowledging others’ achievements. Whether it’s adhering to race rules, assisting a competitor in distress, or simply acknowledging good strategy with a tip of the hat, sportsmanship sets apart the true sailors from mere competitors. It’s this spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect that makes yachting not just a competition but a community.

Environmental Responsibility: Protecting the Marine Ecosystem

The sea is both the playground and home for sailors. With this privilege comes the responsibility to protect it. Avoiding actions that harm marine life, disposing of waste properly, and even choosing eco-friendly products for yacht maintenance are ways sailors can minimize their environmental footprint. During regattas, it’s particularly essential to ensure waste doesn’t find its way into the waters. Respect for the marine environment should be second nature to every sailor.

Dress Code and Presentation on Board

The world of yachting carries a rich heritage that is deeply entwined with formality and elegance. While yachts are primarily functional and built for the sea’s rigors, they have also been symbols of luxury and sophistication for centuries. As a result, there’s an inherent expectation regarding the presentation onboard and the dress code for those on the yacht. Dress codes vary widely based on the event and its location. For instance, Mediterranean events might have a more relaxed attire, while those in more traditional yachting areas, such as the UK, might lean towards formality. Typical attire could range from blazers and slacks for men and dresses for women during evening events to more casual polos and shorts during daytime sailing. Footwear, often boat shoes or other non-marking soles, is chosen for both function and style. The yacht’s presentation is equally crucial. A well-maintained yacht reflects the pride of its owner and crew. Everything, from the gleam of the rails to the crispness of the sails, speaks volumes about the people on board. Cleanliness, order, and attention to detail can make a significant difference. It’s not uncommon for crews to spend hours ensuring every aspect of their vessel is in impeccable condition before a regatta or event. In essence, the combined dress code and presentation on board showcase respect: respect for tradition, for fellow competitors, and for the event itself.

Celebratory Conduct: Gracious Wins and Losses

In the heat of competition, emotions can run high. The culmination of months or even years of preparation is laid bare in a regatta, and the results can elicit strong reactions from participants. However, how sailors conduct themselves in moments of triumph or defeat speaks volumes about their character and understanding of the sport’s essence. A gracious win is as much a skill as mastering the wind. It’s essential to celebrate, but it’s equally crucial to ensure that celebration does not demean or belittle the efforts of competitors. Simple gestures, such as acknowledging the competition, thanking the crew, or even a nod to the race officials, can make a victory resonate more sweetly. A genuine appreciation for the chance to compete and the recognition of the fine margins that separate success from defeat is the mark of a true sailor. Conversely, handling losses with grace is equally important. It’s natural to feel disappointment, but it’s vital to keep perspective. Every loss is a learning opportunity, and by acknowledging mistakes, appreciating the victors, and showing resilience, sailors build stronger foundations for future successes.

Adhering to Race Protocols and Traditions

Regattas are steeped in tradition. From the manner in which races are started to the ceremonies that conclude events, these traditions encapsulate the rich history of yachting. Ignoring or being unaware of these protocols can be seen as a sign of disrespect and can tarnish a sailor’s reputation. One of the essential aspects is the respect for race officials. Their decisions, even if contentious, are based on their understanding and interpretation of the rules. Challenging these decisions should be done formally and respectfully, without public outbursts or confrontations. Many regattas have specific traditions tied to their history. For instance, certain races might start with a particular flag or sound signal, harking back to the origins of the event. Post-race ceremonies, too, often have elements that have been consistent for decades or even centuries. These might include specific toasts, speeches, or even the manner in which trophies are presented and received. For sailors, especially those new to an event, taking the time to understand and appreciate these traditions is vital. It’s not just about following the rules; it’s about showing respect for the sport, its history, and the sailors who came before.

In the high-octane world of yacht racing, where strategy and speed reign supreme, etiquette ensures the sport remains graceful, respectful, and safe. By understanding and adhering to the unwritten rules of the sea, sailors not only pay homage to yachting’s rich tradition but also contribute to its bright and inclusive future. As with all things, in yachting, it’s not just about winning but about how the game is played.

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Racing Signals: Sailing Flag Meanings

Racing Signals: Sailing Flag Meanings | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Gabriel Hannon

August 30, 2022

Where other competitions have umpires and referees right next to the players, sailing race committees have to rely on flags to communicate with sailors.

