Racing the Catapult catamaran: Tactics and Rules

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Sailing Catapult

Tactics and Rules

The Start

Catapult racing works on the principle that a friendly group of sailors who know each other well can avoid collisions, and any need for protests.

 Racing is strictly within the rules but it is expected that any breaches will be immediately dealt with, in an honour system.

  A 360 turn follows any touching of a mark  (Most mark touches will be unobserved by other boats, but basically, everyone feels better keeping to this rather than making up excuses at the time.)
 If boats collide, one or both will do the 360 immediately. To simplify this, we try to minimise the risk of contact, for instance running downwind, or at marks.

 The pages here on tactics and the rules don't go over all the rules, but look at situations in Catapult racing specifically where they crop up.

ere is a good site  for a summary of the rules, with examples as you go round the stages of a typical course, and test questions.

  Two of the basic formal rules are the responsibilty to avoid collisions, and allowing time for a boat to respond to a right-of-way boat

  Several of the clubs where Catapult races, with wide sailing space and being used to big fleets (Grafham, Rutland and Carsington) can set courses which minimise risk, usually a simple circuit rounding to port (see below) where the rules are easy to apply.  This is more  difficult for some (like Bala with a narrower lake and fixed marks) and Bassenthwaite enjoys setting complicated courses.

The short sequence in the photos  below shows most of the main rules (rounding the windward mark to port at the 25th Anniversary Regatta at Bala.)

catamaran racing at the top mark

  Above, four boats come to the mark on starboard (one obscured).

  Catapults 1 and 247 must be given room by the boats to windward  and overlapping  them (522 and the obscured boat)

  Catapult 1 has an additional  claim for room from 522, for room at the mark as they are overlapping within three boat-lengths of the mark.

522 has given 1 the space and has accepted losing some distance, and the same will apply to the pair following.

catamarn racing rounding the top mark

  The second photo in the sequence, above, demonstrates starboard right of way over port  (and how rounding the windward mark to port makes the rules clear.)

  The first four boats (one now obscured) have come in to round on starboard (giving plenty of room between each other and the mark.)

  Catapults 513 and 52 coming up on port (both dark blue hulls) have to give way to the boats ahead on starboard. There should be no confusion here. Fortunately for them, there appears to be a gap before the distant yellow-hulled boat, and orange hulls (obscured by 513) get to them  with right of way over them, but it could be close.

   (Tactically, 513 may have his reasons for getting into this apparently disadvantaged position (where he has little space to manoevre approaching the mark) for instance if wind pressure  seemed better on the left-hand side of the beat. He can easily judge when to turn onto the final approach to the mark, whereas the distant yellow-hulled boat (in the middle) needing to judge his tack from further away, seems  to have gone too far before turning to the mark.

  If the distant boats have over-stood, but are likely to catch 513 with starboard right of way, he will be tempted to turn for the mark in front and below them. He may succeed. He will need to remember that Catapult being so light carries no momentum on through even a quick tack.

   A slow tack loses a boat length to leeward, and 513 may find himself pinching up to the mark, stalling and slowing while the other boats come over him to windward, and he drifts down onto the mark. It is too painful to think about.

Below: starboard rights over port on a dead run.

catamarans running in a breeze

 At Rutland Open Regatta 2011, Nigel (foreground) and John power downwind in a strong breeze, with the mains (and helms) on opposite sides. The right of way is straightforward at the moment, with Nigel on port having to keep clear of John on starboard.

  What is less straightforward is manoevring in this weight of wind, sharing the same piece of water, so that it is well to stay well apart. They will round the mark to port, so John has a gybe to negociate shortly, and he will then be the leeward overlapping boat and  Nigel will have to give him room---until they reach the mark (three boat-lengths out) when Nigel can calime room at the mark.

  In this strong breeze, the rule giving the non-right-of-way boat time to respond (above) has to be interpreted generously, as the wind pressure will increase as soon as they are not running dead before it, so manoevres may be chaotic and take up a lot of water.

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