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Club Racing vs. Circuit Racing by Charlie South

by Charlie South, Laser Radial 29 May 2017 11:00 BST 29 May 2017
Charlie South sailing at Stokes Bay © SBSC

In 2016 / 2017 I moved from the Topper to racing the Laser Radial. I'd sailed the Laser a bit before, but it was a big change! I thought I'd write a few things on the pros and cons of attending open training & circuit racing vs. spending time at your home club if you want to make a change to racing a Laser Radial.

I'm lucky my home club is Stokes Bay. Stokes has a really active Laser fleet with a great Radial section and a number of talented local sailors. If you're lucky enough to have a strong home fleet there are some real pros for staying local.


  • Little / no travel
  • Friendly yet great racing that you can test yourself in without pressure
  • Great advice and training
  • Regular races in a familiar format
  • Enables you to focus on boat handling and racing as you know the venue
Sailing locally has massive advantages if you've got a strong home fleet. That said, there are disadvantages too.


  • Pecking orders – it's easy to 'fall' into your usual place in a race "because that's where you usually finish"
  • Competition – with smaller fleets you don't get to race against as many people and can end up just racing yourself
  • Start lines & courses – not all clubs can put on an Open Meeting standard start line and course
  • The number of races and how long they are – at a home club you may only get 2 short races a weekend (pro & con!)

I think it comes down to what you want from sailing. I love sailing at Stokes – it's friendly, competitive, good fleet numbers and you can learn loads from the really experienced Standard and Radial sailors. But, if you are looking to do well at Open Meetings you need the experience of big fleet starts and courses.

Local Series

I'm doing the Rooster South Coast Laser Grand Prix Circuit at the moment and these one day events are really good fun. I did one last year and Keyhaven this year. it's a really good way of moving from Club racing in to the circuit without travelling too far! The racing is a step up from the Club because of the courses and starts, but not as full on as the qualifiers and has a great range of people racing.


In the Toppers it seemed that every week I was away at an event somewhere. The National Series is great in the Toppers with big fleets and really good competition. I was a little worried about going to the Laser Qualifiers, but found that the fleet was really friendly with a big range of sailors racing. I'd say if you want to give it a go, go for it! You won't be put off on the water by the other sailors and you could surprise yourself as well. What is also good is that the key opens are either in the Spring or Autumn. This means in-between you get to sail at your Club and local events!

T1 / Open Training

The class and RYA put on Autumn / Winter open training and last year / this year I did most of them. The training is excellent and you get to know and learn from sailors at a similar level to you as there is a great range of Radials doing them. At some we had 25 or more boats so it's like a really busy open meeting – on the water training hard for two full days with great briefings. These weekends really helped me step up from the Topper sailing to racing the Laser instead of just steering it around the course!

So... I think it's a balance between Club and circuit and what you want to do and are able to do!

Thinking about going to the Qualifiers in the Autumn? I'd say get to grips with the Laser at your Club over the summer, attend the local events to start Open Meeting practice on start lines and then pick your Qualifiers! If you can attend any of the open training over the winter these days really help get you up to speed for the Youth Nationals and Spring Qualifies! Hopefully I'll be doing them again this winter.

My tips for moving from Club to Qualifiers would be:

  • Race at your club regularly to help get your racing going
  • Attend the Open Training to learn and meet other Radials doing what you are
  • Go to the local events to get Open experience and race other people not at your Club
  • Do a qualifier for the experience – they're really good fun!
  • GET FIT! Then get even fitter!

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