Jim Saltonstall looks at racing from Poole

Friday July 21st 2000, Author: Jim Saltonstall M.B.E., Location: United Kingdom
There are two main racing clubs serving this venue - Poole Yacht Club and Parkstone Sailing Club. Poole Yacht Club is housed in superb premises and positioned in the western part of the harbour - next to the ferry terminal. While Parkstone Sailing Club is situated at the eastern end of the harbour.

Both clubs have excellent facilities with plenty of car and boat parking space for keelboat and dinghy events. Both have hosted many major regattas over the years and have a wealth of experience in running top events. Hospitality is excellent - everyone is helpful and they go out of their way to make the regatta successful.

Accommodation and campsites are in abundance with excellent restaurants. Book early to avoid disappointment, as Poole Bay is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Britain.

Racing Areas

There’s a choice of two main race areas - inside the harbour to the west of Brownsea Island; and outside the harbour in Poole Bay.

Inside the Harbour

The race area is in shallow water, west-north-west of Brownsea Island, and is suitable for both dinghies and small keelboats. The surrounding land mass is not too high, so the wind shifts are not that bad - especially when the wind blows over the low-lying land to either the west or the east. The wind is quite shifty when it’s in the north or south, as the land is slightly closer and higher.

Wind Direction

310-040 degrees: When the wind blows from anywhere in this sector it’s quite shifty and gusty. Knowing the maximum left and right in the shifts is now very important, to gain the advantage off the start line. Once you’re happy with the numbers game, you should be using the shifts and looking for the gusts on the water - will they lift port or starboard tack?

040-080 degrees: The north-east is one of the clearest sectors for wind direction - there are still shifts and gusts but not as frequent as in a northerly. It normally pays to go left up the beat - there is more wind on this side of the course. And there are possible headers on starboard as you sail towards the left hand side of the course upwind, with corresponding lifts up to the windward mark on port tack.

080-270 degrees: In this sector the wind is blowing across higher hills, closer to the race area. It’s a numbers game on the compass, or the positive use of reference points on the shore.

080-100 degrees: With the wind in this sector it normally pays to work the shifts left of middle, and stay away from the right hand shore where there is less wind.

100-240 degrees: The wind is very shifty, coming over the hills to the south, use the shifts all the time.

240-270 degrees: Work the shifts left-of-middle, as there tends to be more wind on the port side of the course.

270-310 degrees: This is a fairly clear sector for the breeze. There are still shifts to use and there tends to be more pressure on the port side of the course, so work the shifts left-of-middle.


The tide plays a significant part in any harbour and this is where intimate local knowledge counts - always talk to the locals! The flood tide tends to follow the main channel to the north, but it is not as strong over the race area as it is much shallower. The flood tide in the race area is flowing from east-to-west, and vice-versa for the ebb.

for Poole Bay and information sources see page 2...

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