Where to start?

Go to sailonline.org and create a free account. This will be your boat name in all the races.

Alternatively, use the "Login as Guest" button under Login to look around at races already in progress. You won't be able to steer, but otherwise you can get a good feel for what's going on.

Once you have a boat name, you can register for races. Races are listed on the right side of the sailonline.org website — look for races that say "Registration Open." You'll have to pick "Go to Race," but, don't worry, once you've registered your boat you can come back to the Sailonline for Mac or iOS app and race from here.

The sailonline.org website has some helpful sections to get you started:
  • The Manual page gives you all the basic info you need to race. The instructions are specific to the web page sailing controllers, but the concepts are the same for this Mac and iOS controller.
  • The Links page has an assortment of links to tools and explanations that the community has built over the years. After you get the basics down, it will be a useful resource.
  • The Forum has a number of discussions going on about the simulation. You can ask your questions here and they will be quickly addressed.

And then what?

Steer the boat from the start to the finish!

The start times are listed on the Races page in the app. All times are UTC (but for convenience, there are some places that also list local time).

You can sail around before a race starts, and there are also practice races before the starts.

prep flag
One hour before the race starts, the Preparatory signal flag goes up, all boats are "towed back" to the starting line, and all are frozen in place. During this hour, new steering commands will take effect at the start, with the last one given being the one used to start your boat.

If you sleep through the start, no worries, you can start later.


If you have iOS 14 or later, you'll find a menu of commands here (if you're still on iOS 13, long-press the toolbar to get to the menu). Find your boat (center the map on the boat), use the visual steering assistants, or erase any imported routes displayed on the map from the menu.

For iOS 13 only, you can click this to cycle through show/hide settings for instruments, race message, and the weather slider.

This is where you enter steering commands. See the Navigation help page for details, but the basics are that you enter either a compass course (COG, or Course over Ground), or follow the wind with a TWA (True Wind Angle) command. TWA directions are either positive (wind from starboard) or negative (wind from port): you must specify + or - for the command to go through.

The navigation panel calculates a number of measures to help you decide which way to go. Besides indications of course to the next mark, the app also calculates the best VMG angles (Velocity Made Good) for when you're tacking upwind or gybing downwind, the best VMC angles (Velocity Made Course) for best speed toward the next course mark, and an overall best SOG angle (Speed Over Ground) when you just want to go fast.

Click on any of the blue numbers to preset the steering entries, saving you from having to enter in the numbers.

You can also specify that a command should be delayed. Switch the Delay on and enter time to delay, or a future time (UTC timezone, of course).

Delayed commands are listed in this section. You can delete a single one by swiping left, clear them all with the Clear All button, or edit one by just clicking on it. This will bring up the Navigation panel, where you can put in a new command to replace the existing delayed command.

This is where you see how you're doing in the race. Clicking on any boat name will show you where that competitor is on the map. You can also select favorites by clicking on their star, and then choose to only see favorites by clicking on the half-star on top.

Clicking on the blue headers will sort using that column. DTF is distance to finish, DBL is distance behind leader.

The chat rooms are great for talking about what's going on in the race, discussing the lands you're passing, getting help, and sharing your cat pictures (please, no!). There are several rooms in various languages, but English is the lingua franca of sailors everywhere (hmmm). The icon turns green if there's anything new. Click the language at the top (or "All Chatroom" if that's what's showing) to switch chat rooms.

When monitoring "All Chatrooms," you select which ones to see by enabling or disabling the rooms using their languages' country flag. STK is for the "SailTalk Only" chatroom (typically used for practice race announcements and technical sailing discussions). The "sol" button controls the visibility of messages from the user "sol" (typically greetings for each chatroom in its own language).

The info page is where race notices are posted, and also notification that new weather has arrived. Weather is generally updated every six hours; check race info on sailonline.org for details on each race. The icon turns red if there's anything new (including weather updates).

sol trans
The last button on the toolbar takes you to the polar diagram for the boat used for the race. The polar diagram is key to understanding how your boat will perform in various wind conditions, sailing at different angles.

Always pick the sailing angle that maximizes your speed in the direction you're trying to go. If trying to go upwind, for example, pick the angle that corresponds to the highest point on the curve for the current wind speed.

Some key angles are highlighted at the bottom of the polar diagram; these correspond to the calculations in the navigation panel.


At the top of the Races list, there's a Settings button. Look through these and configure your app as you prefer.

Instruments are all listed in the Settings, with short descriptions. For smaller screens you may want to turn some off, if you're not using them.