In this article, we are going to explain the meanings of all the flags used at regattas to communicate with sailors. The flags can give information about starting procedures, course information, and on-the-water judging, so a basic understanding is a crucial part of general seamanship.

While nautical flags all have defined meanings in a historical context, they have very specific meanings in the context of racing competition. For instance, in the general nautical world, the Z-flag means that you are in distress and are in need of a tow or relief from a tug boat. At a regatta, the race committee may fly the Z-flag to indicate an additional penalty for any boat that has crossed the line early. Moreover, even though there are certain flags that have well-defined roles, race committees may stipulate additional meanings or introduce new flags via an announcement in the sailing instructions for the event, so we will cover some of these more common changes as well. We will break down the meanings into the various categories of usage.

A secret that I have learned over many years of regattas at every level from proverbial ‘beer-can’ races to national championships is that, as well as both you and the race committee can recite the racing flag rules on land, someone is always going to make a mistake or misunderstand these symbols. That is why I will be going through the official flag meanings and rules from the Racing Rules of Sailing for 2021-2024 to clarify any questions that you might have when the race committee flies a flag that hasn’t been seen since we used Clipper Ships to cross the oceans. Hopefully this article will help break down all the most common signals so that when your friend turns to you and asks ‘is that the flag that tells us it's time to go in,’ you’ll be able to help out!

Table of contents

‍ Flags at the Start

The start of a race is often the most confusing part of a regatta and is where the most flags must be used. We will be going over the rules for the flags at a basic 5-minute start. These can be modified for 3-minute dinghy starts, 5-minute match race starts, 6-minute Olympic starts, or 10-minute big boat starts, but the same logic applies.

A few flags are crucial to set everything up on the starting line prior to the starting sequence.


To begin, the race committee must have an Orange Flag visibly displayed, as this demarks the exact location on the boat from which the line is called. If there is a pin boat, they will often fly an Orange Flag as well, but if it is just a buoy, then the buoy serves as the other end of the line.


Next, the RC will additionally fly the L Flag if they are ready for competitors to check-in at the beginning of the race day. This helps them confirm that everyone is sailing under the correct sail number, which is often a logistical nightmare. They will blow one horn when raising this flag. If this flag is raised at any point later in the day, it is meant to tell competitors to come by the committee boat again.


Finally, the AP Flag is a general purpose postponement flag. The race committee may raise this on land to indicate that the harbor start has been delayed or on the water to indicate that there will be a delay in the starts. While there are other flags that are used for abandonment situations, particularly the N Flag, the AP is commonly used in informal situations. Two sounds accompany the raising of the AP, and it can be said that competitors are ‘under AP’ until it is dropped, along with one sound. If it is dropped on land, competitors may immediately launch. If it is dropped on the water, the next start may begin in as little as one minute.


The final note with the AP Flag is that the race committee may indicate the end of racing for the day by flying ‘AP over A.’ Again, the AP could technically be replaced with the blue and white checkerboarded N Flag, but the two serve very similar purposes at most levels.

Starting Flags


Once the race committee is set up and everyone is ready to go sailing, the next task is to get the right fleets to the starting line for their start. At the warning signal, one loud horn that indicates that the 5-minute countdown to the start has begun, the race committee will raise some type of Class Flag that indicates which type of boat will be starting. Above we have the different class flags for the different competition rigs for the ILCA-Dinghy, formerly known as the Laser, which would be raised to indicate which rig is starting.


This is a convention even if there is only one class on the water. Sometimes this is replaced with raising the Orange Flag itself, or some other flag as laid out in the sailing instructions. Often classes have been assigned a numeral pennant, of which 1-4 are displayed above, in place of the highly specific Class Flags. Still, some flag of this nature goes up at 5-minutes and remains up until go, at which point it is dropped.


At 4-minutes, the RC will sound another horn, known as the preparatory signal, and raise some combination of the above flags.

The P Flag is always required to go up, and it is simply the ‘Prep Flag,’ which signals to the racers that they need to get serious about the race. Once the P Flag is raised, all the right-of-way rules that apply during the start switch on and racers, particularly in team and match racing, are allowed to begin tactically engaging with each other (though in team racing this would happen at minute 2 of the 3-minute start). Moreover, racers can talk with their coaches until the prep signal, and race committees may alter the course up until this moment. Afterwards, all coaching is banned and all course changes on the current leg are not allowed. This belies the fact that a 5-minute starting sequence is actually a 4-minute sequence with a warning signal at 5-minutes, but that is a purely semantic detail.

