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Organisation of dinghy racing
Dinghy racing comes under the auspices of the International Sailing Federation. Organisations such as the Royal Yachting Association (UK) and Canadian Yachting Association (Canada) organise and regulate the sport at a national level. Sailing dinghies compete on an international, national, state, association, club and class basis, using the ISAF International Racing Rules of Sailing, which are revised every four years. There are several courses used, such as the Olympic triangle.

Bermuda Fitted Dinghy racing
In Bermuda, the Bermuda rig, now almost universally-used on small sailing vessels, can still be seen in its purest form in the Bermuda Fitted Dinghy, used for a series of races contested each year by the colony's yacht clubs. The first race of this type was held in 1880, as a way of reducing the costs then experienced racing larger Bermudian sloops, with their similarly-larger professional crews. BFD racing was restricted to amateurs, although each dinghy carries a crew of six.

Single-handed or more than one crew                                                                                     
Most racing dinghies can be classified as being either single handed (one person only) such as the Laser, RS Vareo or double handed, such as the 470, 5O5, Heron, Tasar, Flying Junior, International Fireball or the International Fourteen. A few classes of dinghy carry more than two crew whilst racing, typically heavier dayboat types, but also a couple of high performance Australian originated skiff type dinghies. Some classes allow children to sail double handed until a particular age and then require them to compete single handed. Some double handed boats are ideal for an adult and child like the Heron, while some such as the Tasar have weight restrictions which ensure they are sailed competitively by two adults or near adults. Weight equalisation is also used on certain high performance classes to ensure that comparative levels of performance are attained.

One-design or development class

Sailing dinghies can be one-design, with virtually no difference between boats and strict rules controlling construction, or development classes like the International Moth which has gone from a wide-hulled scow, to a thin-hulled skiff and now to a hydrofoil-based design. Many people prefer one-design as it mean the competition is more about sailing ability than about who can afford the newest innovation, although the weight of the boat, and sail age and quality, also come into it even in one-design. In practice there are a variety of interpretations of the basic one-design and development class concepts.

The Oldest known One-design sailing dinghy is the Dublin Bay, Ireland, Water Wag. Thomas Middleton proposed the idea of one design sailing punts, with centreboards all built and rigged the same in 1887. The first race took place on April 12th. 1887 in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) Harbour. The Water Wag Club still race Water Wag dinghies in Dun Laoghaire every Wednesday during the summer season.

One designs may be strictly controlled, as in the ubiquitous Laser, with all boats being factory produced from identical moulds, with identical rigs and sails. Strict-one designs suffer from being very crew weight specific.

There are one-design classes such as the Europe and 505 which allow differences in hull dimensions within certain tight tolerances. Despite these tolerances only being intended to allow some leeway for boats built by different builders, this usually results in certain builders boats being perceived as faster due to the way they make use of the tolerances to create a subtly different hull shape. This type of one-design generally allows more freedom in choice of masts, sails and deck layouts.

Some development classes (National 12 and Merlin Rocket) have tightly controlled rules which keep the boats closely competitive while allowing the owner to customise the boat to their preferences and weight. These classes are now considered restricted classes, although previously they were referred to as one-designs.

The most diverse classes are those development classes with more flexible rules (International Moth International C Class Catamaran), these classes represent the cutting edge of the sport, using the latest technology including hydrofoils and solid wings in place of sails.

Olympic Dinghy Sailing

Olympic sailing includes several dinghy classes for both men and women, the Laser (men), Finn (men), 470 (men and women), Laser Radial (women), and Tornado catamaran (mixed). One of the most recent additions, for the Sydney Games, was the 49er skiff, for men and women.

A Scholastic Sport

Many secondary schools and universities worldwide have adopted dinghy racing as either a club or varsity sport. In the United States secondary school sailing is governed by the Interscholastic Sailing Association. College sailing in Canada and the US is governed by the Intercollegiate Sailing Association. Both organizations have been in continuous existence since the early 20th century and, indeed, college racing began in 1928.

Most school programs own fleets of at least 6 dinghies, and the well funded programs often have more than 20 dinghies in addition to support boats and paid coaches. Often schools cooperate with local yacht clubs to share fleets. The schools compete in both the fall and spring within regional districts and then, if they qualify through district championships, at a national championship regatta. Additionally, schools also compete in Team racing regattas where they are able to compete one-on-one against other schools.

Handicap events - an attempt to even the playing field between different boat speeds

Races involving mixed fleets (different classes of boat, different ages, weights and abilities of sailors) can be organised on a handicap basis. The most commonly used handicapping system is the Portsmouth yardstick, which assigns a different rating to each class of boat in a mixed fleet and (at least in theory) gives every boat an equal chance of winning. Handicaps can also be personal (sometimes called a back-calculated yardstick), taking into account the results of the sailor over past races, so an inexperienced person who sails significantly better than previously over a season or regatta can win on handicap. There are unfortunately certain classes of boats which do better or worse because of their particular handicap, and as boats are modified the handicap system are often slow to catch up. However, for the purposes of large fleet racing with many different classes, the handicap systems seem to work quite well

Class, Association or Club

Clubs generally have a number of different classes competing on any one day, often sailing the same course at the same time, or sometimes with each class starting a few minutes apart. Keen club sailors join and compete in events with their State and National Associations. Associations generally cater for only one class of boat, but generally have competitors in several divisions.

Competitive areas

The UK has one of the most vibrant and diverse dinghy racing scenes in the world with over 100 different classes of dinghy and strongly supported clubs all around the coast.