Best Sailing Racing Compasses

Best Sailing Racing Compasses | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 7, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • A boat compass is ideal for any sailor out on the water in the event that you become lost
  • Calibrating a compass is not difficult but you should consult with the manual beforehand
  • A boat compass can damage over time so be sure to check reviews for good ones
  • Some sailing compass brands come with brackets while others have various options
  • It is important to understand how it works before attempting to purchase one

A sailing racing compass is an important tool in sail races and on the water in general. But what are the best sailing racing compasses?

The best sailing compasses for racing would be TurnOnSport, Plastimo, Ritchie Navigator, and Detuck. Sailing compasses vary in mounted types or handhelds. You can find a perfect compass for racing since there are plenty of options to consider.

Base on my previous experience a lot of marine compasses vary in style and their intended use so each brand will cater to a certain sailor. Depending on the type of boat and racing you are conducting then the type of boat compass will likely differ.


Table of contents

10 Best Sailing Compasses for Racing

Sailors need a trustworthy boat compass for a variety of reasons but especially in racing. There are many different types of sailing compasses that could work for you based on your budget and desired sailing goals.

TurnOnSport Boat Compass

TurnOnSport Boat Compass
TurnOnSport Boat Compass

If you have never used a boat compass before you will be pleased with the quality of TurnOnSport’s boat compass. It can stick or be mounted virtually anywhere but is ideally meant for marine use. It is corrosion resistant and it comes with a shield to block out sunlight.


  • Waterproof
  • 12V power supply to light up
  • Magnetic and easy to install


  • Might not be sticky enough to stay in place
  • Needs a flat surface when trying to stick

Plastimo Contest 130

Plastimo Contest 130
Plastimo Contest 130

Plastimo offers an easy to read boat compass that can be seen from just about any angle. You do not have to worry about it getting beat up since the dome is scratch resistant and is also UV protected. It is ideal for boats over 30 feet but can still accommodate smaller ones.


  • Scratch resistant
  • Easy to read with a crystal clear display
  • Can fit to bulkheads


  • Might be difficult to find at times
  • Higher price point

Ritchie Navigator BN 202

Ritchie Navigator BN 202
Ritchie Navigator BN 202

Ritchie Navigator makes an excellent compass like the BN 202 for example. It is proven to withstand a variety of sailing conditions and is arguably one of the best designs among sailing compasses. It is also equipped with an inclinometer to help with steering and windward.


  • Comes with night light so that you can travel long distances overnight
  • Inclinometer to help with steering
  • Five year warranty


  • Might be an expensive compared to other brands
  • Slightly larger than other compasses

Boat Compass by Detuck

Boat Compass by Detuck
Boat Compass by Detuck

Detuck enters the boat compass game with a cost-effective alternative to other major boat brands. At just under $20 you can have a good quality tactical compass without having to break the bank. It also arrives with a magnetic declination capability so that you can improve the compass accuracy over time.


  • Has magnetic declination to be more accurate
  • Comes with a money back guarantee
  • Backlight enables you to see in multiple lighting conditions


  • Cannot be left in the sun for too long
  • Plastic might not hold up in rough conditions

Lewmar 135

Lewmar 135
Lewmar 135

Lewmar has a few options for racers trying to find a top quality compass in their boat. Their 135 model comes with a hood that helps protect it from sunlight. It also has a sapphire jewel pivot to allow you to read it from any angle clearly.


  • Two different options to mount it
  • Ideal for larger sailboats that use 24 volts
  • Easy to read compass card


  • Pricing
  • Might take a while to get it

COSTIN Compass

COSTIN Compass
COSTIN Compass

Costin is one of the best marine compasses out there for the price point. This is a great tactical compass that can also be used in marine conditions which is perfect for sail racing. It is easy to carry and store when not in use.


  • Rugged and sturdy even if dropped
  • Less than $16
  • Comes with pouch for easy carrying


  • Might not be the most accurate
  • Instructions can be difficult to understand

100BC Compass by Silva

100BC Compass by Silva
100BC Compass by Silva

Silva might have the sleekest and smooth design for a sailboat compass. It can be mounted in a variety of positions and read from nearly any angle. It also has illumination capabilities so that you can see it in dark environments.


  • Multiple mounting options
  • Has protected cover
  • Easy to read no matter the angle


  • Price might be a little high for some
  • No angle for heeling

Clipper Compass

Clipper Compass
Clipper Compass

The Clipper compass system is an electric tool that helps with direction. It has seven different levels of lighting so that you can see in all light conditions. It also has an alarm that will go off if you stray off your preset course.


  • Various lighting options to read in any condition
  • Easy to read
  • Alarm to help you stay on course


  • Need to keep on battery supply
  • Cannot see it in some angles

Odowalker Marine Compass

Odowalker Marine Compass
Odowalker Marine Compass

Odowalker is another entry level compass that you can use for a variety of applications. It comes with an incandescent light to help you see in dark conditions and is easy to read. It is also made out of ABS material and can withstand some shock.