Depending on how rowdy the competitors are, the race committee may raise any combination of the I, Z, U, or Black Flags. Each of these flags deals with boats that start ‘on-course side’ (OCS), essentially a false start for sailing. If any of these flags is raised, a boat is not allowed to be anywhere within the triangle formed by the starting line and the first mark of the course after the 1-minute signal during the start. These flags essentially help the RC ensure that they can get off a clean start and ensure that they can identify any boats that are OCS at go. When they are flown, the following penalties are added beyond requiring a boat to clear itself by dipping back under the line:

  • I Flag: Conventionally referred to as the ‘one-minute rule,’ this requires that any boat over the line after a minute also has to sail around an end of the line in order to start the race fairly. This punishes a boat for being over by potentially making it a little harder to clear themselves if they are over on a large line.
  • Z Flag: Often flown in combination with the I Flag, this flag adds that any boat that is OCS will get a 20% penalty on top of their score in that race, regardless of whether they clear themselves or not. This further hurts any boat that is ‘pushing the line’ by ensuring that even if they manage to clear themselves and come back, they will still see an impact on their scoreline that is equivalent to immediately being passed by 20% of the fleet.
  • U Flag: Now we’re getting into harsh territory. When the RC is really trying to brush the fleet back off the plate, this flag immediately disqualifies a boat that is over after a minute with no course for redress. If these boats are identified, they tend to be told to stop sailing the race by a notice board at the top mark.
  • Black Flag: The black flag serves a very similar purpose to the U Flag, except it is a step harsher. It disqualifies you after a minute and even prevents you from sailing in a restart of the race or a race abandoned halfway through.

The I Flag is by far the most common flag, and is often effective at keeping boats from being over. The U Flag rule was introduced in 2013 as an option and formally codified in the Racing Rules in 2017 and is massively more popular than the Black Flag, which is considered overly punitive. In particular, when many sailors are over in a Black Flag start, such that the RC cannot determine who was over, they are forced to make unfair decisions that carry over to the restart, so the U is now almost universally used in its place. Additionally, as the U has become more popular, people tend to shy away from the Z flag, which is considered cumbersome for scorers and confusing to sailors.

In general, while these flags are supposed to be raised in conjunction with the P Flag, often the RC will only raise the most punitive of the flags, as any of them can essentially be considered as a prep flag.

As the starting sequence continues, any prep flag(s) raised must be lowered at the 1-minute signal. The class flag is then lowered at go, leading to the next category of flags: Recall Flags

Recall Flags

After the pain of raising and lowering all those start flags, the RC then has three possible jobs. If the start is clean, they shout ‘All Clear!’ and can then relax until they have to start another race or record finishes for the race in progress. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, as they likely will need to ‘recall’ certain competitors for being ‘OCS,’ i.e. false starting. They have two choices here.


If only a few, easily-identifiable boats have started early, the RC will raise the X Flag along with a single sound in what is referred to as an individual recall. This indicates to the boats on the course that there are some competitors who are currently OCS and must clear themselves. If the I Flag had been flown for the start, competitors have to round an end; if not, they can just dip back behind the starting line and restart from there.

While the X is suitable on its own to inform a boat that it has been called over, it is an oft practiced courtesy for the RC to hail an OCS boat’s sail number over a megaphone, a radio, or other transmission device. The X Flag is dropped when all OCS boats have cleared themselves or after 4 minutes from go, whichever comes first.


If more boats than can be easily identified are called over, the RC can blow two horns and fly the First Substitute Flag, indicating a general recall. In this case, the race is fully reset and the committee will initiate another entire starting sequence for that fleet. After a general recall, the RC will often, but not always employ the next level of penalty flag for the restart in an attempt to get the race off cleanly.

Sometimes, as in college sailing or as stipulated by other sailing instructions, any general recall immediately implies the I Flag for the next sequence if it had not been flown previously. As such, the RC does not necessarily have to fly the I if it is unavailable. Still, such stipulations are almost always written out explicitly for a given event and are often accompanied by a verbal announcement as a courtesy.

