What are Regattas?

In simple terms, a regatta is a series of a sailboat races.  For High School Sailing at MSC, regattas are held over one or two days on local and regional lakes and rivers such as: Bde Maka Ska, Lake Minnetonka, White Bear Lake, St. Croix River, and Lake Michigan.  Regattas are a great way for new and experienced sailors to challenge themselves and improve! Click here for the regatta schedule.

How do raceS work?

Sailboat racing takes many forms.  There are countless types of sailboats and nearly unlimited environments in which to sail. Although all the variables can seem daunting, when it comes down to it sailboat racing is an engaging, dynamic, and thrilling sport!  Luckily, High School Sailing is limited to only a few different types of racing, which we describe below.

what are the rules?

Sailboat racing is governed by the Racing Rules of Sailing as adopted by US Sailing.

High School sailing has additional procedural rules imposed by the Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA), and our district, the Midwest Interscholastic Sailing Association (MISSA).

C420 3.jpg


All High School races utilize one design sailboats. Similar to NASCAR racing, one design racing means every single sailboat in the race is exactly the same.  Different types of sailboats have Classes with certain specifications that boat makers must follow to ensure all boats are the same.  

At MSC we sail 420s and Lasers.  420s have two sails and are a doublehanded boat meaning they are sailed by two people; a skipper who steers the boat and trims the main sail, and a crew who sits in front and trims the jib sail.  Lasers are a singlehanded boat sailed by a single skipper. All new sailors at MSC will begin by sailing in the 420. Laser sailing and regattas are limited to the Fall season.

Laser 1.jpg

race course

There are two main types of race courses:

Short Course or Buoy Racing - Sailboats start at the same time and sail around a course (usually marked by buoys) a predetermined number of times. Boats are then scored by the position in which they finish. High School sailing uses buoy races lasting 5-30 minutes.

Two common buoy racing courses are the Windward/leeward and Digital N.  The windward/leeward course is often used in fleet racing and involves sailing directly towards the wind (windward) and then sailing with the wind at your back (leeward) and repeating. The Digital N course is sailed in the shape of the letter "N" and is often used for team racing.

Distance or Offshore Racing - Sailboats race over long distances and use landmarks, buoys, or other objects to mark the course. Races can last hours, days, or even weeks. The Volvo Ocean Race is an example of distance racing. Unfortunately, we will not be doing any distance races in High School Sailing.

Judges sight down the starting line and call out boats that cross early

Judges sight down the starting line and call out boats that cross early


Both buoy and distance racing use a starting line to begin the race.  A starting line is an imaginary line between a Pin (buoy) and the judge's boat.  A series of flags and horns are used to signal a timed starting sequence.  For High School sailing the sequence is usually three minutes long.

Boats sail back and for forth behind the starting line during the sequence. At the end of three minutes the sailboats are free to cross the line and begin the race. If a sailboat crosses the start line early they are forced to take a penalty, which involves sailing back and recrossing the start line.  If a sailboat does not properly take a penalty they are considered OCS (On Course Side) and are disqualified from the race.

Similar to the starting line, there is a finish line that sailboats cross to end the race.  The start line often serves as the finish line as well.

Race formats

Fleet Racing - 3 or more sailboats racing against each other. Sailboats are scored based on their finishing position (1 point for 1st place, 2 for 2nd place, 3 for 3rd, etc.).  The sailboat with the lowest score after a series of races is the winner.

High School doublehanded races often uses two divisions: A Fleet and B Fleet.  Each team of 4-7 sailors will designate an A Fleet and B Fleet pairing. In a typical regatta A Fleet will sail 2-3 races and then switch with B Fleet who then sails 2-3 races, and so forth.  The scores of A Fleet and B Fleet for each team are combined to determine the overall winning team.

Team Racing - Two teams of 3 sailboats compete head-to-head.  The winner of each race is the team with the fewest total points.  For example a team that finishes in 1st, 3rd, and 6th place has a total of 10 points while the other team finishes 2nd, 4th, and 5th for a total of 11 points.  The finishing positions are referred to as “combinations”. Any combination of points that adds up to 10 or less is a “winning combination”.

Team race regattas are generally a round-robin format.  If there are 10 teams in the regatta, each team will race against each other team. The team with the best overall win/loss record in the end wins the regatta.

Match Racing - Two sailboats race head-to-head.  Match racing regattas can be a series of head-to-head races, a round-robin, or tournament bracket style.


High School Regatta Tiers

Regattas in our district (MISSA) are classified as Tier 1, 2, and 3. Tier 1 and 2 regattas are official qualifying and championship regattas.  The rules for Tier 1 and 2 regattas are more restrictive and only allow for sailors in grades 9-12 to compete.  In Tier 1 and 2 regattas all sailors on a team must be from the same school; no mixed teams are allowed.  

Tier 1 - The District Championship and District qualifiers for the three ISSA National Championships.

ISSA National Championships
Cressy - Singlehanded fleet racing
Mallory - Doublehanded fleet racing
Baker - Doublehanded team racing

MISSA District Championship
Great Lakes - Doublehanded fleet racing

Tier 2 - Qualifiers for Tier 1 regattas; qualifiers for national invitationals and other out-of-district regattas.

Tier 3 - Any other MISSA regattas. Unlike Tier 1 and 2 regattas, Tier 3 regattas in Minnesota allow sailors in grades 7-8 who attend middle schools that feed a high school registered with MISSA to participate.  Teams in Tier 3 regattas may include sailors from multiple schools (mixed teams).



Most regattas have a registration fee that is paid directly to the host venue. Tier 3 regattas in Minnesota usually cost $20 and include a lunch.

Tier 1 and 2 regattas can costs upwards of $75 for the regatta plus the cost of travel, food, and lodging if the regatta is out of town.  For traveling regattas we try to find accommodations with a host family to ease the financial burden on sailors.

typical regatta schedule

7:30 am - Meet at the MSC Boathouse to form carpools and gather gear (if local)
8:00 am - Arrive at the venue and register
9:00 am - Coaches and skippers meetings
10:00 am - Races start
Lunch - Sailors eat when they have a break between rotations
3:00 pm - Last race starts by this time
4:00 pm - Races end and sailors go back to MSC or home

Sunday (if applicable)
8:00 am - Meet at the MSC Boathouse to form carpools and gather gear (if local)
8:30 am - Arrive at venue
9:30 am - races start
Lunch - Sailors eat when they have a break between rotations
2:00 pm - Last race starts by this time
3:00 pm - Races end and sailors go back to MSC or home



Prepare for the worst possible weather conditions. Check the weather forecast or talk to your coach and teammates if you are unsure what to expect. Here is a cold weather checklist:

Extra layers and dry clothes
Fleece sweater
Fleece or synthetic leggings
Long underwear
Old sneakers or sailing boots
Rain jacket or spray-top
Rain pants or spray bibs
Sailing gloves (rubber coated gardening gloves work well)
Snacks and water bottle
Warm hat
Wet suit or dry suit
Wool socks

Parents and Spectators
Binoculars (races are usually a fair distance from shore)
Camping chairs
Rain jackets and/or rain pants
Snacks, water, coffee

Here are our recommendations on what type of sailing gear to buy and where to get it: