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Width of a "good" gate

Graham Allen

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My understanding of a "good Gate" for a sailing course is that it should give no bias to either side of gate and be big enough for the boats to go through without too much problem.

Now! what is a good width or distance between the marks to make the gate Good and fair?

secondly, does it matter if the zone for each gate mark overlaps, if so how does the rules cover 2 zones?

thirdly, Is there any time when a biased gate would be useful for the race team to set?

I have raced at events where little consideration has been given to this important part of the race (I can be included in this as well) with only one side of the gate being used due to either being too wide or badly set so any constructive advise would be most welcome.

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What is a good width? I do not know of any advice written in the Race Management documents. From my own experience, a good width is a minimum of 6 boat lengths and a maximum of 10 boat lengths. If the marks are too close, the fleet is still congested both approaching the gate, and on the beat after rounding and tacking back into the course. The longer the gate, then the greater the bias to one end over the other - eventually all boats will round one end and the purpose of the gate is lost. Fleet size should play a factor - a small fleet, the marks may be closer, but a big fleet, move them further to give more space to the fleet.

Can the zones overlap and how do the rules apply. Yes, there is no reason for the gates NOT to overlap. The rules do not care. The rules apply to each mark separately. This is because R 18 and Mark Room only apply between boats that are rounding the same mark, in the same direction. So a boat heading for the left mark, rounded to port, does not give mark room to a boat heading for the right mark, to be rounded to stbd and vice versa. If those two boats converge, then the applicable ROW rule applies, eg Port keeps clear of Stbd, windward keeps clear of Leeward, or astern keeps clear of ahead. Note that at a Gate, 18.4 removes the restriction about sailing further from a mark.

Is there any reason for the RC to set a biased gate? Usually No, but if there is a special condition on the course that prefers one side of the course, then giving the gate a bias to the other end may help to spread the fleet out more.


John Ball

IOM CAN 307 (V8)

In my private capacity

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I do not believe the actual distance apart is the real issue, one agrees 8 meters should be the minimum.

However setting a bias between them is surly all important and I firmly believe John has lost it here. It is never possible to set a truly square gate particularly when the wind is constantly shifting and one side of a pond is generally the most favourable.

It should be the objective of the Race Officer to encourage people not to not to tack back across the mark into the oncoming boats rounding the mark -- even if they are on Starboard. Doing this creates needless interference to the oncoming running boats trying to round the mark

Bourneville last week. remember Graham..

And let me hasten to add that I am not criticising the Bourneville course at all. I enjoyed it, I had my own problem to contend with --a new boat on its first outing. It is simply an example of a gate that should not have been.

All to often the leeward gate is set behind the weather gate. So anyone taking the leeward gate is putting himself two maybe three boat lengths back. Compounding this, is by taking the leeward gate one is often forced to cross the oncoming fleet on port - not a cool idea.

Ok these comments are applicable mostly to narrow ponds - unlike the wide open spaces of Canada Similarly the comment are applicable to larger fleets .. 15 or so that do not spread out all that much because they are all good sailors unlike in.....

Apart from other considerations like congestion, why would one take the low road when taking the high road puts you 6 boat to weather, on starboard of those taking the

low road on port. who will win that match...if there is no bias.

But as to how far apart ... John is on the right track at 10 metres but you then have to make up your mind half way up the run and the leeward mark must/should then be 5 metres forward to compensate for the loss of ground.

That spacing however is not really possible at some / most ponds which is why I constantly wonder why they/we use a gate when a spreader top and bottom would probably lead to better racing all round and defiantly far less interference between boats on different legs of the course which is the actual objective of setting courses in the first place.


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  • 2 weeks later...

It is considered best practice in big boat sailing to ensure that the zones do not overlap. This is to prevent conflicting entitlements to mark room. If the gate marks are too close together then a boat will have room at one mark and not at the other, and boats may not intend rounding the same mark! I would suggest that, where possible, RS gate marks are more than 8 hull lengths apart.

A gate is well laid when an equal numbers of boats round each mark - easier said than done, especially when the subsequent beat is one sided. It may be necessary to give considerable bias to one mark in order to split the fleet.


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3 good answers thank you.

David perhaps the spreader mark at each end in a lake like Bournville or where we sail off a bank would make more sense as the rounding (port or starboard) can manage the fleet to reduce cross over between boats on different legs of the course.

A question for Gordon. Would you suggest any other type of course for radio yachting? The triangle and sausage is still used by most clubs as a course with most bigger events using windward mark and gate. I find the triangle and gate gets a little processional on the reaches, with beating and running allowing different routes and chances to move up the fleet.


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