Still, outside some usages of the AP or N Flags to abandon or delay starts already in sequence, these are all the flags that deal with general housekeeping and the starting sequence.

While Underway

While the starting flags are by far the most complicated of the flag rules, there are still other flags to keep track of while racing. The first among these are...

Course Change Flags

Although course changes are relatively rare, race committees often pull them out when conditions change substantially during races or if there has been a problem with one of the marks.


When wind or time constraints require, the race committee may send an official to any mark of the course that no boat has yet rounded and have it raise the S Flag along with two sounds. This indicates that the fleet shall finish at that mark, cutting off the race earlier than written in the sailing instructions.


In the case of any other change to the course, such as a minor adjustment to the angle or distance of an upcoming leg, a race committee boat will go to the preceding mark and raise the C Flag along with repeated sounds.

This is sometimes accompanied by a Red Square or a Green Triangle to indicate that the mark has been moved to port or starboard respectively. Although during less formal events, you can change the positions of any marks so long as there are no competitors currently sailing on that leg of the course, it is considered poor form if at all possible to inform competitors, particularly in longer races. Sailors make decisions based on the position of the marks, and if this has been changed without them noticing, that can drastically affect the outcomes of strategic decisions, so in large competitions the C Flag is a must.


If, meanwhile, something odd has happened to a mark of the course, any official boat may fly the M Flag with repeated signals. This serves to inform the competitors that they have become a replacement for the missing mark. This is relatively uncommon, but anchors do occasionally snap on marks, so it is always good to have a support boat with the M if possible.


Finally, as mentioned before, if conditions have deteriorated to the point that a race is considered no longer possible, due to lack of wind, fear of foul weather, or some form of interference -- I’ve seen it happen because cruise ships wanted to pass through a dinghy course, and you don’t say no to them -- the race committee may abandon the race using the N Flag. Still, this flag is relatively rare as you will often see the AP in its place for convenience, as they are functionally similar.

Miscellaneous Flags

While we have covered the bulk of the flags necessary for racing at any level, there are a few more flags from across different disciplines and classes that are worth mentioning, if only to let you in on these quirky parts of the racing world! This starts with what one could reasonably call…

The Cheating Flag


Calling the O Flag the cheating flag is certainly a bit of a misnomer. The O Flag does, however, suspend Rule 42 of the Racing Rules of Sailing. Rule 42 is particularly notorious, as it bans pumping, rocking, ooching, sculling, and excessive maneuvering, all of which are methods to make your boat go substantially faster. While Rule 42 is worth an article in and of itself, the larger point is that it is meant to keep anyone from gaining an unfair advantage over their competitors.

Certain competitive classes, however, including the Olympic class 470s and Finns and many of the new foiling fleets, allow competitors to ignore Rule 42 in certain conditions, typically in heavy breezes that are referred to as ‘planing’ conditions. There are differences across the classes, but whenever it is allowed and the RC flies the O Flag, Rule 42 is switched off and competitors can ooch, pump, rock, and tack their boats all around the racecourse. This allows for a much more physical style of sailing and is a rule that many different classes and sectors of sailing are beginning to consider.


If conditions no longer meet the threshold for that class’s rules regarding suspension of Rule 42, an official boat will raise the R Flag at some point during the race. They can only do so at a mark of the course so that it is fair to all the competitors throughout the fleet. This is relatively rare, and is normally done between races, but is still a key part of the O Flag rule.

Judge and Umpire Flags

On the topic of Rule 42, there are certain fouls in sailing that can be actively enforced on the water by judges or umpires, depending on the context.

Rule 42 is enforced by judges with a Yellow Flag, which they will point at an offending boat along with a sound signal and a direct sail number hail. That boat may clear themselves from their first Yellow Flag by taking their two-turn penalty, but, unless otherwise noted in the sailing instructions, any subsequent violation can entail disqualification.

Finally, certain levels of modern match and team racing, with the addition of high-performance racing like SailGP, have full on-the-water umpires who actively follow the racing to make calls on fouls and other plays. While this is not the spot to go through the intricacies of team and match race calls, the basic gist is as follows.

