Course Boards and Course Change Boards

Both of these topics are covered on this page because they overlap – so lets sort out what is what.
By Course Boards we mean the boards displayed, usually on the side of a committee boat or battery, to let the competitors know which course to sail.  For dinghy courses the terminology has almost standardised.  Usually the course description consists of two characters, the first of which is the type of course and the second is the number of beats. For bigger events there could be up to four characters.  Essentially it means the competitors do not have to carry course cards as the shape of the course and number of laps is easy to remember.
A quick explanation of course designations: For Dinghies the most frequently used course when you have more than one class or fleet is the trapezoid – essentially two windward leewards separated so fleets on one loop don’t interfere with fleets on the other loop.  For example O3 means an Outside Loop with three beats and I2 would be an Inside Loop with two beats.
For Windward Leeward courses the designation is usually L and the number of beats so  L2 would be a two beat Windward Leeward course and L3 would be a three beat Windward Leeward Course.  There are, of course, variations on this theme to cover offset marks and finishes to one side or other etcetera  as a quick example LA2 Woudld be a two beat Windward Leeward Course with an offset mark at the windward end – normally finishing downwind.  To complicate it further the same course but with a finish on a dog leg to port after the gate would be LRA2.  If the dog leg ws to starboard it would be LGA2.
Variations also include using T for old style triangle courses.  Just ensure the Sailing Instructions are clear on the choices.

For my first attempt at building  course boards I used Laser sized sail numbers and letters (300 mm), which dictated the overall size. The course designations are on lightweight board and slot in from the top. There are two hooks on the back to hang the board and holder on a guard rail and holes in each corner for rope to tie it in place if no guard rail available. These were too big and cumbersome to move around and carry to and from committee boats. The second attempt was much smaller – the course letters and numbers slot in from the top again, individually this time, and I used smaller letters at 220 mm and the overall height of the holder frame is now 380 mm. Still easily read by the competitors – they don’t have to be read from a huge distance as they can sail by the committee boat and read the course. These ones have a carrying handle built in and  the slots hold all the numbers and letters needed for a particular event.  Much easier to move around on and off committee boats. Can also be used as a bearing board.  I have included a couple of photographs of digital font type course and bearing boards – I am not a fan of these as I think they are harder to read (And some of the mechanical ones that have individual vertical and horizontal cross pieces that flip over are not reliable).

Course Boards First Attempt

My first attempt at Course Boards

Laser Sized Sail Numbers and letters. Too big and cumbersome to carry and move around.

Course Boards Second Attempt

Second attempt - lighter and smaller

Smaller letters at 220 mm. Much easier to move around. Can also be used as a bearing board.

Digital Font Course Boards

A digital font type Course Board

I am not a fan of these digital font type course boards - this one at least makes the R different from the A

Dutch Digital Bearing Board

Another digital font Board

This is another example of a digital style font - this time the Horizontal and vertical bars are held in place with bungy cord and can flip individually. Still not a fan.

Course Change Boards, on the other hand, are the boards displayed to the competitors at a mark or gate to let them know that the next mark has been moved (usually because of a change in the wind strength or direction).  We used to use flags but in some situations – say signalling at a gate – flags are very hard to read – so we use boards, usually made out of Corriboard (The stuff Estate Agents signs are made from) or some other lightweight material.   These boards are kept and used in the mark laying boats.  Usually a set of six boards covers everything. What you will need are:

M – Replaces a Mark
C – Course is changed, Displayed with the boards below
Plus sign one side/Minus sign on other – Next leg is lengthened or shortened
Red Rectangle on one side/Green Triangle on the other – Next mark has moved to Port or to Starboard of last position.
O – RRS 42 is switched off
R – RRS 42 is re-instated

Sometimes the sailing instructions will specify a bearing for the next mark instead of just to port or to starboard so need to carry that as well.  Check the SIs.

My Course Change Boards – lightweight corriboard (Estate agent sign stuff) I made mine 600 mm by 400 mm – this size works well.  The other picture (Some mat recognise Mal from Dublin bay) is a variation on a theme with the boards mounted on a pole – his are slightly smaller than mine.

Course Change Boards
Course Change Boards on a pole