  • Around $20
  • Adjustable to see from various angles
  • Multiple uses outside of sail racing


  • Need power supply in order to use backlight feature
  • Might need to adjust accuracy when it arrives

Autonautic Deck Mount Compass

Autonautic Deck Mount Compass
Autonautic Deck Mount Compass

The Autonautic CHE-0074 model provides accurate directions on larger boats. It is designed to allow more graduations so that you can see the numbers better. It is also one of the more durable and reliable boat compasses.


  • Fairly expensive but has five year warranty
  • Has graduation markings to see better
  • Best for a steel boat


  • Fairly expensive
  • Meant for a larger boat

What to Look for in a Sailing Compass

There are various factors you should take into consideration when attempting to buy a sailing compass. You would likely want to read user reviews and potentially test one out yourself to get a feel for what you need.

In addition you should also narrow down your sailing goals to determine what is going to work best for your situation. Buying a sailing compass simply because you think it looks cool is not going to help your situation out on the water.

Size of the Compass

In my experience you should aim for a sailing compass that has a large diameter. It needs to be able to fit properly onto your dashboard at the helm so that you have and easier time reading it.

If it is large enough you can read the numbers easier when the boat is in rough conditions. It does not necessarily have to have a backlight but that would help especially at night.

Various Mounting Options

Depending on the type of boat and the sailing compass you choose it might have different options for mounting it. Various mounting options exist for those that want to mount it a certain way.

Space on the Dashboard

This installation is simply on the dash of your boat if applicable. You will need to cut out and fit a section of the dash in order to keep it secure and it makes it permanent.

Flat Surface Areas

Installing on the surface is likely the easiest and quickest since you can simply place it and be done. A surface mount can either be flat somewhere at the helm or horizontally at the best spot. This also prevents you from having to cut out a section of the dash.

Using Brackets

If your sailing compass comes with brackets this will allow you to place anywhere you desire with some installation required. A bracket mount will typically allow you to move the compass slightly to get a better read and is ideal for placing in vertical spots.

Mounting it Flush

A flush mount installation is where you cut a hole in your dash and expose just enough of the compass to read it. Some sailing compasses are more attractive looking when you install it this way but it does take a little more time than standard surface installations.

Binnacle Mounting

Choosing a binnacle mount is another option that is referred to as a “little house” for the compass. This helps keep it out of the elements or sunlight and are typically larger.


A majority of the sailing compasses you see on the market have a backlight and it is a handy feature if you are in lower light conditions. You will likely need to have it close to a power supply for a lot of these but some come equipped with a slight illumination already to make it easier to read.

Various Types of Dials

There are a few dial options to consider when selecting your sailing compass. Each one could appeal to you based on the way you prefer to read it.

Direct Dial for Upright View

A direct dial has the lubber line in an aft position and are best suited for helms that are closer to eye level when sailing. It is recommended that you have plenty of experience reading this type of dial since it requires some knowledge beforehand.

Dial with Flat Card

A flat card dial has to be read while you are standing or sitting in a seat above the helm since it features a horizontal face. The lubber line is forward so you would need to have the right angle when looking at it.


Hybrid dials are likely what you are thinking which is a mix between direct and flat. These allow you to read the compass from nearly any direction. These are best if you are needing to see the direction from any part of the boat and if you are newer to reading a compass.

Your Knowledge

If you have never used a compass before it will likely take a slight learning curve to get used to it. Consider purchasing one that you can either read from any direction or has simple but precise markers in order to get an accurate reading. Sailors that have plenty of experience might be able to read any compass no matter the quality.

How Does a Sailing Compass Work?

A compass is an essential tool for your boat to help guide you safely during any event at sea. This is especially important because if your power fails on your boat you can use your compass to help navigate back to safety.

How it Operates

Beneath the compass card is a tiny magnet that keeps north and south in line with the help of the Earth’s magnetic field. The compass is encapsulated with a fluid to help keep it stable upon moving on the boat. These are typically an analogue compass but some digital ones do exist usually as a handheld version.

Deviation Process

Deviation is a term used to describe when a compass is thrown off of its accurate reading due to other magnetic influences or too much metal interfering with it. You will need to read the manual or check with a qualified professional to help get it back in check.

Various Styles

Your boat will likely need a specific compass to make it worth the investment. As mentioned a binnacle compass is best for when the view is above and it is likely mounted on the wheel.

Smaller boats that utilize tiller steering are best suited with bulkhead mount that are located at the front of the cockpit. These also generally help with determining the angle of the heel the boat is experiencing.

In other words you should conduct the proper amount of research to best fit your needs. Your budget and boat type will play a crucial role in determining the best one. Your sailing experience can also make an impact on the buying process to help find the best tactical scale on the water.

Best Sailing Racing Compasses
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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