In any interaction, any boat involved in the race may call in the umpires if they believe that their opponent has fouled them. If the opponent clears themselves quickly, essentially admitting fault, the umpires will not get involved. If no boats clear themselves, the umpire has to make a call on whether there has been a foul. If they determine that the maneuvers were clean, they will make one sound and fly a Green Flag, thus exonerating all boats in the interaction. If they determine there was a foul, they will fly a Red Flag with a singular sound and hail the offending boat.

Beyond that, if a boat is found to have broken a rule not related to an interaction, the umpires may come in and fly the Red Flag without being directly invited into the situation. Further, if a boat is found to be in violation of sportsmanship or refuses to take a penalty as assessed by an umpire, the umpire may fly a Black Flag, disqualifying them from the race.

While there are differences at each event and in each discipline, these general guidelines are followed in most umpired races, with specific flags used at various events, generally depending on availability.

With that, we have made it from land, through the start, a few general recalls, all the way to umpire flags! I hope this has helped you get a grasp of the various flags used across sailing. While this has not scratched the specifics of the various alterations made for kiteboards and windsurfers, nor some of the annoyances of protest flags and more, we have gone through the bulk of regularly used race committee and umpire signals.

The ‘Wear Your Life Jacket!’ Flag


Finally, we have a safety flag. At big boat regattas, the race committee may, if it chooses, fly the Y Flag at any point prior to a start to inform competitors that they must wear personal floatation devices, which is not always strictly necessary.

The Most Important Flag

While I wish I could tell you that everyone uses their flags properly and accompanies them with the proper timing and sound signals, that is far from the truth. Everyone’s flag set is slightly incomplete or out of date, and invariably there is going to be a miscommunication somewhere, where the race committee forgets to put the I Flag up but really should have; I’ve certainly done that a time or two. Still, there’s nothing quite like being on the water, so, despite the endless mutual griping between racers and their race committees, hopefully everyone comes back to shore flying the ‘Happy Flag.’

Happy sailing!

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a boat race, as of rowboats, yachts, or other vessels.

an organized series of such races.

(originally) a gondola race in Venice.

a strong, striped cotton fabric that is of twill weave.

Origin of regatta

Words nearby regatta.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use regatta in a sentence

The year 1882 was notable chiefly for the introduction of a new class in the regatta programmes, viz.

The fourth regatta of the season took place away from the port, and off the new watering-place, Lee-on-Solent.

This year was remarkable for the entry in the race for first-class yachts on the second day of the regatta .

In the year of grace 1775 the first rowing regatta that was ever held in England took place upon the Thames—on June 23.

Largs regatta in 1892 will long be remembered; it was no flat racing, but real steeplechasing in the Clyde.

British Dictionary definitions for regatta

/ ( rɪˈɡætə ) /

an organized series of races of yachts, rowing boats, etc

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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regatta | Intermediate English

Examples of regatta, translations of regatta.

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yachting regatta meaning

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yachting regatta meaning

Meaning of "yachting regatta" in the English dictionary

Pronunciation of yachting regatta, grammatical category of yachting regatta, what does yachting regatta mean in english, definition of yachting regatta in the english dictionary.

The definition of yachting regatta in the dictionary is a sailing competition.


Words that begin like yachting regatta, words that end like yachting regatta, synonyms and antonyms of yachting regatta in the english dictionary of synonyms, words relating to «yachting regatta», translation of «yachting regatta» into 25 languages.

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Examples of use in the english literature, quotes and news about yachting regatta, 10 english books relating to «yachting regatta», news items which include the term «yachting regatta».

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Definition of 'regatta'

IPA Pronunciation Guide

regatta in American English

Regatta in british english, examples of 'regatta' in a sentence regatta, trends of regatta.

View usage over: Since Exist Last 10 years Last 50 years Last 100 years Last 300 years

In other languages regatta

  • American English : regatta / -ˈgɑtə, rɪˈgætə /
  • Brazilian Portuguese : regata
  • Chinese : 帆船赛
  • European Spanish : regata
  • French : régate
  • German : Regatta
  • Italian : regata
  • Japanese : レガッタ
  • Korean : 보트 경주
  • European Portuguese : regata
  • Spanish : regata
  • Thai : การแข่งเรือยอชต์หรือเรือพาย

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  • yachting regatta

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regatta noun

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What does the noun regatta mean?

