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Designing Course Maps - a personal view

Many VSK players design great course maps. Each designer has their own ideas about what makes a good map, depending on their objective. My intention is to enable players to have a fair race and to have as few penalties as possible. These notes refer to the Acc boat.

Nadeo Wind Settings:
In Multiplayer Mode, Nadeo only has 4 wind shift settings (none, oscillating, shifty and unstable). The custom settings for shifts will only work in solo and editing mode and have been disabled for multiplayer, which will default to the nearest Nadeo setting. Also the 'exact wind' is disabled in multiplayer, which means that Nadeo will start the game with a wind direction which is shifted from the editor by a few degrees.

I like to give the players some problems to solve - if they make different choices of route, fewer player will arrive together at the buoys. I have tried various ideas for this, including an island in the middle of the 1st leg but I have found that islands must be small, otherwise they simply limit the choices of approach and increase the 'luck' factor of losing/gaining by a windshift. Another method, of using wind change & current is illustrated below - the neutral wind will go right by 10° by the time of the 1st buoy (favouring the boats who go right). However the current is stronger offshore (favouring the boats who go left). To help players decide what to do, these details are given in a race intro, so that there are no secrets about the course.

Map with wind arrows

map with wind
Map with current arrows

map with current

Location of Race:
Usually I use the Nadeo areas (Rio, Marseille etc), because all players can study these places to learn the winds & currents. There can be no suspicion that the designer has created secret currents & winds, in the way that he can with Nordic & Tropical maps.

Start Line:
The length depends on number of players - if it too short, the result is penalties and boats forced over the line early. I find that 6 squares on the map editor is about right for 30 boats (my usual number). I make the start line at 90° to the wind direction on the editor, or with a slight angle (maybe 5°) to make the left 'buoy' end nearer the 1st buoy. There is a tactical advantage for boats at the right 'committee boat' end and the 5° angle helps to reduce the number of players who decide to start right beside the committee boat (which causes many penalties).

1st - Upwind Leg:
If this is too short, too many boats will arrive at the 1st buoy with no chance to sort out a sensible approach and this will cause chaos. I like to make it last at least 12 minutes, which in a force 5 wind, gives a length of about 1.7 miles. I make the direction of the leg parallel to the wind at the start line so that players can learn the neutral wind by pointing the boat at the 1st buoy. As mentioned above, changes in wind and/or current and some slight land considerations can help split up the fleet, as long as these are not so great as to cause unfairness to players.

2nd - Short Leg:
This is to separate the leaders turning downwind from the boats still coming upwind. It also is a place where boats try to do their 360° penalty turns and so has to be long enough for this. 2-3 squares on the editor is the minimum.

3rd - Downwind Leg:
This needs to be long enough some choice of route to be made - it takes a minute or two to sort out the fleet after the buoy is passed and normally I just use about the same distance as for the 1st leg.

At the end of the downwind leg there can be a gate of 2 buoys. This should be at 90° to the wind on the editor and be wide enough to keep the zones for Rule 18 separate. This means over 4 boatlengths for the ISAF rules used by VSK (but 6 boatlengths for the updated ISAF rules in real sailing). The wider the gate, the more the luck of a wind change will affect the outcome.

4th - Short Leg:
The same considerations apply to this as for the 2nd leg.

5th - Final Upwind leg:
This can be shorter than the 1st leg because the fleet is probably more spread out now.

Finish Line:
I like to keep this quite short (2 - 3 squares) to encourage the need for more tacking manoevres in the last leg. It should be at 90° to the editor wind.


Reaching Legs:
Some of my courses have reaching legs. I like to complicate them by making them about 120° to the wind, which means that a player will be quickest if he uses the foresail for part of the leg and the spinnaker for the rest. This sometimes results in problems with the Nadeo umpire, which may award a 17.1 penalty to a leeward boat with foresail set, apparently preventing a boat to weather from heading towards the buoy. So this kind of leg gets a mixed reception from players, especially if the race host will not allow the cancellation of penalties.


The above notes cover some of the principles which I use when making maps. It's not the only way to make courses and every designer has his own ideas. Indeed my own thoughts change as I see what happens during races and I sail on great courses designed by others. But if you intend to make maps yourself, it's a good idea to think about some of the above issues.