Captain's Quarters Regatta  Oct. 4th, 5th, & 6th 2019

Note: This page contains general information to provide insight into how the regatta is organized, raced, and scored.  If you're looking for information on participating and registering for this event, click here.

The Captain’s Quarters Regatta is a two day event held for the benefit of River Cities Community Sailing Program and draws a large group of boats from the Kentuckiana region and elsewhere. The competing boats are broken into fleets—Spinnaker and Jib And Main (JAM), and within each fleet there are one or more classes.  Over the course of the weekend, the boats will compete in six or more races.  As an amateur event, sailors compete for trophies and winter bragging rights.  Sailors compete within their individual classes which provides for numerous winners as trophies are awarded to the three boats in each class with the lowest scores.

Fleets and Classes

Boats are broken into fleets and classes based on their sail configuration and their handicap.  The fleets are generated based on sail configuration—JAM and spinnaker.  Almost all sailboats have two primary sails, one on the front called a jib or a genoa, and one on the back, attached to the mast, called the mainsail.  When the wind is blowing from behind the boat, some people like to use a spinnaker—that’s the large balloon like sail on the front of the boat—because it provides a bigger expanse of sail and pushes the boat through the water faster.  However, using a spinnaker takes a larger and more expert crew, so not everyone uses it.

Since boats using a spinnaker are faster going downwind, it really isn’t fair to race them against boats that don’t use a spinnaker.  Therefore the boats competing in Captain’s Quarters are divided into two fleets—Spinnaker and JAM.

Additionally, because most of the sailboats racing here are not the same length or same design, there are speed differentials.  To counter this, a handicapping system has been developed in the U.S. which allows boats to race on a more level playing field.  Under the system, Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF), boats are assigned a number based on their speed.  The lower the number, the faster a boat; the higher the number, the slower the boat.  These numbers are assigned based on racing results from around the country.

Depending on the number of boats in each fleet--Spinnaker and JAM, they may be grouped into classes based on their PHRF number.  Boats with similar PHRF ratings are grouped together in a class which makes the racing more competitive and more fun for the sailors.  Quite often there are two Spinnaker classes and three JAM classes racing at Captain’s Quarters.

The Course

Sailboats race on either a closed course—around a set of buoys—or a distance—point to point—course.  The majority of races in this area, and Captain’s Quarters is no exception, are run on closed courses.  The preferred courses for the Captain’s Quarters Regatta are set with floating buoys (marks) in the water at windward/leeward (upwind/downwind) turnaround points, or a similar course with an added offset mark that forms a triangle course .

The course is set up with a turning buoy or mark at the upper end of the course and another turning buoy or mark at the bottom of the course.  The distance between these two marks is approximately 1 to 1.5 miles.  (The race committee sets the distance between marks based on wind strength.  The stronger the wind, the longer the course.)  At the half way point between the two marks, there is a boat which serves as the race committee boat.   The races are run from this boat.  On either side of the committee boat there is a start and a finish line. 

Race committees almost always like to start races into the wind, or as close as they can given the fact that you can only race up and down the river.  Each class has its own start.  As each class starts the boats race up to the first mark, known as the windward mark.  They round it and race down to the bottom mark or leeward mark.  Rounding the leeward mark the boats will race to the finish line or make another loop around the course.  If the wind is quite strong, say 12 to 18 miles per hour, the race committee will usually have the boats race twice around the course.  

Once the boats in every class have finished, the race committee will start another race.  Generally the race committee likes to run three or more races each day.  However, on Saturday no races are started after 4:00 p.m. and on Sunday no races are started after 3:00 p.m.  And, if there is little or no wind, the race committee will postpone racing until there is sufficient wind for the boats to make it around the course.


The start of a sailboat race looks like unfathomable chaos.  Boats seem to be milling about and there seems to be no logic to their movements.  Looks, however, are deceiving.  First of all, each class has its own start.  So, those boats that are not starting are milling about which adds to the confusion.  Secondly, the starts are timed affairs.  Each gets a five minute count down to the start.  The five minutes begins with the sounding of a horn and the raising of a flag.  The idea is for the boats’ bows to touch the starting line--an imaginary line between the committee boat and the buoy or mark anchored on the left side of the committee boat—when the five minute timer expires, marked by a gun sounding and a red flag being hoisted on the committee boat.

If a boat’s bow crosses the line before the five minutes expires, it’s considered over early and has to come back, round the starting line buoy/mark and re-cross the line, putting it at the back of the pack.  If a boat is late getting to the line, there are a bunch of boats ahead of it and the boat gets caught up in the turbulent wind off the boats in front of it—a real drag in every sense of the word.

So it is important to be on the line when the gun sounds.  At the same time the boats have to get to the line without infringing on any of the other boats.  If a boat infringes on another, the perpetrator must admit it and then take a penalty. 

The person who has to bring all this together is the one steering the boat—the skipper.  He/she has to find the spot on the starting line that he/she feels will tactically give the boat a good chance of doing well.  Then, the skipper must get to that spot without infringing on any of his/her fellow competitors and time it so that the boat hits the starting line going full speed just as the gun goes off.

So what you’ll see during the starting sequence—the five minute span—is boats sailing about, killing some time and looking for their spot.  In the last few seconds before the five minutes expires, the boats will line up and drive for the line trying to hit it at full speed just as the gun goes off.

The sound of the starting gun also signals to the next class that its five minutes has begun.  This sequence repeats itself until all the classes have started.