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The "Blue Flag"

Being on the starting line with experienced skippers and crews can be an intimidating place. Over many years of racing we found new and learning skippers formed a second flight of boats crossing the start line behind the experienced skippers.

The Blue Flag flown from the backstay (or from the end of the boom on a dinghy) is intended to speed up the learning curve for any new or learning skipper.

In our Wednesday Night Racing series, any boat in the back half of the fleet may claim a Blue Flag Start. These boats start one minute before the rest of the fleet starts. All boats in the fleet are scored together. No boat is required to take a Blue Flag aboard, this is entirely at the option of the skipper.

Without the experienced skippers on the start line, the learning benefits of a clear start line for Blue Flag boats include:

  • determining the favoured end of the line
  • creating a strategy for the first leg of the race
  • establishing a transit on shore to gauge being on the correct side of the start line
  • setting up for the lane they want for the first 30-60 seconds of the race
  • establishing crew work (counting down to the start, watching other boats, boat handling, sail trim)
  • hitting the line at speed at the horn 
  • speeding up or slowing down the boat to be at the start line at speed when the horn sounds
  • clearer air upwind, fewer boats accelerating away and blanketing boats downwind
  • watching how faster boats sail through boats ahead of them
  • learning how to “defend or attack from the front” 

In practice, boats that have claimed a Blue Flag  typically only hold that flag for a short period of time until their skills ramp up. Blue Flag boats may have their flag pulled by the Fleet Captain when their results don’t warrant the one minute lead on the fleet.

The timing for Blue Flag boats

  • Beginning of 3 minute start sequence – Class flag up (warning flag)
  • 1 minute later – Preparatory flag up
  • 2 minutes later – Preparatory flag down and Blue Flag Boat Start
  • 3 minutes later – Class flag down and rest of the fleet starts racing

More about How To Start Faster

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