There are three meanings listed in OED's entry for the noun regatta . See ‘Meaning & use’ for definitions, usage, and quotation evidence.

regatta has developed meanings and uses in subjects including

How common is the noun regatta ?

How is the noun regatta pronounced, british english, u.s. english, where does the noun regatta come from.

Earliest known use

early 1600s

The earliest known use of the noun regatta is in the early 1600s.

OED's earliest evidence for regatta is from 1612, in the writing of W. Shute.

regatta is of multiple origins. A borrowing from Italian. Perhaps also partly a borrowing from French.

Etymons: Italian regata , regatta ; French régate .

Nearby entries

  • regardlessness, n. 1611–
  • regard ring, n. 1853–
  • regardship, n. a1513
  • regard-worthy, adj. 1632
  • regarment, v. 1814
  • regarnish, v. 1480–
  • regarrison, v. 1657–
  • regasification, n. 1913–
  • regasify, v. 1908–
  • regather, v. 1543–
  • regatta, n. 1612–
  • regatta fabric, n. 1962–
  • regatta shirt, n. 1840–
  • regatting, n. 1843
  • regauge, n. 1871–
  • regauge, v. 1737–
  • regauged, adj. 1812–
  • regd., adj. 1694–
  • regeal, v. 1653
  • regelate, v. 1857–
  • regelation, n. 1857–

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Meaning & use

Pronunciation, compounds & derived words, entry history for regatta, n..

regatta, n. was revised in December 2009.

regatta, n. was last modified in March 2024.

oed.com is a living text, updated every three months. Modifications may include:

  • further revisions to definitions, pronunciation, etymology, headwords, variant spellings, quotations, and dates;
  • new senses, phrases, and quotations.

Revisions and additions of this kind were last incorporated into regatta, n. in March 2024.

Earlier versions of this entry were published in:

OED First Edition (1905)

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OED Second Edition (1989)

  • View regatta in OED Second Edition

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Citation details

Factsheet for regatta, n., browse entry.


  1. The Full Regatta Experience

    yachting regatta meaning

  2. "Watching" the Classic Yacht Regatta

    yachting regatta meaning

  3. Regatta organisation French Riviera

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  4. Yacht racing & regattas

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  5. Yacht Racing & Sailing Regattas

    yachting regatta meaning

  6. We are all participants in the regatta!

    yachting regatta meaning


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  1. What Is "Regatta" In Sailing? (Explained For Beginners)

    The dictionary describes the meaning of the word regatta as a boat race with rowing boats, sailing yachts, or other vessels. It also describes a regatta as an organized series of boat races. However, the word regatta originates from the early Venetian word "regata," literally meaning a fight or contest. The word regatta was first documented ...

  2. Sailing 101: Defining a Regatta

    A sailing regatta, by definition, is a sporting event consisting of a series of boat or yacht races. The competition was formerly a defined route driven by a minimum of two boats within a given period. Some competitions may be less than an hour or while others may take up to several months. A differentiation is made between single-class ...

  3. Everything You Need to Know About Regattas

    A regatta is a sailing sport competition, or in simpler terms, races on sailing yachts. Once an elite and expensive sport, it is now accessible to many without gender, age, or other limitations even in serious global competitions. For most Europeans, regattas in the Mediterranean are the most accessible: during the yachting season from April to ...

  4. Exploring the World of Regattas: A Guide to Types ...

    A regatta is a sailing competition, or simply put, a race on sailing yachts. Once an exclusive and expensive sport, it is now accessible to many, without gender, age, or other restrictions, even at serious world competitions. For most Europeans, regattas in the Mediterranean are the most accessible, with a large number of races during the ...

  5. Regatta Definition & Meaning

    regatta: [noun] a rowing, speedboat, or sailing race or a series of such races.

  6. The guide to the different types of sailing regattas

    The yachting community calls them regattas (Italian "regata" derived from "riga" meaning "row line", "starting line"). ... Extreme Sailing Series is a regatta with the shortest distance. Vendee Globe is the only round-the-world non-stop single-handed yacht race.

  7. Learning How to sail: A-Z of Yachting Terms

    If you are sailing downwind on a port tack, typically the mainsail would be off the starboard side of the boat. When sailing 'by the lee', the mainsail in the same situation would remain on the port side of the boat out at a 90 degree angle to the boat. C. Clew - The lower aft corner of a sail. Cabin: The below deck living quarters.

