Selecting your fleet

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This article is about selecting which fleet to enter for the IOCA (UK) national events.

National Events

Springs, Inlands, End of Seasons and Winter Championships

These regattas generally have a Main Fleet and Regatta Fleet. Note: Regatta Fleet was only recently introduced at the Springs and Inlands, so it's worth checking the entry criteria for the event to see if a Regatta Fleet is still available.

National Championships

The National Championships usually has a Regatta Racing Fleet, Regatta Coaching Fleet, and Mini Racers.

Selection Trials

These events usually only have a Main Fleet. The Selection Trials are in an invitation only event.

Sailed in a national event before

Deciding when it's time to move up a fleet can be tricky, and there is no right or wrong answer. Here is a few things to consider when thinking about when to make the transition.

  • Rules. Check the rules in the Notice of Race. If you have done RYA Zone Squad, then you may not be eligible for the lower fleets. There are also usually age restrictions, e.g. minimum age for Main Fleet is usually (Optimist (ISAF) 9).
  • The venue. Sea venues like Pwllheli can potentially be a lot more challenging than a lake venue. If you are a lake sailor and haven't done much sea sailing, then you might want to wait for the next lake venue to make the move.
  • Junior fleet. At the National Championships, the Main Fleet is split into Senior (Optimist (ISAF) 13-15) and Junior (Optimist (ISAF) 12 and under). So, if you move into Main Fleet at the Nationals, you won't be sailing against the top 15 year olds. However, at the National Championships, there are often a lot of International sailors competing, so competition is still fierce.
  • Friends. Sailing at national events is about competing, but it's also about having some fun. Have a look to see what fleet your friends have entered, or have a chat with them. It can be more fun if you all move at the same time.
  • Temperament. What's more fun? Getting out there and battling against sailors that are older/better than you, or cruising to an easy win and a trophy. Some sailors like the battle, others like the sense of achievement of being in front.
  • Experience. Getting some experience at the front of the fleet is really useful. If you have been getting results at around the middle of the fleet, then it might be worth staying on for another event or two, to get some experience at being at the front. Once you move onto the next fleet, you won't get a chance again for a while... Conversely, if you have been in the top 3 at a national event, it might be time to think about moving on. Staying on too long is good for the trophy cupboard, but you will be missing out on all the experience in the next fleet that your contemporaries are getting.
  • Support. When you sail in the regatta fleet, there are support boats there to help you. There is less of that in Main Fleet (and none if you go to International events). If that's a concern about moving up a fleet, contact the event organiser for the event, and they may be able to connect you up with a support RIB in the fleet that you want to sail in.
  • Long days. Main Fleet stay out on the water all day. If the Main Fleet is flighted (weekend events), then the days on the water can be quite long (6 or 7 hours is not unheard of, if the weather conditions are not good). Sailors take their lunch with them, and toileting facilities are provided. Regatta Racing Fleet aim to stay out all day, but may come in if the weather conditions dictate.

Never sailed at an IOCA (UK) national event

Competed at local regattas

Have a look at the list above for some useful tips, and also these:

  • Competitors. Have a look at the entry lists (or talk to the sailors) to see where the sailors that you have been competing against are entered. It's more fun if you know someone, and if they have done a national event, they can explain how it all works.

Done club racing

Have a look at the list above for some useful tips, and also these:

  • Age. Have a look at the ages of the sailors entered in each of the fleets. That will give you some idea, but take into account the age that you started sailing. Some of the sailors competing at the national events have been sailing optimists since they were 5. If you didn't start sailing until you were 11, then check all the fleets to see where the sailors of your age are entered and go for one of the lower fleets with sailors of your age.
  • Be conservative. If you get it wrong and go for a fleet that is too low a standard, the worst that can happen is that you come home with a trophy and a few prizes. Go for one that is too hard, and you might be in for a miserable event. It's not much fun being at the back..

International sailor

Check the Notice of Race for information about which fleet to enter. If you are not sure, contact the event organiser and they will be able to give you advice.

Squad sailors/applicants

If you have applied for a RYA Zone Squad, or equivalent Home Country Squad, but have not yet found out whether you have a place, then you can still enter into Regatta Fleet at the End of Seasons Championships.

If you have done a RYA Zone Squad, or equivalent Home Country Squad, then you are usually no longer eligible for Regatta Fleet. However, check the Notice of Race for the event, and contact your Squad manager, to find out if you are not sure. Exemptions are sometimes granted for sailors, who have taken part in a squad, but would be more suited to a lower fleet. Exemptions must be arranged via your Squad manager.

Invitational training

IOCA (UK) runs invitational training for sailors over the winter. The criteria for these training sessions changes regularly, and you should check the IOCA (UK) website for uptodate information.

Generally, the selection criteria for these training sessions are based on Main Fleet rankings from the previous few events. So, if you opt to sail in Regatta fleet, and do not sail in the Main Fleet for any national regatta, you may find that you are not eligible for the invitational training.

Moving down a fleet

Moving to Main Fleet is usually a one-way trip. For most sailors, once they make the jump to Main Fleet, there is no looking back. However, if you try out Main Fleet for an event, and decide that it wasn't right for you, you may be able to move back to Regatta fleet.

Check the Notice of Race for the next event. Often, the Notice of Race will specify that sailors who have sailed in a previous National Championships in Main Fleet, can't compete in Regatta fleet, (which means that if you sailed in Main Fleet at the Inlands, but want to sail in Regatta Racing fleet at the National Championships, you can do so).

If you are not sure, contact the event organiser for the event, and they will be able to give you advice.