Why Do We Need Safety Rules?

Although sailing can be loads of fun, the potential hazards of water sports are also great including injuries and drowning. As the skipper of your craft, it is important to recognize that the skipper is responsible for the safety of all your crew and equipment (your boat) at all times. Ask any longtime sailors about their "stories" about what went wrong. They will have plenty. As one sails more and gains more experience, one becomes wise and more cautious in preventing potential hazards. Once you are in trouble, there are at least two things you can do to increase your safety. (If everyone followed these two basic safety rules, there would be far less drownings in the boating world.)

  • Wear your snug-fitting lifejacket in any potentially dangerous situations.
  • Always stay with your craft (even if capsized) unless someone is right there to put you into his or her boat. The boat gives you additional buoyancy and is easily spotted.You can take additional steps to increase your safety.
    • Check the weather forecast before you go out and watch the weather as you sail.
    • Teach your crew effectively on basic sailing to increase their safety.
    • Develop your skill by sailing as much as you can
    • When at Hoofers, properly check out your equipment in the boathouse every time you're on the water (so that we know that you are on the water and may need rescue).

Will knowing the potential risks associated with water sports diminish your fun? Certainly not. Knowing the potential dangers and the following safety rules designed to keep you out of danger is the best way to insure that you have fun. Safe sailing to you!


Determination of conditions as indicated by flags and lights is ultimately set by the UW Lifesaving Station, which is operated by the State of Wisconsin. The flag pole is located in front of the Boathouse. Lights are located at the top of the Lake Safety Tower which is on the northeast corner of the Helen C. White College Library.

The UW Lifesaving Station may sound the steam whistle located on the top of the Lake Safety Tower upon closing the lake due to a storm and one hour before sunset (to inform sailors they should begin to head in). In the event of a storm, red lights shall flash from the end of Picnic Point, the Tenney Park Locks, the Lake Safety Tower, and the UW Lifesaving Station. The mechanical warning devices are subject to failure so the flags take precedence if in conflict with the light signal. Hoofers are required to obey the following flags which tell current weather conditions. Flags may change in the middle of the day (green to blue, or non-yellow to yellow)—penalties will be incurred for not following the current flags. (Penalty: one week “ratings hold” on all fleets. In the case of red flag, one week “no sail penalty.”)

Green Flag
Light winds up to 18 mph although this limit may be lowered to 15 mph for gusting winds and large waves, or if there are too many capsizes for the rescue services to handle. Sailors with a light weather rating may sail.

Blue Flag
Heavier winds 18 to 30 mph or winds over 15 mph with too many rescues for the rescue services to handle. Sailors with a heavy weather rating may sail.

Yellow Flag
Cautionary flag requires sailors to stay within the "Yellow Line" area which is an imaginary line running from the tip of Picnic Point to the red and white Oscar Mayer smoke stack.

The yellow flag appears in addition to the green or blue flag and is flown when:

  • Storms are possible
  • Water temperature is less than 60 degrees F
  • Visibility is very poor
  • One hour before sunset (evening steam whistle warning)

Blue/Red Flag
Very heavy winds greater than 30 mph, but no storm is expected. The yellow line is in effect regardless of other factors. The following are the only boats allowed out and the requirements of each are as follows:

  • Windsurfers - when the sailor has a short board extreme rating.
  • Techs — when the skipper has a heavy weather Tech rating and a heavy weather rating
    in any other fleet besides windsurfers.
  • 420s — when the skipper has a heavy weather 420 rating and a heavy weather rating
    in any other fleet besides 420s, techs, and windsurfers, and the crew has a 420
    heavy weather rating.
  • Lasers are allowed out when the skipper has a heavy weather Laser rating and a heavy
    weather rating on any other fleet other than Techs and windsurfers.
  • Keelboats follow keelboat policy addendum (Appendix D).
  • No other fleets — including any scows even if for Mendota Yacht Club racing — can
    go out.

Red Flag
Lake is closed. No sailing equipment is allowed out. If the lake is closed because of a storm, all sailors must return to Hoofers by the most direct method.

No Flag
Lake is closed or the flag hasn't been put up yet. Ask the Boathouse staff what the flag is before going out. See section called “Sailing While UW Lifesaving Station is Closed.”