  8. The basic rules of sailing regattas

    The start line. With flags and sound signals is shown before the start time and start. To start the race, participating in the regatta boat must cross the starting line. That's what it says in the rules of sailing competitions: The boat starts when any part of her hull, crew or equipment crosses the starting line in the direction of the first ...

  9. History of Yachting Regattas: A Deep Dive

    The term "yacht" itself originates from the Dutch word "jacht," meaning "hunt," signifying the speed and agility of these vessels. As maritime exploration flourished and naval prowess became a symbol of national pride, the allure of yacht racing grew, setting the stage for organized competitions. Evolution of Boat Design for Racing

  10. YACHTING REGATTA definition and meaning

    Sailing a sailing competition.... Click for English pronunciations, examples sentences, video.

  11. What is Yacht Racing? (Here's All You Need To Know)

    Regattas are large-scale yacht racing events, often hosted by a sailing club. The regatta can be organized for any type of boat, from dinghys to offshore racing boats, and the races can be held over a series of days. ... Additionally, sailing is a low-impact sport, meaning theres less risk of injury than other more strenuous activities like ...

  12. Boat racing

    Boat racing is a sport in which boats, or other types of watercraft, race on water.Boat racing powered by oars is recorded as having occurred in ancient Egypt, and it is likely that people have engaged in races involving boats and other water-borne craft for as long as such watercraft have existed.. A regatta is a series of boat races. The term comes from the Venetian language, with regata ...

  13. Yachting Etiquette: Do's and Don'ts During Regattas

    Regattas are the epitome of yachting grandeur, drawing both seasoned sailors and enthusiastic spectators from all over the world. ... Flags, sound signals, and radio communications have specific meanings in the context of a regatta. It's imperative to understand each signal's meaning and to use them clearly and timely. Miscommunication or ...

  14. Racing Signals: Sailing Flag Meanings

    Racing Signals: Sailing Flag Meanings. Where other competitions have umpires and referees right next to the players, sailing race committees have to rely on flags to communicate with sailors. In this article, we are going to explain the meanings of all the flags used at regattas to communicate with sailors. The flags can give information about ...

  15. Yacht racing

    Yacht racing is a sailing sport involving sailing yachts and larger sailboats, as distinguished from dinghy racing, which involves open boats. It is composed of multiple yachts, in direct competition, racing around a course marked by buoys or other fixed navigational devices or racing longer distances across open water from point-to-point.

  16. YACHTING REGATTA definition in American English

    The Netherlands won the Admiral's Cup yachting regatta for the first time, with Europe finishing second and Britain third. the Olympic yachting regatta. ... Definition of yachting regatta from the Collins English Dictionary. Read about the team of authors behind Collins Dictionaries. New from Collins Quick word challenge.

  17. REGATTA definition and meaning

    An organized series of races of yachts, rowing boats, etc.... Click for English pronunciations, examples sentences, video.


    REGATTA definition: 1. a sports event consisting of boat races 2. a sports event consisting of boat races 3. a boat…. Learn more.

  19. REGATTA Definition & Usage Examples

    Regatta definition: . See examples of REGATTA used in a sentence.


    REGATTA meaning: 1. a sports event consisting of boat races 2. a sports event consisting of boat races 3. a boat…. Learn more.

  21. Meaning of "yachting regatta" in the English dictionary

    «Yachting regatta» Meaning of yachting regatta in the English dictionary with examples of use. Synonyms for yachting regatta and translation of yachting regatta to 25 languages. Educalingo cookies are used to personalize ads and get web traffic statistics. We also share information about the use of the site with our social media, advertising ...

  22. REGATTA definition in American English

    regatta in American English. (rɪˈɡætə, -ˈɡɑːtə) noun. 1. a boat race, as of rowboats, yachts, or other vessels. 2. an organized series of such races. 3. (originally) a gondola race in Venice.

  23. regatta, n. meanings, etymology and more

    regatta, n. meanings, etymology, pronunciation and more in the Oxford English Dictionary. ... What does the noun regatta mean? ... (early 1600s) sailing (late 1700s) textiles (1910s) See meaning & use. How common is the noun regatta? About 0.2 occurrences per million words in modern written English . 1750: 0.031: 1760: 0.15: 1770: 0.13 ...